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Code green: B.C. jade producers work toward a code of conduct

Jade fever

Rough natural translucent high-grade B.C. nephrite.

British Columbia supplies 75 per cent of the world’s raw nephrite jade. Every year, approximately 500 tonnes is shipped in containers to various ports around China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Vietnam, loosely graded according to various systems. By that, I mean wholesale buyers use one grading system, while retailers use another. The agenda of the wholesale buyer is to push the price per kilo down at its point of origin, while driving it up once it reaches China or another foreign market.

In British Columbia, nephrite jade is traded primarily as uncut boulders with windows polished on the side or as large slabs. In the past, its price was very loosely dictated by the cost of mining plus profit. However, in the last five years, with increasing migration of mainland Chinese immigrants to British Columbia, growing interest—not to mention competition—from international traders has changed the wholesale and mining industries in the province’s ‘jade country.’ Canada’s nephrite is exported to China or sold in private silent auctions in the Vancouver lower mainland where entry fees can exceed $5000 Cdn. per person. It is still very much the ‘Wild West,’ an idea conveyed through Discovery Channel‘s “Jade Fever,” which chronicles the trials of jade mining in British Columbia.

As with other high-value goods, consumers of luxury jade jewellery prefer it carry a certificate of origin to authenticate a gem’s mineralogy. Given that most of Canada’s jade is sold in Asia, certificates of origin are currently not issued, as consumers in that part of the world demand a product with Chinese provenance. The result is B.C jade is being presented and sold in Asian markets as Chinese jade. In fact, our best greens are identical to the Xinjiang jade, which is quite rare, since its source is nearly depleted. Like other parts of the world where jade is mined by Asian companies
(e.g. Guatemala, Siberia, and Afghanistan), the best material loses its identity once it reach the ports of Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Shanghai.

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