August 19, 2016

The Imperial Jade from Myanmar

Jade is an ornamental stone which the Chinese have a much higher regards for it than any other people have on it. For thousands of years jade has been the most popular gemstone in China. The Chinese Empire desired excellent specimen of jade and they traded and even waged war with distant countries to acquire them. Jade is a durable colorful material that can be made into different shapes and when given a high polish, these properties made them into desirable gemstones. Because of their hardness, they were used for caving in prehistoric time to make axe-heads, weapons, scraping and hammering tools and other religious artifacts. Some of them have a beautiful color and could be polished into brilliant luster, people started to use jade for gemstones and ornamental objects, these stones have a variety  of color that include  green, white, lavender, yellow, blue, bleak, red, orange and grey. So they were used as a variety of jewelry items such as pendants, necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings, beads, cabochons and other objects.
The name jade is applied to two different metamorphic rocks that are made up of different silicate minerals, they are classified by a Frenchman Alexis Damoun as jadeite and nephrite. The jade that was found in Myanmar is belonging to jadeite group, they are mainly extracted from Northern Myanmar particularly in the towns of Tawmao, Hweka, Mamon with Hpakant being quickly developed as a present–day center of jade mine, in addition, there are less notable mines in the towns of Nasiben, Natmaw and Hkamti. Jadeite and nephrite have distinctively different mineral composition. Jadeite is an aluminium rich pyroxene, while nephrite is magnesium aphrite. However the two minerals have a very similar physical properties in the eye of average person, only trained observers with significant experience are able to differentiate them with the aids of mineral testing equipment.

“As 90% of the world’s jadeite is mined in the northern part of Myanmar, so that jade trade is predominantly has taken place in Myanmar, the largest jade trader groups come from China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea to the Annual Myanmar Gems Emporium in Myanmar which has contributed about 2 to 3 billion of US dollars into the coffer of the Government annually.”

5000 years ago, China has been a leading producer of jade objects. A few hundred years ago, some master Chinese craftsmen who worked with jade daily recognized that some of the jade obtained from Burma [now the Republic of the Union of Myanmar] was different. It was harder, denser, could worked easier and produced higher quality of luster after polishing , so much so it gradually became the only kind of jade preferred very much by the Chinese people, before scientists could differentiated jadeite and nephrite in 1863. Though later on they could distinguished jadeite from nephrite and appreciated to pay more money to jadeite. On a rare occasion, some Chinese craftsmen had encountered a fine-grained jadeite with a bright translucence and a rich uniform green color. It was so beautiful that they all in an awesome manner had given the name “Imperial Jade” as regarded it as fit and right  to be the stone reserved for the ownership by the Emperor only. Now anyone who can afford to buy it can own one Imperial Jade.
The volume of green jade traded through Yunnan  increased  toward  the end of  the Ming Dynasty and during  the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, W Warry, a member of the Chinese Consular Service on an expedition  to Burma in 1788 / Wrote the following about the origin of Chinese demand for green jade in the local folklore:-
The discovery that green jade of great quality occurred in Northern Burma was made accidentally by a small Yunnan trader in the 13th century. The story goes like this; -that on the returning from a journey across the frontier of Burma, he had picked up a piece of stone to balance the load on his mule, that the stone happened to prove to be a jade of great quality and thereafter he had sent a large party back to get more of it, they were unsuccessful. Later on, even a party had been sent from the Yunnan Government in the 14th century to find the stone which was met by a disaster, all the members of the expedition were perished by malaria or at the hands of the hostile hill tribes. From that time onwards for several centuries no further expeditions were being sent to the jade land country. In this juncture, most noticeably, the Chinese Imperial Court had acquired the taste for this Burmese jadeite, Empress Dowager Cixi [1835—1908 CE] had known particularly for the beauty of the translucence quality of the stone, using her political position to acquire the gem and wearing  it with her royal attire in public occasion
During the mid-18th century, there was an expansion of jade mining in Burma and greater subsequent export of jade to China. A result of the insatiate taste among the wealthy Chinese for the Imperial Jade from Burma, a regular trade route between the Burma Government and China was established. In 1861 as a relaxation of restrictions on trade, merchants could extend trade even to Mandalay and brought back jade via maritime route. From this time onwards, the majority of high quality jade stones produced in Burma could find its way into China through Hong Kong and Shanghai. After 1949 the eruption of civil war in China had put a halt of jade transaction of border trade between Myanmar and Yunnan. Consequently the jade produced in Kachin State was transported by rail to Rangoon where it was then exported by sea to Hong Kong. In 1962 the Government has declared all gemstones as properties of Myanmar State Government, virtually halting the maritime export of gems to foreign countries. All this time most of the gems producing regions in Upper Myanmar were taken over by the insurgent groups. Seized gemstones were taken down to Yangon for auction sales. Jade traders have to resort to the only way by obtaining jadestones at Myanmar’s jade producing regions and then smuggled them through the border crossing points to gemstones trading companies in Thailand.
Though the western people preferred to buy diamonds, rubies and sapphires whereas the Asian people especially the Chinese preferred  to buy the Imperial Jade with an uncommonly fixation, so as to leave a loophole  for attracting some unscrupulous minded jade traders to get fast money in a way by confusing the potential buyers with a large variety of inferior  gemstones such as chalcedony, serpentine, maw-sit –sit and hydro-grossular garnet which are very much look like jadeite  but they are  not jadeite  and very less in cost of value  than to real jadeite. And on another kind of inferior stones, with a special kind of technical treatment could turn the stones to look very much alike jadeite on sale in the international market.  With only the trained jade expert eye they can be able to differentiate the real ones from the adulterated ones.
As 90% of the world’s jadeite is mined in the northern part of Myanmar, so that jade trade is predominantly has taken place in Myanmar, the largest jade trader groups come from China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea to the Annual Myanmar Gems Emporium in Myanmar which has contributed about 2 to 3 billion of US dollars into the coffer of the Government annually. “Imperial Jade” was coined by a Chinese jade trader for the Myanmar jade as its finest quality, almost transparent with a vibrant emerald green color. This name was made known nation wise among the Chinese through the patronage of Empress Dowager Cixi who owned one herself and wearing it in public occasion with her Royal attire. There is also a belief among the Chinese people that “Imperial Jade” can ward off evil spirits and have a beneficial effect on health and in another Chinese saying, that wearing a bangle of jade could survive oneself from a house burning down by fire. So we should bear in mind that good quality of jade can come from the one and only Republic of the Union of Myanmar.


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