Jade or Jadeite has long been honored and celebrated by Asia as a symbol of good luck, of health, and as resistance against evil spirits. You’d be forgiven for assuming that it is China where the highest quality jade is found, considering that for the past thousand years China has had a particular love for the pearly stone. However, it is actually the Burmese who export jade to Hong Kong.
Moreover gem-quality jade, particularly “Imperial Green” jadeite, can actually only be found in Myanmar in northern Kachin State, to be precise. In the final three quarters of 2013, export earnings from Myanmar’s jade trade reached $920 million—up more than a third from a year earlier—according to newly released figures from the country’s Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development.
But even that hefty sum almost certainly grossly underestimates the total value, as much of the jade is smuggled out of Myanmar and never logged in government books or tax logs.Much of the prized jade in Myanmar is mined in northern Kachin state, where ownership of the mines is unclear; and often includes labor in unsafe conditions. In particular, “shooting galleries” for heroin users operate openly alongside some large jade mines.
Much as diamonds hold a special place in the minds of American consumers, it would require a massive shift in public perception to convince Chinese buyers that Myanmar’s precious stones constitute “blood jade.”