My Chinese Apothecary Chest: in 1994, it arrived via container to California from Hong Kong, where I discovered beading during my husband’s ex-pat assignment. Serves as the repository for my beads. Handcrafted. It has 52 Drawers, mostly sorted by color.
2017 Challenge: Create a Necklace a Week, using only the Beads from one Drawer at a time. Voila! 52 Necklaces!
Week 48/Drawer 48: November 29, 2017: “Momentum”
To me, Jade is Hong Kong. Worn by many citizens, seen in shop windows, handled at the Jade Market: it is the heart and soul of Hong Kong. I became very attracted to it.
When I discovered the Jade Market, I walked there from our Kowloon apartment, frequently slipping into the Yue Hwa Chinese Products Emporium, a large department store on Nathan Road, to find curios and objets for my growing Asian collectibles.
Approaching the Jade Market were countless small jewelry shops full of Cantonese-speaking shoppers, men in the street hawking big chunks of jade from their small pick-up trucks, and a few Westerners like me with anticipation glistening in our eyes. The Market is really a tent, permanently erected, and certainly the size of a football field. I walked around until something I saw drew me in. The vendor rushed around with a low stool, a tray and a smile. I could sit for an hour, choosing the beads I deemed suitable for a necklace.
Don and I lived in Hong Kong for 18 months in 1993-4 and the memory of the Jade Market is still fresh. Unfortunately, what material I have left from that era isn’t enough to make a necklace.
So here is this week’s necklace: Suzhou jade, also called new jade, in a dark to light variation with two carved beads on each side separating the two shades. There were no leftover beads, so wear your silver earrings. A nicely carved turtle, 2” x 2.25”, is the centerpiece. Sterling silver clasp.
The tortoise is an enigmatic creature for the Chinese, “concealing the secrets of heaven and earth”: they see its shell as the vaulted heaven and its underside as the flat disc of earth. It also symbolizes steadfastness.
The necklace measures 18.5” long plus 2.25” for the tortoise.
While still in Hong Kong, I started using my Jade Market finds. I found a helpful book to explain the meanings of carvings such as the tortoise above: A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols by Wolfram Eberhard, first published in 1983.