Saint-PetersburgOvercast+4°C

Why Europeans invest in gold, whereas Chinese in jade?

нефрит
Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад /

Among the most expensive minerals on earth are diamonds, sapphires, rubies, platinum and gold. The majority of people on this planet would consider owning these precious metals and stones as a sign of prosperity. However, 1.4 billion Chinese are unlikely to share the same opinion, for they have their own, special mineral, and, according to the national Chinese proverb, it is impossible to put a price on it. Each and every resident of China considers it an absolute imperative to buy at least one small item with this mineral, even if it means one has to keep saving a whole lifetime.

In the East, this sacred stone is jade. The mineral varying in color from light to dark green, sometimes almost black, has long been one of the symbols of imperial authority in China. For instance, only ruling family members were allowed to wear accessories made of white jade.

Since ancient times, people believe that nephrite stone can grant immortality to its owner. In Russian literature, the main protagonist of mystery novels by Boris Akunin, Erast Fandorin, carried jade beads with him throughout the whole series. Although a fictional Russian detective was not a superstitious person, he came to appreciate the magical power of the item straight away. Probably, because by some miracle he managed to escape two deaths. According to a legend, the Chinese sage Te Guangzi had lived few lives and then defeated the death itself, while telling his greenstone beads. It is believed that these beads find their owner by themselves, they can not be bought, stolen or gifted, neither they can be owned by someone with an evil heart.

нефрит
Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад /

One of the most powerful world rulers — Tamerlane — was also convinced of the magical properties of nephrite. There is even a tombstone installed on his grave, made of dark-green jade. Nephrite was considered a sacred stone that protected its owner. The mineral fragments were put into the mouth of the deceased as a talisman for afterlife. According to a legend, the inscriptions were carved on the inner side of the gravestone, one of the inscriptions reads: "Anyone who violates my peace either in this life or in the next one will be subjected to suffering or death." Indeed, any attempt to move the monument resulted in tragic events. The headstone was first taken by Nader Shah, Iranian ruler. Straight afterwards, in Iran, a strong earthquake followed that destroyed the city completely, whilst the ruler itself got seriously ill. After that, the tombstone was returned to its original place. On the second occasion, the lid of the tomb was taken by the Soviet scientists in 1941; three days later it was followed by a start of the Great Patriotic war. The jade block had been returned to its original position a month before the battle of Stalingrad took place. This battle was won, and, as it turned out, it changed the course of the war on the whole.

нефрит
Фото © Антон Войцеховский

From ancient Greek, jade translates as "kidney stone". It is believed that as long as someone has a piece of jade with oneself, that person will not face any health problems - in particular kidney-related. Each item made of nephritic stone has its own, special meaning. Wanting to become rich — you need a fish figurine. Need some luck — get a bat-shaped statuette. Those aiming for longevity should seek for a figurine in the form of peach flower. The mineral is also used in skin care for getting rid of wrinkles. Jade massage rollers are still quite popular in numerous beauty salons.

As of now, all large deposits of jade in China have been entirely worked out. However, jade is extracted in large quantities in Russia and often transported illegally to China. In 2015-2016 years, there were attempts to smuggle the greenstone worth of 30 million roubles in total. Often the pursuit for the sacred stone leads to the risk of loosing one’s own life. There have been cases of illegal miners gone missing in taiga in search of precious mineral. Genuine jade is never cheap. Often the price depends on the color and transparency of the sample, as well as the place of its origin. The most valuable ones are those of emerald color, which are well translucent and have no inclusions.

Nephrite has unique properties. Due to its unusual structure resembling felt, the mineral is twice stronger than steel, five times — than granite. Even special tools are required for its processing. Another unusual feature of this stone is its musicality. There is a rare exhibit that may be found in Saint-Petersburg Mining Museum - a plate of singing jade, found in southern Siberia. Upon the bang, it produces a melodic and soft sound. In Chinese tales, it is mentioned that Confucius himself was very fond of playing on the jade plates, especially in the moments of despair and hesitation. With sound, wise thoughts, tranquility and consolation came to him.

нефрит
Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад /