Lately, I cannot get jade out of my head. Each time we pass a market stall selling jade pieces, I slow down and do one of those long, open-mouthed stares, while Tim urges me to hurry up.
I have always found jade to be a beautiful stone, but I hadn’t thought too much about purchasing any in Taiwan until recently. I asked my mother what type of gift she might like from Taiwan, as I was completely at a loss, and she asked me for a jade Buddha statue. An ongoing search for the perfect Buddha statue ensued. I still haven’t found a Buddha, but I have found at least a hundred bracelets, rings, and pendants to drool over.
An array of poorly organized jewelry and stones at the Yilan day market. We did the coin test on some of the jades; fakes!
The biggest problem with shopping for jade is that it can be extremely expensive. The second-largest problem is that people love to try to sell fake jade; especially to naïve foreigners. Knowing this, I have been really apprehensive about buying any jade jewelry thus far. I bought my first piece today at the day market in Yilan; a decidedly fake jade ring which only cost NT$100. Low-quality jade can be inexpensive, especially small pieces, but that’s not how I figured out my find is fake.
There are quite a few tricks to determining whether a piece of jade is authentic or not. Many of them include big, fancy jeweler’s tools and other things like scales and buckets of water. If you were looking to spend a lot of money, I would say these types of practices are a good idea, but for the casual shopper, they aren’t so practical. The simpler tricks will certainly suffice, especially for less expensive stones.
According to the experts, real, quality jade has a unique look and feel, especially upon close examination. Generally, a single piece should be a uniform color; meaning you won’t have green, yellow, and red shades all in one ring. It should also look slightly transparent, like looking through honey, with no air bubbles. Clearer than honey probably means it’s glass.
My faux-jade ring. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a rainbow piece of jade like this; not to mention there is a raised line where the maker clearly melded the resin together. Oh well, at least it was cheap!
Next, jade has a feel. It’s dense, man. This means that choosing a piece of jade is like choosing a good watermelon, when you pick it up, it should feel heavier than you expect. Furthermore, jade is a quickly cooling stone. Hold a piece of jade in your hand until it matches your body temperature, then let it sit for about 30 seconds; touch it with your tongue or the inside of your wrist, and it should feel cool.
Finally, the sound test; take a coin or another piece of true jade, and hit it lightly against the piece in question. It should make a light high-pitched sound. A dull sound indicates that it’s probably either marble or resin, and a low-pitched ring might mean glass.
These aren’t necessarily surefire ways to tell whether jade is real or not, and they may not indicate quality of authentic jade, but they will certainly help you along. Pay attention to these little details, as well as the price. A large piece costing a miniscule amount of money is probably too good to be true.
Now you are ready to hit up one of Taiwan’s famous jade markets! In Taipei, the Jianguo Flower and Jade Markets, or in Hualien, the Stone Crafters Market; they both offer many options for jewelry and other trinkets. Happy jade hunting!
Of course I didn’t come up with these tests on my own. I had a little help from the following websites: http://www.wikihow.com/Tell-if-Jade-Is-Real, www.hotscams.com/articles/how-to-tell–if-a-jade-is-real-or-fake, where you can also find more in-depth information.