HK jade market's bubble trouble
PRIZED as a magical imperial stone, jade is a status symbol of the super rich in Asia, but rocketing prices in the top end of the market have left traders in Hong Kong struggling to find buyers.
Driven up by the appetite of wealthy Chinese, the rising cost of jade is also being fuelled by fears of a shortage in supply from Myanmar, the key source.
"We are forced to raise prices - it is increasingly hard to get high-quality raw jade from Myanmar. If you do not pay more, the good raw materials will be owned by others," Hong Kong jade dealer Li Kwong Kei told AFP at the Hong Kong Jewellery and Gem Fair on Friday.
In China, jade is believed to have mythical properties which can ward off evil spirits and bring good health.
With no international pricing system, values have been increasing since 2005, as the newly rich in China bought up jade products.
Up to 90 per cent of the world's jadeite - the most sought-after type of jade - is mined in the northern Myanmar town of Hpakant.
Mr Zu Engdong, head of Gemology at the Kunming University of Science and Technology in Yunnan, said: "The value of raw jade rises more than twentyfold after being carved and turned into jewellery. So, it makes full sense for the Myanmarese to process jade themselves."