Skinner Inc.

Auctioneers and Appraisers of Objects of Value

Guide to Collecting Antique Jade

Jadeite Jade Carving

Jadeite Jade Carving, China, 20th century, Lot 675 in the September 21-22, 2012 Asian Works of Art auction, Estimate $10,000-15,000

White Nephrite Jade Carving

White Nephrite Jade Carving with Wood Stand, China, 19th century, Lot 676 in the September 21-22, 2012 Asian Works of Art auction, Estimate $5,000-7,000

Mention jade, and most people think of a green stone, when in fact, jade comes in a variety of colors. In addition to the familiar rich green hues, antique jade may be white, lavender, yellow, brown, gray, or reddish-purple.

Another important thing to understand about jade is that there are two different types of jade stones: nephrite and jadeite. Both can be found in river beds, or mined at depths of ten to twenty feet, and both come in all colors, though nephrite’s colors are less vivid than the colors of jadeite. Hence, identifying the two stone types can be difficult.

Nephrite has been used in China since prehistoric times for weapons and ritual objects. It wasn’t until the 18th century that large quantities of jadeite were imported from Burma, the country recognized as having some of the best jadeite in the world. The finest, emerald green pieces were much favored by the Qinlong Emperor, resulting in the term “imperial jade.”

Imperial jade is not the only sought-after form of antique jade. Collectors also prize fine, white nephrite carvings for their translucent surface. Some jade contains dark russet inclusions, which early jade carvers would often work into the design of their pieces. Beautiful inclusions may also increase the value of a piece of jade.

The preference for “imperial jade,” especially in fine jewelry, has resulted in various substitutes for real jade. Aventurine and calcite are among the most common. Organic dyes may also be used to enhance or color nephrite, jadeite, or their substitutes. Stones must be carefully inspected with a magnifying glass to look for traces of dye. A gemologist can also test for dyes.

If you’re interested in purchasing antique jade, imperial or other, it’s important to inspect the pieces carefully to understand the differences and ensure authenticity.

Identifying Jade: Nephrite or Jadeite?

• The surface of jadeite tends to be vitreous or glassy.
• Nephrite’s surface tends to appear waxy or greasy.
• Real jade is cold to the touch and quickly absorbs the warmth of your hand. However, several substitutes will also pass this test.

Connoisseurship of jade requires more than a quick examination. To learn what qualifies as the best examples, or to ensure that a piece of jade is real, I recommend consulting with an expert. It also helps to visit fine jade collections at museums, galleries, and auction houses. Handling the pieces and asking questions about their provenance, history, and value is the path to understanding and enjoying the magical qualities of jade.

Our next Asian Works of Art auction on September 21st and 22nd, 2012 features a fine selection of jades. You’re welcome to join us at the preview in Boston starting on September 19th.

32 thoughts on “Guide to Collecting Antique Jade

  1. Question for you: I have a tiny, 1 one inch (overall height)beautifully carved BLUE JADE Buddha with a small pink streak, set in 24K gold. He is sitting on an elobrate gold pillow with a gold fan behind his crowned head. I purchased this in an antique shop in Hong Kong about 30 years ago. I showed it to a gemologist recently. He became very excited, said this was very, very rare, and offered me $2000.00 on the spot. I kept it. It has a small loop at the top to wear on a chain, or to hang in a glass case, as I did. What, in your opinion, would be the market for something like this?

  2. Question for you: I have a tiny, 1 one inch (overall height)beautifully carved BLUE JADE Buddha with a small pink streak, set in 24K gold. He is sitting on an elobrate gold pillow with a gold fan behind his crowned head. I purchased this in an antique shop in Hong Kong about 30 years ago. I showed it to a gemologist recently. He became very excited, said this was very, very rare, and offered me $2000.00 on the spot. I kept it. It has a small loop at the top to wear on a chain, or to hang in a glass case, as I did. What, in your opinion, would be the market for something like this?

  3. I have just purchased a Jadeite Plaque for a couple hundred dollars,it is a woodland scene from the 1930′s The woman i purchased it from says it appears to be color enhanced ?Under black light? I am not sure the piece weighs in at over 300 grams . How detrimental is this to the jadeite it certainly looks natural and I had read that if the jade is dyed or color enhanced it usually starts to fade ? Is my “Find ” worht at least what I paid/ it is a green and dark amber color . no cracks or any thing Coin carved on top of piece. Thanks for any help :)

  4. I have just purchased a Jadeite Plaque for a couple hundred dollars,it is a woodland scene from the 1930′s The woman i purchased it from says it appears to be color enhanced ?Under black light? I am not sure the piece weighs in at over 300 grams . How detrimental is this to the jadeite it certainly looks natural and I had read that if the jade is dyed or color enhanced it usually starts to fade ? Is my “Find ” worht at least what I paid/ it is a green and dark amber color . no cracks or any thing Coin carved on top of piece. Thanks for any help :)

  5. I have two old stone carvings, hand chiseled, piercings from both sides to center mass. Think they are chinese scepters but not the backscratcher kind. They are huge and have handles like hammers. White muttonfat grey stones with peachy brown in carved areas. No polish bees wax; talking real old stones. One seems older then the other with ware on grip areas, both same design. Problem is I can only find reference to these in myths. Listed them on eBay at Hollywood prices and the lookie lue counter went nuts. Five pounds of real white mutton fat jade and no bids, but the molded glass jade seems to sell good on eBay.

  6. I have two old stone carvings, hand chiseled, piercings from both sides to center mass. Think they are chinese scepters but not the backscratcher kind. They are huge and have handles like hammers. White muttonfat grey stones with peachy brown in carved areas. No polish bees wax; talking real old stones. One seems older then the other with ware on grip areas, both same design. Problem is I can only find reference to these in myths. Listed them on eBay at Hollywood prices and the lookie lue counter went nuts. Five pounds of real white mutton fat jade and no bids, but the molded glass jade seems to sell good on eBay.

  7. About 43 years ago I found a small (app 2cm)dark green jade Buddha whilst gem stoning with my father, the colour is solid, I was curious as to where to take him to be appraised as I live in a small town in Australia..

  8. Hello,

    I have a head piece, which is made of black velvet. It has what appears to be hand carved jade Buddhas along the edge. The crown of the head piece is cut out. A Chinese man told me that he thinks it is Chinese and would have belonged to a well-to-do family. He said the woman would have worn it.

    If you can shed any further light on the origin and purpose of the head piece, I would appreciate it very much.
    Regards, Bev

  9. I have 2 Chinese Foo Dogs which are the most intricately carved I have ever seen. I took them to be appraised at our local auction house where they told me they had no way of knowing for sure if it were carved from jade or soap stone. I’ve seen two items at MOMA which bore a strong resemblance to these dogs of mine. I had a Chinese plumber at my home and when he saw the dogs he said “finest jade I have ever seen”. I want the stone assayed to find out the true nature of the material do you know where this can be done? Thanks for your consideration. I want to sell these items but I want fair value.

  10. I have beautiful jade jewelry piece with ruby and emerald and carving done on jade.I have purchased this long time back. Its along with pair of earrings. As per gemological test its Nephrite Jade. Wanted to know the price of it.

  11. I have a very old Oriental statute that was my parents. I was told by my dad that it was white jade statue on a possibly brown jade base. I know nothing else about it but everyone who sees it falls in love with it. It’s 12-1/2″ tall. Where can I go to find out more about it? Thank you so very much!

  12. Hello Judith,
    I live in Indonesia. I have a rude brown red colour lookliked jade covered by thin clear layer which in bottom side has a thick sparkling diamond like layer. I found it in my garden when digging. I do the scracth test and the stone isn’t scratched,it feels cold and it doesn’t get warm quickly when I burn with candle. May you tell me what kind stone is this? Thank You.

  13. I found a piece of Jade art of a person an their knees with their face covered with their arms. There is no facial features or hand features. The piece is about 6 inches long and about 3 inches high and looks like a brownish green color. I took it to a jewelry store and they said it was definitely jade and that I should find out the value. Can you help me? Thank you Cindy

  14. I have a Vintage Chinese Medium Green Foo Dog Stone Sculpture with his little black stand. Size 11x6x3″ (27.94 x 15.24 x 7.62 cm)It is in excellent condition. I would like to sell it, but I do not know of it’s value. I do know that you can find the small and large foo dogs, but I have only seen one other medium one on the internet like mine with the stand. Can you please advise?
    see image at this location. Thank you!!
    http://www.junkables.com/jimages/memproductimages/4277/foodog.jpg

  15. greetings
    I have shaped jade sculptures and other forms of
    I want to sell it, if you want to buy it and if there are other people who are interested to buy it ..
    if you want to see the detail please contact me at this email ..
    thank you.

    vodkalageyoga@gmail.com

  16. I have a jade statue of Confucius, 2 ladies from china told me that.
    it was going in the trash and i asked for it it is about 8 pounds. he stands on a stump and holds a peach sead in his right hand i call him MR FU

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