The Jade of Burma

(Image lifted from: https://www.gia.edu/jade-quality-factor)

Burma, now presently known as Myanmar, is one of the most important gem centers of the world. Myanmar is famous for its high quality rubies and sapphires from Mogok in the Mandalay region. Today, about eighty-five percent of all rubies and sapphires mined are of Myanmar origin. However, other than these two gemstones, one of the most valuable gemstones mined in Burma is the imperial jadeite, which comes mostly from the hills of Kachin Province in Northern Myanmar. The town of Hpakant is also one of the famous mining areas for jadeite in the country. This town has mined jadeite since this has been imported in vast quantities in China and has been considered precious gemstones as far back as the 10th century. Furthermore, the Mogaung area in Myanmar is the only commercial source of jadeite that produces different qualities varying from the superior gem emerald green to the economical utilitarian quality. Most of these jadeite mined in Burma is not cut for use in the country. It is mostly transported to other nations, especially in Asia, in order to be used in jewelry and other products. It is estimated today that Myanmar is the origin of approximately 70 percent of the world’s supply of high-quality jadeite. 

The price of jadeite in Myanmar varies due to several factors such as the quality, the type of jade, the grade of the jade, the treatment done, the color of the jade, and more. These factors affect the market value of jadeites in Myanmar. Hence, in order to help you understand the price gaps in myanmar, here are the factors that affect the jadeite’s market value:

  1. Authenticity

There are a lot of markets in Myanmar and in the world that label materials as jade or jadeite. However, not all of them are genuine and authentic jades. When talking about jades, there are two types that are alike in appearance but vary greatly in mineral composition. These are termed as Jadeite and Nephrite. Both of these are considered as authentic jades but their value differs. Jadeite is significantly aluminum-rich while Nephrite is a magnesium-rich silicate. Jadeite has a higher hardness and is more durable compared to Nephrite. It also comes in a wider variety of colors compared to Nephrite which is usually available in darker and more matte colors.  On the other hand, Nephrite is less lustrous and almost always opaque. It is aso has larger deposits around the world and hence more common. It is usually used for carving because of its high availability. With these, Jadeite has higher value because it is a rare mineral that is only available from Myanmar.

Nephrite Jade

Nephrite Jade in Australian Museum. (Image lifted from: https://australianmuseum.net.au/learn/minerals/gemstones/nephrite-jade/)

jade

Jadeite. (Image lifted from: https://www.mining-technology.com/features/featurejade-can-myanmar-slay-its-green-eyed-monster-4872582/)

In addition to that, authenticity of the jade can be complicated by the increasing number of imitations. These are materials that look alike but have completely different chemical compositions and properties to jades. Many imitations are available in the market of Myanmar which is also one of the causes of the price gap in the jade industry. One of the most common types being sold in the market is the Chrysoprase which is a member of the quartz family. This is sold as Australian Jade. Other imitations include Aventurine quartz, Grossular Garnet, Serpentine, and Prehnite. Further testing is needed in order to identify real and authentic jadeite. Hence, it is important to be meticulous and suspicious when buying jades.

imitations

Different types of imitations. (Image lifted from: https://www.mays.com.au/blogs/guides/jade-bangle-guide)

2. Color

colorful jade

(Image lifted from: https://www.gia.edu/jade-quality-factor)

One of the most important value factors for Jadeite is its color. There are significant price gaps depending on the color of the jade. Natural Jadeite has a variety of colors which include green, lavender, red, orange, yellow, brown, grey, black, and white. The most desirable color of Jadeite is the Imperial Green which is almost transparent with a  vibrant emerald like green color. This type of Jadeite had been once ordered by the royal court of China. Today, it is one of the world’s most expensive gems. Following the value of the Imperial Jade is the kingfisher jade which is also a green color that is only somewhat less vivid than Imperial. Apple jade is also sought after which is an intense yellowish green. A translucent white with bright green veining, patches, or spots called Moss-in-snow jade also has a higher market value compared to other jadeites. Lastly, Lavender Jade which has a purplish blue hue and Icy Jade which is near transparent white in color are also valuable colors of the Jadeite. The market in Myanmar gives Intense colors a significantly higher value over lighter and weaker colors.

3. Transparency

Transparency of Jadeites

Transparency of Jadeites. (Image lifted from: https://www.mays.com.au/blogs/guides/jade-bangle-guide)

The transparency of Jadeite jade is a factor  in determining its quality and market value. Jadeite’s transparency ranges from completely opaque to near transparent.  The best Myanmar Jadeite jade is semi transparent. It is of higher value because it has an astounding brilliance, which improves the natural color of emerald green of the jade. The least desirable types of jade are the opaque ones because they are plentiful and it usually contains cloudy patches which does not allow the light to pass through causing less glow of the jade. In order to judge transparency of the Jadeites jade, some buyers will place a thin jadeite slice on a printed page and try to read the words through the gem. It is good to note that in the Myanmar market good transparency can compensate for the low color saturation of the jade. 

4. Texture

 Texture of Jadeites

 Texture of Jadeites. (Image lifted from: https://www.mays.com.au/blogs/guides/jade-bangle-guide)

Other than transparency, texture also plays a vital factor in determining the value of the Jadeite jade. Generally, high value Jadeites are fine or smooth in texture which makes people want to touch and hold it, while low value Jadeite jades have a coarse granular look. Jadeite’s texture can range from fine to medium to coarse. This greatly depends on  crystal size and hardness. Hence, with that, the jadeite’s texture contributes to its significant toughness. This is the reason why many prefer the smooth because it has the ability to withstand breakage, which makes it more valuable and more advantageous than the other coarser looking jades. 

5. Imperfections and Flaws

flaws of Jades

  Common imperfections and flaws of Jades. (Image lifted from: https://www.mays.com.au/blogs/guides/jade-bangle-guide)

Imperfections or flaws are one of the key considerations in determining the value of a jade. This is because other than its aesthetic value, it also adds a sense of natural origin which makes it more valuable. Jades are created through years of extreme heat and pressure. Hence, flaws are natural. It is important to note that these flaws and inclusions do not affect the durability or strength of the jade. It also gives a unique touch to each jade, giving a higher value to the product. Moreover, Jadeite having imperfections and flaws mean that the jade did not undergo artificial treatment. However, in buying jades in the market, one must have critical eyes in order to check if the flaws can compromise the structural integrity of the bangle, for this in turn affects the market value of the jade.

6. Treatment Done  

As stated above, natural jadeite is of higher value and it comes with many qualities and color. Some qualities and colors have superior market value than its counterparts. Moreover, because there is an increased demand for quality jadeite, some sellers in Myanmar artificially treat jades in order to enhance their transparency, color, and quality. These treatments are only temporary and generally affect the strength and durability of the Jadeite. Hence, after such time, when the treatment has worn out, the treated jade will have a significantly lower value and quality. Thus, it is highly recommended that one chooses the untreated jadeite. It is also important to be cautious of shops that fail to disclose any treatments to their jades. 

Now that you have been presented with the reasons why there are price gaps with the Jades being sold in Myanmar, it is important to use these informations in order to purchase jades with higher quality and market value. With the knowledge on the different factors that affect the value of Jadeites, you will surely cover the more valuable and sought after Jadeite Jade.

References: 

  1. Gemological Institute of America. 2018. Jadeite Jade Quality Factors. Retrieved from: https://www.gia.edu/jade-quality-factor.  Retrieved on 12 June 2020.
  2. Mays. 2020. 10 Facts About Buying Jadeite Jade Bangles. Retrieved from: https://www.mays.com.au/blogs/guides/jade-bangle-guide. Retrieved on 12 June 2020.
  3. Mining Technology. 2016. Jade: can Myanmar slay its green-eyed monster?. Retrieved from: https://www.mining-technology.com/features/featurejade-can-myanmar-slay-its-green-eyed-monster-4872582/. Retrieved on 12 June 2020.
  4. Moore, D. 2019. Myanmar Jade Market. Retrieved from: https://www.aluxurytravelblog.com/2019/09/15/myanmar-jade-market/. Retrieved on 12 June 2020.