Hong Kong-based Wallace Chan, one of the world’s top artist-jewellers, who has featured jade regularly in his pieces, talks to David Brough, IJL’s Precious Metals and Gems Editor, about why jade is revered in Chinese culture.
Why is jade important to Chinese collectors, and how important is jade to you as a material in your works?
For 6,000 years, Chinese people have found special emotions and meanings in jade. In ancient times, jade was used for weapon-making. It was also a symbol of love, luck and nobility, and was often regarded as a religious object.
Today, it remains part of the Chinese culture and a token of a gentleman’s virtues: humanity, humility, justice, intelligence, bravery and purity.
In Chinese language, the words “prince” (王) and “jade” (玉) are different in only one stroke. My interpretation is, the three horizontal strokes in “prince” (王) denote heaven, earth, and human beings that are in between; while the vertical stroke in the centre symbolizes the connection of heaven, earth, and human beings, and those who can connect the three are as noble as a prince.
Jade, then, is that one dot that is an ornament and symbol for those who are noble and worthy.
What are the strengths of jade as a jewellery material and in combination with gemstones and other materials?
Jade is a rather broad term. If there are a thousand kinds of stones, there must be ten thousand kinds of jade. In my works you often see green jade, mutton fat white jade, lavender jade, black jade and red jade.
Green jade is translucent. It is a gentle and serene sight to the eyes. White jade, with the texture of mutton fat, draws in light to dance on it and invites one’s touches. Lavender jade has the colour of spiritual wisdom, and symbolises balance. It is the colour you get when mixing blue and red, and as such a perfect balance between calmness and passion. Black jade, despite what the name implies, is in fact dark green in colour. When I polish a piece of black jade, its subtle, mysterious green seduces me. Red jade, when set with rubies, carries out a dialogue of yin and yang, a contrast of smoothness and sparkles.