If I search through my memories of my grandmother, my Yin Yin, I always see her wearing jade jewelry. It might be in the form of a jade bangle or pendant—maybe a brooch. Jade was a part of her. And then, after years of me receiving pieces from her collection, the vibrant green stone became a part of me. Little did I know how much cultural significance each piece holds beyond its sentiment (which, of course, is priceless).
It’s no secret that I, as a fashion lover, am among the jewelry obsessed. Sure, there are gorgeous and undoubtedly jaw-dropping fine jewelry baubles with gemstones like diamonds, emeralds, opals, and more to dream about and admire. However, there’s something about jade, which has deep roots in Chinese culture, that I find so intriguing, especially when it’s carved into so many intricate shapes and forms. In an effort to dive deeper into my own lineage, I decided to find out why.
Courtesy of Ren
“Jade is prized for its beauty but also its ties to spiritual beliefs in the power of the gem,” explain Lin Ruiyin and Afzal Imram, the founders of Singapore-based label State Property. There are many varying beliefs in the mystical power of jade, including that it keeps its wearer safe from unwelcome spirits and energy. When a piece like a jade bangle breaks, it’s believed to have absorbed all the negative energy in a person. According to designer and Hong Kong native Wendy Yue, jade is perceived to have an energy known as “qi” that connects with the body’s energy. “Once you wear a piece of jade that you own, your body and the jade are believed to be interconnected, so the color and luster of the jade naturally reflect your health and happiness,” she says.
Crystal Ung, the founder of Ren, a label specializing in modern and vintage jade jewelry, shares that the love for jade dates back to 3400 BC. With such a long history behind it, it’s easy for the gemstone to fall into the category of traditional jewelry often reserved for special occasions like weddings. However, Ung—like Yue and the founders behind State Property—is working to change that. “I wanted to enable people to connect or reconnect with East Asian culture through an iconic and beloved stone, jade,” Ung says. “There hasn't been much innovation in jade jewelry, and I saw an opportunity to merge modern design sensibilities with tradition.”
Ung reminds me of an old Chinese saying that goes, “Gold is valuable, but jade is priceless.” I can’t pinpoint the reasons my grandmother had in mind when she gave me my first piece of jade, whether it was for good luck, protection, or maintaining tradition. However, I can tell that each one is exactly that—priceless.