Fake Jade?

Ebay and other world markets are currently flooded with all kinds of carved stone from China, much of it from tombs- but then much of it is supposedly “fake”- how to know which is which? Well, if it is covered in dirt and has gravel still stuck in cracks, chances are it is real! But really what? There were all kinds of people in China from all different levels of society and not all of them could afford the best jade, nor were they even allowed to wear the best even if they wanted to by imperial decree in some time periods. Also when people were buried often corners were cut in carving the exorbitant amount of goods to be placed in the tomb- since they were never used nor even seen by people in life- and were largely symbolic. Also tastes for carved stone has become more and more exclusive instead of inclusive over time, or at least for Hong Kong markets as well as overseas buyers which is much of what we see as westerners when researching jade, while the domestic market is somewhat different and people can’t afford the very finest nephrite jade.

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Much of what is being sold is either a green or an orange dyed stone, which is not actually jade at all. I suspect it is Lantian jade which has been dyed- it is a softer stone than a true jade. Part of the reason that this stone isn’t real jade perhaps was to deter grave robbers- for though it is “fake” jade that has been dyed, all the evidence indicates it has some age (not just produced yesterday), and is not at all fake as far as anthropological artifacts are concerned.

On the left is a representation of a phoenix cup- something widely copied in China throughout the ages and of religious and ritual significance, and considered an obligatory item for burials. To the right are seals of animals who are dressed up as priests, animals of the Chinese zodiac-a monkey and a rooster? When they were first dyed green, they may have looked better than what they do today, the brown on the surface maybe due to aging of the stone which has happened unevenly because of the dying process. But then maybe when they were dyed they came out that way. The dyed green color also fades with any exposure to light. Because with most of the items for sale the green hasn’t faded, it is thought they haven’t been in the public’s hands, as well as still having pieces of gravel stuck in cracks. Any private collector of fine jade would be pretty temped to remove such things I would think, let alone legitimate reseller.

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Of the most fantastic carvings are these- what I have termed “Silk Road Panels”. There are women who ride tigers and shoot the sun (or moon?)….

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Great battles between people on high seas who ride birds themselves…

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And magical deer who are graced with auspicious bats, chariots, monks, and more\…

Its like the world’s first picture book, but written into pages of stone, commemorating all the very great people and great deeds of the day. The panels are much larger and thicker than your typical Chinese pendant today.

Were they just made for the grave of nobility and nothing more? The holes on the pendants indicate these were used and worn- but probably not anytime recently.

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The subject matter is probably right for the time period as well as the carving, and the gravel really leads me to believe these are from a tomb, but the only thing that isn’t “right” about them is the fact they aren’t real jade and were dyed- quite a feat really for that long ago (ca. 1300 years ago? from the Tang Dynasty) and something that perhaps they should get credit for instead of having their stories sold without provenance, and everyone just think the Chinese are selling fake jade on the internet. That was someone’s heritage, you know.

The fact that these panels depict Muslims- or at least people who look like Arabs- see photo above, as well as a few camels is also evidence indicating where they were looted from- along the new “Silk Road” that China has built through Xinjiang apparently. Or it least coincidentally highly suspicious they do some massive building project in that area then have all these fresh from the grave artifacts for sale.


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Though some think it is all fake (jade comes in different colors than green or white?), while some think half of it is (what do you mean they dyed it?)- the fact of the matter is I see very few fake objects, just a lot of fake Ebay sellers. The neolithic Hongshan artifacts to the right are real, though orange in color and perhaps not the highest quality jade to begin with; while the more recent dyed stone to the left is still from a tomb over 1,000 years old whose occupants apparently had them carved as a homage and tribute to their ancient Hongshan past. Just goes to show how much you should study artifacts scientifically instead of just tossing them all out as “fake” because of your personal prejudices which is what I suspect the Chinese Communists may be doing. But then maybe they are just out to make money, and really don’t care what it is.

For more about different types of stone that are often called “jade” and more of what is being looted from China please visit Stone Cold.

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