Pearls, Jade and Gold: A Guide to Jewelry Shopping in China
By Devorah Isenberg
These days, you can’t open a newspaper or read a news website without being confronted with the news that China is the new world superpower. With a growing economy and a rapidly emerging middle class, China is becoming one of the most powerful markets in the world.
Westerners from Europe and North America are heading to China in droves—for tourism, lucrative manufacturing and business contracts, and some of the world’s best shopping. With this rise of Chinese business predominance comes a new global interest in all things Chinese—never has this ancient and unique civilization’s language, culture, cuisine, and clothing received so much international attention.
As a culture that has kept itself apart for most of its 5000 year history, China has developed and maintained a style that is all its own. If you are interested in buying a piece of the authentic culture and tradition of China, jewelry is a great place to start.
Authentic Chinese jewelry
, made with ancient technique and exhibiting hand-crafted quality, makes a beautiful souvenir of your trip to the East, or a wonderful gift for those at home.
Traditional Chinese jewelry, made with silk cords, gold coins, precious metals, and jade, is not simple ornamentation. Necklaces and bracelets are often worn as amulets representing good luck and good fortune—making them a beautiful and meaningful gift for friends and family back home. Jade has been the most treasured element in Chinese jewelry making for thousands of years—it is said to bring protection to the wearer.
Another ancient technique that has been renewed in modern Chinese jewelry is cloisonné. A technique in which colored enamel is inlaid into a precious metal base and then fired in a kiln, cloisonné can be used to produce unique and beautiful pendants, earrings, and hair ornaments. Finally, goldbeating, in which sheets of gold are hammered into extremely thin and delicate designs, is an ancient Buddhist tradition which has recently become popular.
Wholesalers, jewelry designers, and savvy shoppers come from all over the world to see the amazing hustle and bustle that is the First Asia Jewelry Plaza in Shanghai. This indoor market is one of the world’s leading sources of precious metals, gemstones, enamel, and pearls. Bench jewelers sit with soldering tools at the ready, creating custom designs on the spot, while thousands of vendors and customers haggle loudly over sparkling strands of pearls and gemstone beads.
But even though pearls
and enamel jewelry are the most well-known jewelry to come out of China, diamonds can be found there as well. Of course, well-informed customers would do well to research a vendor carefully before purchasing a diamond or any other precious stone, from China or elsewhere. Ensure the jeweler’s integrity and settle on the final purchase price before handing over your money. Taking a few precautions before jewelry shopping in China will help you come home with gorgeous, authentic Chinese jewelry that you will be proud to wear for years to come.
For more specific questions ask our experts