All About Pearls
See our new Jade carving Page here
Is it true there are two types of
Jade is the English name given to two distinctly different substances
– Nephrite and Jadeite.
Nephrite is the famous New Zealand Maori greenstone and the material
carved by the Chinese for almost 5,000 years.
Jadeite is the rarer and harder material (a sodium aluminium
silicate) which eclipsed Nephrite in China during the 18th century.
Which is the most valuable?
How much can jadeite cost?
The best Jadeite, known as ‘Imperial Green’, has a rich, vivid green
colour and astounding clarity, with fine carvings selling at specialist auctions
in the Far East for millions of US$. Gram for gram, fine jadeite can be worth
more than diamonds. But Jadeite carvings can also be bought from as little as a
Which type does Ping Ping use to create its jewellery?
Ping Ping only uses Jadeite.
How do you value jade?
There is no objective system for valuing jade precisely. The value of
an individual piece relies on its colour tone, how even its colour is,
translucency, texture, clarity, amount of flaws and inclusions in the stone and
how well it has been cut.
Is jadeite always green?
No, Jadeite can range in colour from red, yellow and honey coloured,
to lavender, white (known as ‘ice’ jade) and even black.
Is Jadeite easy to carve?
Being actually harder than steel (around 7.5 on the mohs scale of
hardness) jadeite has to be worked using diamond tipped tools and
Is jadeite mined?
Jadeite is generally extracted from open-cast mines or collected in
the form of boulders from river beds.
Is there a lot of fake jade around?
China is the traditional home of the jade trade and in Mandarin, the
word ‘Jade’ can mean any material that is carved. Thus many Chinese dealers sell
materials such as aventurine and serpentine as ‘jade’- often calling their
products names like "Korea jade" and "New jade" (serpentine) or "Indian jade"
(aventurine). While such dealers are not necessarily intending to cheat their
customers, this situation can be misleading for inexperienced buyers and we have
seen some importers selling (innocently or not) what they claim is ‘jade’ when
it actually other, inferior materials.
What about ‘coloured’ jade?
Enhancing the colour of jade is an ancient practice which has been
elevated to a science in the 21st century. Colours are injected under pressure
with the jade heated to a certain temperature so as not to damage its molecular
structure. Treated in this manner, the colours are permanent and will not fade.
Ping Ping does stock some items made using colour-enhanced jadeite and these are
always clearly marked as such. Jadeite can also be clarified using a specialist
process to remove impurities and improve its appearance.
However, buyers should be aware of coloured items which are not
actually jade or which have been cheaply dyed. Some unscrupulous dealers will
sell colour-enhanced jade as ‘Imperial Jade’: The clue is usually in the price
as natural imperial jade is extremely expensive (see above).
Does Jade have special properties?
Chinese mythology believes that Jade is ‘descended from Heaven’ and
so is an extremely lucky material. But jade has numerous properties ascribed to
it by different cultures. The Chinese say that wearing jade brings wisdom,
peace, harmony and focus on spiritual matters; The Spanish Conquistadors
believed that it helped cure kidney problems. New Age practitioners say it aids
dreaming and helps illuminate a wearer’s true path, as well as promoting
relaxation and the efficient completion of tasks. It is also said to be an
extremely ‘balanced’ stone. Many Chinese people wear (or display in their cars)
lucky and auspicious symbols and figures carved out of jade for luck, good
fortune and safety.
What should I look for when buying Jadeite?
Determining whether a piece of jade is really jadeite and whether or
not it has been coloured or clarified and then trying to judge its value takes
years of experience. However, there are a couple of ‘tricks of the trade’ you
can use when buying for yourself.
The first thing that most people do when buying jade is feel it to
make sure it is cold. This at least tells you that it is not plastic! Be aware
that jadeite can heat up under lights or in direct sun light: It will cool
rapidly when removed from the heat source though.
Being very hard, real jadeite will have no trouble scratching glass –
many reputable dealers will offer a sheet of glass so that you can test this.
Shining a light through a piece of jade (or holding it up to a light
source) will reveal its translucence – one of the most important qualities of
If you see any ‘bubbles’ inside the item, it is probably
If you suspect that someone is trying to sell you Serpentine as
Jadeite, you should be able to scratch it with a steel blade – although the
vendor probably won’t be very happy about you trying this!
Other tests – not really practical outside a laboratory – include
flame testing the material, inspecting it in ultra-violet light and measuring
its specific gravity, as well as inspection of its molecular structure with a
microscope. If you are considering buying an expensive piece of Jadeite in Hong
Kong, the seller may agree to have the piece certified in a local laboratory if
it has not been done so already.
The famous jade markets of Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Taipei vary
wildly in the quality of jade items on offer so are the ideal places to visit in
order to learn more about this fascinating material.
Finally, the art of jade buying is based partly on science, instinct,
experience and, in large part, trust, so ask yourself if you trust the vendor
you are buying from. If not, walk away.
Naturally occurring pearls are now so rare that they are priced out of the
reach of all but the richest of collectors.
Found in remaining numbers only off the coasts of Australia and some Middle
Eastern Countries, natural pearls are found at the rate of only three or four
per ton harvested, with perfect pearls being even rarer.
Therefore, virtually all pearls used in jewellery these days are cultivated
by inserting a tiny bead made from polished shell into a specially bred oyster
or mussel – in fact a specially bred hybrid of the two creatures is most
Irritated by the bead, the mollusc surrounds it with a coat of calcium
carbonate to form nacre (a.k.a mother of pearl). After anywhere between six
months and seven years (depending on the species of mollusc and the product
being made) the oyster will be removed from the water and opened to reveal a
The science of cultivating pearls was perfected by Japanese scientists in the
1930s. Using species of mollusc which could survive in a lake was found to be
more convenient and cost effective than growing pearls in the sea and so the
term ‘Freshwater Pearls’ was born.
Most of the pearls offered for sale these days are freshwater pearls.
Originally cultivated in Japan, most notably in the famous Lake Biwa, production
has almost entirely been moved to China, especially in the area around Shanghai,
since the Japanese industry fell victim to increased water pollution.
Some types of pearl, such as South Sea, Tahitian and Akoya, are still
cultivated in salt water lagoons but these are considerably more expensive.
The desirable lustre and iridescence of a pearl is caused by light refracting
off the different layers of nacre that have been built up. Pearls can occur
naturally in many different colours although many are dyed for uniformity. Being
an organic substance, pearls absorb dyes well and so the colour will not rub off
and should not fade, although certain colours may lighten if exposed to strong
sunlight for long periods.
The value of a pearl depends on its size, skin quality, lustre and shape –
with perfectly round being the most desirable - while a particular string is
valued on how close its pearls are to each other in size and colour. The most
expensive of all cultivated pearls is the South Sea Pearl, which is generally
large (up to 14mm) and can be found in several different colours, including
black and gold.
TermsBaroque Pearls: Irregular shaped pearls used to
make fascinating jewellery
Ringed Pearls: Pearls which have concentric grooves or ridges on their
Majórica Pearls: Imitation pearls made by coating a glass bead in a compound
made from fish scales
Mallorca Pearls: Imitation Majórica Pearls made in the Spanish island of
Collar – sits tight to the throat
Choker – sits at the base of the neck
Princess – sits on the collarbone
Matinee – sits at the top of the breasts
Opera – sits at the breastbone
Rope – any length longer than the above
Uniform – all pearls the same size
Graduated – pearls decrease in size from the centre to the ends
Tin Cup – Pearls (uniform or graduated) separated by lengths of chain or
rods, usually in precious metal.
Take care of your
Being a natural material, a pearl’s surface and iridescence can be damaged by
contact with cosmetics, perfume or even perspiration so always follow the old
jeweller’s maxim, which says a pearl necklace should be: Last on, first off.
Pearls should be worn regularly to allow them to breath.
Do not try to clean pearl necklaces using an ultrasonic cleaner as this may
Wipe pearl jewellery with a clean cloth before putting them away.
Ideally, pearls should be stored in a velvet wrap which allows them to lie
straight, not coiled up as this can weaken the stringing.
If displaying pearls in a cabinet or shop window, do not let them be exposed
to direct sunlight or heat for long periods. A small glass of water hidden in
the display can help humidify them.
Expensive pearls should ideally be restrung by an expert every one to two