Jade Collecting & Buying
Fake & Genuine Jades
By Molly Kalafut
The first thing an amateur jade collector needs to know is that many merchants have a tendency to call any green-looking stone "jade", when it may really just be serpentine, glass or even plastic. Sadly, a number of names for minerals are very misleading because they use the word "jade" but are not, in fact, either jadeite or nephrite.
Following are some tips to help you decide if the jade you are looking at is authentic.
Where to begin? As shown from many examples on my fake jade page, there are hundreds of uneducated or dishonest merchants selling fake jade or low quality jade. High quality jade is rare to find, valued highly and expensive. Use common sense! If you see a cheap "deal" from someone on eBay selling supposedly fantastic, ancient jade for dirt cheap - you get what you pay for! It's probably not fantastic or ancient...if it even is jade at all.
Aside from the fake jade issues, there is also the fact that low quality jade (even if authentic) just isn't worth very much at all. To quote The Jade Trade: "Ancient jade of authentic quality is scarce, and the majority of the jade offered on eBay from Chinese dealers is of such a low quality that even the Chinese do not want it (export quality to the west). This low quality jade is not a sound investment nor will it ever be."
China's National Antique Law
China enforces what is called the "National Antique Law". Antiques dated to earlier than 1795 is absolutely forbidden. Items dated between 1796 and 1949 require a red seal and a "Relic Export" certificate from the Beijing Cultural Relics Bureau. Dealers with collections outside of China of course aren't bound by this, but it's definitely something to be aware of either while in China or buying from dealer's on eBay.
True jade does not have trapped air bubbles in it (that occurs more often with plastic and glass)
There are some credibility issues regarding any certificate about jade. One is that if a dishonest dealer is already lying to you about their fake items, what's to stop them from giving you fake certifications for it? Some jeweler associations are said to be in collusion with the jade sellers and provide seemingly authentic certifications for the sellers. So don't be prepared to trust a certificate 100%. I've read that the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) is a reputable organization for certificates, but as with any certificate make sure to obtain it yourself and beware of possible forgeries.
Jade isn't always green! It comes as a surprise to many that jade can be almost any color of the rainbow. Green is particularly valued, but in some places pure white jade can command a higher price.
When first touched, jade should feel cool to the touch and take some time to warm up to room temperature. If you press it to your upper lip, you can definitely noticed if the jade feels cool or room temperature.
A website from Lumingta offers this suggestion: "Jade has the property of cooling very fast and remains in cool temperature. Hold a piece in your hand until you feel that the temperature of the piece is equal to your body's, then open your palm right away and put the jade aside. After about 25 seconds in regular room temperature surrounding, use the tip of tongue to feel the piece. If there is a very cool sensation, then it is most likely jade."
The texture of the jade piece you are handling should feel very smooth. If you can detect bumps with your finger or fingernail it is probably not jade. This can catch some of the fakes. If running your fingernail also scratches the surface it is definitely not jade (read more below).
Tough, Tough, Tough!
Jade is very tough. The "Moh's Scale" is used to rate the hardness of stones. Diamond is 10, Jadeite is between 6-7 and a steel knife-blade is only 5.5.
A commonly used rough test for jade is seeing if you can scratch it. If you can make scratch marks on it with your fingernails, it is not jade. If it scratches from a fingernail it is likely to be soapstone or another cheap fake. (As a note, calcification on jade may scratch so avoid testing on calcified areas.)
In fact, you can even scratch at jade with a steel-knife and make no indentation. Usually only people well-versed in jade know this, so it can help show that the merchant you're talking to is knowledgeable. Sometimes if you ask "Are you sure this is true jade?", a good merchant will pull out a knife and try to scratch it. That is true professionalism - it proves they know the scratch-test (many don't!) and it also means they are willing to take the risk of damaging their own goods to prove that it really is jade and wasn't accidentally mislabeled.
If you manage to chip the edge and it looks sparkly or glitters, then it isn't jade. It should definitely be difficult to chip anyway.
Jade should not fracture into a moon-shape when struck. If a moon-shape fracture shows up it is probably jasper or agate. If it fractures easily that's definitely a clue it isn't true jade.
When jade loosely collides against other jade, it makes a clear, almost musical tone. It is more clear and higher-pitched than glass colliding, which can be an easy way to tell fakes. Sound can even be used in identifying raw jade - a boulder is said to ring like a bell when struck with a pick. Historically the lovely tone of jade bells were even used ceremonially to ward off evil.
Weight & Density
It can take some time to develop this skill, but jade is so dense that you can sometimes detect true or fake jade from the weight. Jadeite in particular is very dense and heavy and has a firm weight to it that is very different from many fakes like glass, plastic or soapstone. Sometimes a carving could be jadeite on the outside but filled with plastic on the inside, so pay close attention to the weight.
Because jadeite is so dense, one way to test the stone is to put it in a heavy liquid to see if it floats or sinks. This is a rather difficult, messy and smelly test because the liquid is toxic. It is generally used by professionals to separate Grade A jade from Grade B jade. It's not a test used by people casually buying jade - not too many antique shoppers want to lug around a jug of poisonous liquid!
eBay Seller Large Shipping Costs
A fair number of frequent jade sellers on eBay sell small low quality jadeite carved necklaces for low prices...but high shipping cost, like $4-$10 per piece. Even if the piece sells for $0.01, they've made their money on the fixed shipping price. Once upon a time on eBay, if you bought multiple pieces from a dealer on eBay you'd get free shipping on the additional items. No longer for most merchants! For example, I "won" 4 jadeite pendants from one merchant at $0.01 each, but including shipping the total was $18.
Purchasing 4 items for 1 penny each ($0.04!) from a merchant on eBay cost $18 in shipping!
That said, I buy a lot of cheap jadeite pieces from eBay. Why? Because I think the carvings or the colors are pretty. But I don't have any illusions that those pieces will appreciate to any particular value.
Many factors influence the cost and value of jade, including;
Websites About Jade Authenticity
Lumingta - This website has a list of 7 ways to help determine the authenticity of jade from fakes.
Copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and beyond! By Molly Kalafut