For 5,000 years Imperial China used the word "jade" as something precious. Because jade is said to have all the attributes most valued in society. A symbol of purity and serenity, it is delicate, but will not break - is beautiful, but not impermanent, it can be flawed with lines, but still pleasing. It is believed to radiate divine unconditional love and balance the emotions. Held in the hand it can improve judgment - ancient silk traders often held jade while bartering. A small piece of jade worn around the neck was said to dispel illness.
Chinese jade first arrived in the West during the sixteenth century, brought from Canton by the Portuguese. Today jade continues to be a symbol of love, virtue, and status. With Chinese carvings reaching the highest value. The best jade has a waxy, pearly appearance. Feeling cool and so smooth, it seems soft to the touch. Yet hard enough that pressure from a sharp knife will not leave a mark.
The most famous type of jade carved in China is from Burma, with shades of green, lavender, yellow, white and grey. These colors form over millions of years from minerals in the rock. Every piece of jade has a secret meaning. Discovering that meaning and the legends behind it is a very satisfying for those who practice this dying art.