Sunday, January 1, 2012

Oh, Jade, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

For some reason, I don't really think I'd ever seen jade before we went to China. Perhaps because the only piece of fine jewelery I own is my wedding ring, and because the only fine jewelery store I've been in was a cute little Jewish guy's dark, little shop in the jewelery district of L.A. to purchase said ring. I'm not much of a fine jewelery junkie. I'm more of a...junk jewelery junkie. :) I like it plastic and I like it chunky. I'm a Junkie Chunky Junkie.

So anywho, when I had to buy linens for our apartment in China, the only place you could get good ones (according to my interpreters) were department stores. So we were walking past the jewelery counter to get to the linens, which I ordinarily would have done without looking sideways, but out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of something green and GORGEOUS, and I stopped in my tracks and said, "WHAT...IS THAT???" Pretty, pretty, pretty.

And expensive. Boy howdy. I really wanted to bring home a nice, chunky pendant as a souvenir for myself, but dang. Too rich for my blood. I sent home some microscopic buddha pendants for my sister and BFF for their birthdays, but having bought them off the street, I'm not entirely sure they're real. (Sorry, girls. They may be plastic. The vendors swore up and down that they were real, but...I don't know that I trust them. Just so you know...)

On our second day in Beijing, we stopped at a jade-carving factory - another one of those things where they gave us oodles and gobs of time to spend all our money. It was fascinating. Here's a guy doing the carving:

It reminds me of tile cutting, with the water spraying and all. Something I've experienced recently. Another post for another day. I don't know how they do it. I just know that the end result is amazing:

And, on a larger scale:

Dylan saw another wasp, I think. He's so funny.

A closer look at the jade carving boat of beauty:

It's all about dragons in China.

On the other side of the giant jade boat are a bunch of foo dogs:

The prices in the factory were really, really high. But of course, we relented and got a couple of things. We got Ben's dad and my dad these things called Happy Family Balls. The ones we got for them were woefully small, but certified as real jade. We picked up ourselves a "jade" happy family ball at the silk market later that night for much, much cheaper. But is it real jade?? That is the question:

Isn't it GORGEOUS?? Ben wanted one that was a more olive color. There are tons of different colors of jade, ranging from a really light turquoise to black. I think the gal there told us that, the darker the color, the older the jade. I got a light turquoise happy family ball for my dad, and Ben chose a black one for his dad.

What is a Happy Family Ball, you ask? I found the most charming explanation online, undoubtedly written by a Chinese person:

"Jade happy family ball. This ball was carved by a whole pics stone. The carving is
very complicated. One ball represent one big family . And one big ball covered many
small balls inside. One layer represent one generation.

For example,if a ball covered 4 layers together that can represent 4 generations live together in a family.

Outside the ball is the design of dragon and phoenix that was the symbol of double happiness. Between dragon and phoenix is lucky flower with 6 petals that was the symbol of good luck. How to carve the ball, it is easy to say but hard to do. First, we need to dig many holes on the surface of the round jade ball .and then use diament tool to carve the distance between every two holes, part by part, from outside to inside,no mistake.

This is the medium size ,which need about 55 days to complete the carving."

I loved that explanation. I couldn't describe it any better (or any cuter). It's so neat - the balls inside can roll around within each other and everything. And all cut out of one stone. I adore it.

I really wanted to bring some jade earrings back for Lex for her birthday, but the only ones I could find were studs, and Lex isn't much of a stud-wearer. Unless Chris has his arm around her, get it? (Chris is Lex's hubby. So get it? Stud-wearer?? Arm around her??? Hahaha!) So, um, anywho, I wanted something chunky and never, ever found it.

And that's something I noticed about China. I never saw anyone wearing earrings. Maybe it's not a big thing over there? Six-inch heels to go grocery shopping, yes. But dangly earrings? No such thing. And I hardly ever saw earrings for sale. Only studs. So that was interesting.

So here's what I did. It's so dumb. But I wanted chunky jade earrings for my sis, dang it! So. All of the cars in China have these things hanging from their rear-view mirrors. They remind me of the graduation tassels that sometimes people hang from their rear-view mirrors here. But there's jade or gold coins or whatever interspersed between these tassel things. I'm sure it's something about luck.

So I bought one of these rear-view mirror hangey thingeys. And when I got home, I cut the tassel things apart and had some beautiful jade stones to work with. And then I bought a jewelery-making book and tried to figure out how to make earrings. For a first time effort, they look alright:

The brown stones are some I had leftover from making a watch a couple of years ago. I thought they looked nice next to the jade. The bigger jade pieces dangling in the middle are little turtles. Cute, huh?

Um, they fell apart twice the night I gave them to Lex, so I'm not sure how they're doing at this juncture. I think my jewelery-making days are over. But it was a nice thought. I'll have to make it up to you, Lex, and get you some earrings made by actual professionals. I'll stick with my day job - running after kiddos.


Emily Empey said...

Haha I get the stud joke!! Those earrings were beautiful!! I'm way into earrings right now!

Mindy H. said...

Those sculptures are amazing! And nice work on the earrings. You are quite the artist, my friend. Just the idea of remaking the mirror hangy-thingy into earrings was so smart. Nicely done!

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