It is always difficult to talk about the price of jade or the price of any gemstone, because price depends on many factors including the quality of the stone and its carving and what a prospective buyer is willing to spend. However, for the past several years, media (including Forbes) have been reporting that jade prices are going up. In fact, in 2010, Forbes said that in some parts of the world, the price of jade, ounce for ounce, surpassed the price of gold.
What is driving the upsurge in jade prices? (And don’t think these are modest gains, either. In some markets, the price of jade has increased as much as 50% over the past few years, and that estimate may be conservative.)
Short answer: China. The Chinese economy is in a state of transition and more money is in the hands of more people. The Chinese culture has always emphasized frugality and wealth-building, so it is no surprise that Chinese who suddenly have disposable income are going to seek to invest it. For a long time, Chinese investors looked to real estate as the best pick, but in the past few years, precious stones have gained a lot of attention. Chinese have traditionally viewed gold as a great investment (along with every other culture on earth), but with jade prices outpacing gold, it is no wonder that jade looks suddenly quite attractive.
Secondly, Chinese have a rich tradition of jade carving. As jade prices rise, these familiar and long-beloved objects take on new meaning as investment pieces.
Finally, the world of jade is in transition, too. Granted, it’s a transition proceeding at glacial speed, but it is still a transition. In the 20th century, rich deposits of jadeite were found in remote areas of Myanmar (Burma). Jadeite is technically not the same stone as nephrite, which is the stone the ancient Chinese carved. However, jadeite is accepted by China as genuine jade and has become super-desirable. Jadeite tends to be more brilliant in color but it can often take an expert to distinguish certain pieces of jadeite from nephrite. At any rate, jadeite is now the more collectible and pricier stone.
What does this mean to you? If you love jade and would collect and wear it anyway, it should make you feel better about your pieces as “investments.” For collectors interested in making money in jade, this is still a very delicate area. While the price of jade has definitely increased markedly in the past few years, buying and selling jade–and doing it profitably–is a complex business and one that few part-timers or amateurs can do well. In short, unless you are willing to approach jade trading as a career, it is probably not a way to make a quick profit.
On the other hand, it does mean that jade is valuable. Will jade keep rising in price? If the factors driving it up remain the same–disposable cash in the hands of people who see jade as a good investment option in a volatile economy–jade is likely to keep rising in price.