Subject:Re: My first purchase of year 2014...
Posted By: Super Mon, Jan 20, 2014
I am glad you enjoyed your first purchase of 2014 and I truly admire your tremendous love of jade. For this I kowtow to you as a fellow jade lover.
When you called this piece "archaic", does that mean you believe it is that of Han dynasty or earlier or it is more than 1000 years old? Unfortunately, based on its one and only picture that was being posted here,I was not convinced by either its material or its quality of carving (its weathering is really bothersome, looks very artificial) that it can be archaic. Sorry. Of course, I can be wrong since I am no jade expert and better pictures may convince me otherwise. I just hope you may want to become more "selective" in your future purchases of any "archaic" jade carvings from Hong Kong or China because if any jade carvings are indeed good or great, they will not need to send them overseas. They can and would fetch much higher prices in either China or Hong Kong. No pun intended. I believe if you truly love archaic or antique Chinese jade carvings, you should consult Lee, Dave, Adam, to find out where you may be able to acquire some authentic jade carvings because they appear to be quite active in the buying/selling of them(no disrespect to other jade collectors/experts in this forum) Of course, they will not be cheap. You will always get what you are paying for, just like diamonds, if the prices of them are too cheap, something will be fishy about what you are getting. There is simply no FREE lunch in life. I know because I have been collecting coins (Hong Kong and US) for my whole life and seldom would I be able to obtain any "good" and rare coins CHEAP.) (*I did once acquire a US $5 gold coin(about 1/4 troy ounce of gold) and a US silver dollar (about 0.78 troy oz silver) set for US$ 17.50 but that was a rare exception.)
From reading some of your previous messages, you seemed to believe that genuine jade carvings could be mass produced in China at ancient times, to the point that there would be tons of inferior jade carvings being produced. (my smart friend who built his half-a-million dollar jade collection from eBay had the same belief) I respectfully disagree with your hypothesis, because from all my previous researches on Chinese jade carvings, there was really no nephrite jade ever being mined inside the Chinese border during most of the Chinese dynasties because the main and only source of nephrite is Xianjiang (where Hetain jade came from) where nephrite jade came from Hetian or the Kunlun Mountain, some were mountain jades and some were river jade (including seed jade), most were Hetian jade and some were bi yu (dark green jades). Some of these Kulun mountain jades were also minded in Qinghai (like those being used to make medals for the last Chinese Olympics). Since Xianjiang was a Muslim territory during most Chinese dynasties and they always revolted against China, therefore during many Chinese dynasties especially Sung when the Chinese emperors were week and busy in fighting foreign invasions, it was extremely difficult and almost impossible to import significant quantity of Hetian jades from the far away Xianjiang to China. The supplies of them were therefore very limited and their costs very high. It was not until the Qing Emperor Qianlong who had a reign of 60 years (actually longer, but he abdicated after 60 years because he did not want to have a reign that was longer than that of his grandfather, Kangxi. But he actually still controlled the empire after his abdication.) that he had finally ended the revolutions in the Xiangjian areas and the transport of Hetain jade became much easier.
However, even in the Qianlong era, with the supplies of Hetian nephrite jade became more abundant, it was still highly regulated by the imperial government, just like the supply of salt (regular table salt), only the imperial government was allowed to import Hetian jade material from Xianjiang to the jade shops in the capital. No private trades of either jade material or salt were allowed. Any smugglers of either jade or salt would have their heads chopped off. Also, prior to the reign of Qianlong, you seldom saw the other Qing emperors wasted their time in jades because they were busy consolidating their political powers by killing off thousands of "Hans" (Qing are Manchurian and were considered foreign people by Hans)many of whom were found to be guilty of complaining about the Qing government in their books or other printed material. Many innocent Chinese scholars were killed off during these earlier Qing eras.
However, even when the supply of Hetian jade became more abundant during the Emperor Qianlong era, good Hetian jade was still not cheap. The Hetian nephrite jade used to make a pair (two) of jade bowls during the Qianlong era would cost 5,000 taels of silver. At last Friday's closing silver spot price of US$ 20.37 per troy ounce, one Chinese tael is about 1.2 troy ounce or is worth about US$ 24.44 per tael. Therefore, the material alone for making a pair of jade bowls during Qinglong's reign will cost about US$ 122,220. (yes, that much because it wastes a lot of material in making jade bowl. Try to find a jade bowl that was made of genuine nephrite jade, even today, it will not be cheap or easy to find.) Also, before they had discovered the method of using grit with high hardness (such as corundum) to polish a jade piece (final process) during the later part of Qianlong era, the average time spent on polishing a jade carving will be around one year. Can you imagine the labor cost for just the polishing of a genuine Qianlong jade carving? It is for these reasons, when any time people claimed that their pieces are that of Qianglong era, I would always take it with a grain of salt because any authentic and significant Qianlong jade carving will be worth at least six figures in US dollars in today's market. Also whenever I saw a jade carving that was labeled as jadeite carvings of any dynasties before the Qing dynasty I would start laughing because jadeite was not recognized as "real" jade until the middle Qing dynasty. It is only until later Qing dynasty, the restrictions on the import and trade of Hetian jade became more relaxed and the supply of Hetian jade became more abundant which resulted in "cheaper" prices of jade carvings. But still authentic and good jade carvings were never cheap, at any time. Case in point, during the 60s when my smart friend was working as a school teacher in Hong Kong, he was making about HK$ 900 a month(at that time HK dollar to US dollars is about a 5:1 ratio unlike today's 7.69:1 ratio), according to him a piece of good Qing dynasty Hetian jade carving at that time would sell for HK$200-300 a piece, about one third of his monthly salary. I remember my father bought a Leica M3 camera (made in Germany) around that time and it cost him about HKD$3,000. Good stuff like a genuine Rolex watch will never be cheap, no matter in what time period. If you can buy a genuine 14k gold Rolex watch cheap, it will either be stolen or a fake. That is no different with Hetian jade carvings or any authentic archaic jade carving, IMHO.
Therefore, IMHO, there are really no such things as "mass produced" antique or archaic jade carvings due to the HIGH costs of both the material and labor in making any jade carvings at ancient China (or even in modern China, many modern genuine quality Hetian jade carvings are very expensive). No jade carvers will waste their time in making any inferior jade carvings or in mass producing them. I recommend you to acquire a copy of the September 1987 National Geographic magazine where there was an article titled "Jade Stone of Heaven" written by Mr. Fred Ward (I had a copy that was autographed by him) in which it states that by 1987 it was already quite difficult to find nephrite jade in China and therefore all nephrite jade were reserved for making "high-end" fakes. If you ever examine the type of nephrite jade used to "make" some of these so called Qing dynasty or even Hongshan jade carvings, you will easily find that the type of nephrite material used to "make" them can only be found overseas, like from U.S.A. or Canada, therefore there is just simply no way that they could be made at ancient time in China. (*If anybody would like to acquire a copy of this magazine or article, please let me know, I believe I may have several spare copies.)
The most credible jade material in making some of the authentic archaic Chinese jade carvings are:
Hetian nephrite jade,
Xiuyan jade (nephrite, bowenite and serpentine) and Dushan (Nanyang) jade. Of course, some may debate/argue that at one time nephrite jade was being mined inside the Chinese border, but just like the rumor that jadeite was being found in California, USA, I cannot yet confirm their existences.
Please understand that I do not mean any disrespect to your or your jade collection and I do admire your love for jade. However, after I had spent some time in studying jade, I had become a bit discouraged because unless one has a 'deep" pocket, the knowledge and the source, it will not be easy for anybody to acquire authentic antique jades in "bargain" prices. For truly archaic or neolithic jades, it will be almost ten times more difficult. Now of course I can be wrong or if you are lucky enough to inherit some good jades from your elders and/or ancestors like Adam did. Again, no pun intended to you or any jade collectors/experts/traders/lovers in this forum.