Our Stones: Asia
We’ve been getting great feedback on “Our Stones From Around The World” series and we’re so happy to hear you like it! It really is fascinating, isn’t it?! Well, we’re not stopping – next up on our world tour is Asia.
China has been producing jewellery for over 5000 years, starting during the rise of both the Yang-Shao and Longshan cultures. As Chinese culture grew throughout all of Asia jewellery became extremely popular in surrounding countries too.
In Asian jewellery, especially in historical times, silver is preferred over gold – but jade is considered the most valuable and coveted stone.
Jade is a status symbol which bears the wearer grace and dignity. It is viewed as a stone which shares the most coveted human qualities of beauty, durability and hardiness.
By the end of 15th century, the Silk Road had ceased to become a main trade route and China became a bit more isolated – this resulted in other Asian areas cultivating their own more diverse styles of jewellery making, and China’s influence took a backseat.
Pearls, especially those which came from Manchurian freshwater mussels, became hugely popular between the 17th and 19th century. Elaborate headdresses were often crafted for cultural events, and strands of pearls were then often attached to hang down the sides.
Jewellery has evolved throughout the years, but has always remained a strong symbol of strength, status and wealth in Asia.
Special occasions are celebrated with jewellery – often adorned with symbols and motifs. Animals and symbols represent well wishes to the bearer – for example turtles dictate longevity.
As you may know, dragons are an integral part of the Chinese culture and that is often seen in jewellery. A symbol of the emperor, the dragons symbolize good luck and protection and are often added to jewellery in various ways – such as a dragon on a necklace to protect the heart and longevity of the wearer.
Bears (and not just the panda!) are revered in most Asian countries – especially China. The bear symbols and meanings differ greatly from region to region, but they are all considered a positive image and for the most part denote strength and protection.
Although jewellery has always been extremely popular, women often wore hair combs and adorned their clothing with crafted ropes and cords instead of a lot of elaborate jewellery when attending fancy events.
You can’t think of Asian culture without thinking of SILK! China had the monopoly on silkworms for centuries until immigrants dispersed out of the area, and other countries found their own methods of silk making. Today, roughly two-thirds of silk comes from China. Silk has been mixed with jewels for the wealthy, and often used as an accessory.
Of course – jade! Jade is key to Asian jewellery. As described above, this gem is traditionally considered more precious than all others.
Asian rubies are considered the most valuable and coveted in the world. The marble in Vietnam, Myanmar and Nepal lacks iron, so the rubies harvested there are vibrant and colourful stones which won’t dull with iron deposits.
NORTH AMERICAN INFLUENCE
Silk has become a pretty major material used in accessories, with kimonos becoming a major fashion statement in the last few years. Jewels are sometimes hung on these special robes, and some are made with rings to be attached to the hands and/or fingers to give more of a cultural feel.
And yes, we’re mentioning Jade again – this staple Chinese gem is certainly seen in lots of North American crafted jewellery and art.