Subject:Re: Is this mutton Jade?
Posted By: Bill Fri, Aug 03, 2007
Hi, Mr. Hiong:
I hope you do not mind my speaking honestly to you since I am very new in jade collecting myself and when I first started I got ripped off (cheated) by many unscrupulous dealers myself. Many so called “jade” items for which I paid pretty high prices are not what they said they were (means not the dynasty as described) and worse many of them are not even made of jades. After all these painful lessons I have no choice but to get smarter. My advices to you are:
(1) Learn and read as much as you can about jade in terms of their dating, carving, materials, etc. as much as you can before you buy another piece of jade especially the expensive one;
(2) Buy the books before you buy the jades; go to Museums to look at their jades if you can;
(3) Buy only from reputable jade dealers and learn from them.
I do not believe your piece is made of “Mutton-fat jade”. It may not even be white nephrite. You may have to confirm it with a specific gravity test. A hardness test alone will not do it. If it is a piece of mutton-fat jade, then somebody had “murdered” such piece because the carvings on it are simply “pathetic”. (*I am sorry to say that but if even my untrained eyes can see that, there is no hope for this piece.)
I would like to quote the definition of “mutton-fat jade” given to me by Mr. Eric Hoffman because I believe his definition is just superb:
“Mutton-fat is a term that is widely misused by unknowledgable or even unscrupulous dealers. True mutton-fat jade should be nephrite of a certain color and luster. The color is best described the following way. Take a lamb chop with a thick section of fat on it and freeze it. After it’s frozen, cut into the white fat part with a sharp knife. _That_ is mutton-fat color. It has _no_ trace of green or celadon (I check for this on white paper). But neither is it “white” jade, which looks sterile in comparison. And it’s not grey, either. Sometimes there is a bit of a faint yellowish cast, just like the lamb chop. It should have a just slightly “greasy” luster. This comes from the particular compactness of the amphibole jade and from the careful way mutton-fat jade is polished. “
The white nephrite found in XinJiang (Sinkiang) is called Hetian (or Hotan, or Khotan) jades. The best color is the completely white (without any green hue), but they do come with white with green tint and other color and therefore there are different grades of them. At one time (may be even now), the best grade of Hetian jade is selling for US$30,000 a kg (or US$30 a gram). I am not kidding you. Out of so many Hetian jades, to be labeled as “Mutton-fat jades” one has to make sure certain criteria are met (please see definition above). Unfortunately, there is still not an official standard in China to label Mutton-fat jades. However, from my studies, some collectors in China suggested such jades should have a specific gravity of 3.0 and a hardness of 6.0 and higher. I do not know whether this is feasible or not because even jades with such physical properties may not look like mutton-fat jades. Since Hetian jades are in such great demand in China, many unscrupulous dealers in China are selling carvings made of Russian white nephrite or Qinghai white nephrite or even white non-jade materials as Hetian jades. Worse yet, since Qinghai jades came from the same source (Kunlun Mountain) as that of Hetian jades and the high quality Qinghai jades are so similar to Hetian jades it is very difficult for average people to tell them apart from Hetian jades. However, there is a vast price difference between the two and many Chinese collectors did get taken.
Please read this article written by Mr. Hoffman regarding jades (if you have not read it yet), it is very educating:
You can see his site at:
(*Note: I am not advertising for him but he is very honest and do not overrate his items. There are also many books and publications in his site about jades. They are very good. One of the articles you should get is “Stones of Heaven” published in the September 1987 issue of National Geographic. He may have an extra copy of the article. Check with him.)
Finally, the following link are some of the white nephrite items just sold in the July 22, 2007 jade auction held by the Hanhai auction company in China. If you divide the realized price in RMB by 7.56, you will get the approximate price in U.S. dollars. Some of them may be qualified as Mutton-fat jades, however, I cannot say for sure.
My jade friend, B, and I had recently purchased a 22-item lot and found a white nephrite ruyi piece (made of Hetian jade) looks exactly like the following piece sold in the same auction, even the length is exactly the same. It has a hardness of almost 7 (unheard of in nephrite) and a specific gravity of 2.96):
Our piece weighs 92 gram and if it is indeed made of Hetian jade, material alone will be worth about US$2,700. Incidentally, the similar piece sold for US $2,670 in the auction.
BE VERY SUSIPICOUS ABOUT ANY WHITE JADES. MANY OF THEM ARE NOT WHAT THEY SEEM TO BE AND SOME ARE NOT MADE OF WHITE NEPHRITE ESPECIALLY THE ONE YOU PAY LOW PRICES FOR.
Above are just my personal opinions and I am not a jade expert and I do make mistakes.