Some of the Wealthiest Chinese are Now Investing in 18th Century Jade!
A personal view by John Neville Cohen
and Nephrite (although different both are referred to as jade)
have been highly valued for thousands of years, especially by the
Chinese. But for so many years it has mostly been the
Western world that took over this fascination of collecting antique
jade carvings. Here in Europe and the USA much has been
published and there have been many dedicated collectors and antique
jade experts that created and influenced the market values.
recently the wealthy Chinese have become very interested in jade
again, because they are investing so heavily, prices have been going
through the roof! But as a collector it is apparent that
non-Chinese collectors have very different views about what to value
most. Carvings that make clever use of natural flaws in
the stone, or that use coloured inclusions so brilliantly are not
highly valued by these Chinese buyers, not nearly as much as
carvings in pure white jade!
far these Chinese are mainly regarding jade as an alternative
investment commodity. As most of the usual forms of
investment, currencies and property have all proved so precarious,
perhaps these successful millionaires are being very shrewd!
do not know if they have been influenced by the huge increase in the
raw material prices. The finest pieces of the Hetian
Nephrite have only been found about 4,500 meters above sea level in
the North of the Kunlun Mountain, Xinjiang, even though it is a very
difficult climb, little oxygen and bitterly cold, reports now
indicate that there is not much more to be found. There
are other sources of Jade; the next best in quality mainly comes
from Burma. But thinking of jade as an investment over
the last ten years, whilst gold has increased by about 3 times, the
best Hetian pebble jade raw material has increased in price by 100 times!
pebbles, (sometimes referred to as Hetian pebble, or seed jade)
are only found in the riverbed. These are highly valued
because they originate from the jade seams in the Kunlun mountain,
broken out by the glacier, then after years of natural weathering in
the fast flowing river, these jade rocks are gradually ground smooth
into pebbles, any weaknesses within these stones are smashed in this
process, so that the remaining Hetian pebbles are only of the finest
antique collectors there are many aspects to be aware of, apart from
the quality of the carving and the period of the piece, when buying
jade, there is another consideration that can add value, that being
the colour of the stone. Many people do not realise how
many colours of jade there are. Antique jade carvings
can be found in white, mutton-fat, various shades of green, yellow
and lilac, black, even in red, and these can be a factor in the
price. Also if there is a seal (so many wonderful
pieces have no signature) but if the seal is genuine (many
were inscribed later) then this too adds to the value. So for a
very long period these were the main criteria that influenced the
antique jade of quality, has become more and more valuable. But this
caused the Chinese to cash in by making lots of new copies of
earlier jade pieces and they carved various others in less valuable
stones, but called them jade too! So many have flooded
the market. They have also discovered ways of adding
colour to jade. However, very few experienced collectors
found any difficulty in recognising these, as nothing more than the
cheap fakes, or modern copies that they are. To be sure
that the colour has not been added requires strong magnification, so
it is not that easy to check. I believe that over time
the dyed stones revert back to the original colour, so to pay extra
for bright lavender, yellow or green jade could prove most painful!
some of these modern fakes are so much better (the carving has
improved) and there are now a number of more difficult to
identify fakes. So there has become another important
factor that affects the value and this is the question of
‘Provenance’. Every jade is now regarded with
suspicion, unless it can be established as having been in a well
known collection, or auction that dates back to the time when these
fakes were easy to spot, or better still, to an even earlier period.
But now values are changing dramatically in a way that is hard for collectors like myself to understand! These Chinese investors are buying back their heritage, but more as an investment than as collectors. They have decided that 18th Century pieces of a pure colour with no flaws and certainly not mottled are their preference, they particularly prize pure bright white jade, or pure green, as well as the bright emerald green that is often used in jewellery. Also any of these jade carvings that happen to have a good seal mark (even if this seal is not genuine) now command a much higher value.
Talking of a much higher value, this is where we older collectors are now really confounded. Because if we consider a well carved, good quality pure white 18th century jade carving, that would normally have sold for our expected highest value, in any auction these days, this same piece will now probably sell for anything from 4 to 8 times that figure, to a Chinese investor! Is it possible that in time these buyers will eventually also value the wonderful craftsmanship that most of us collectors appreciate and love?
The author has been a very keen collector for
many years in helping to create ‘The Cohen collection’.
To see other articles, with photographs, please use the following link: http://www.jncohen.com/Articles/articles.htm
Keywords: Some of the Wealthiest Chinese are now Investing in 18th Century Jade By John Neville Cohen, Jadeite, Nephrite, Jade, Hetian, Seed jade, Nephrite, Chinese Jade, Antique Jade, Jade Carvings, Chinese antiques, investors, investment, value, prices, 18th Century jade, pebble jade.