What do you know about Chinese jewelry? There is relatively little Chinese jewelry. A lot of what we refer to when we speak of Chinese jewelry is not strictly speaking jewelry at all and much of it was made in other countries for the Chinese market.
For a very large part, the Chinese did not make a huge amount of actual jewelry. They did ornament themselves. Women wore awesome Kingfisher feather hair ornaments. Elaborate designs attached to a hair pin with both the highly colored feathers of the Kingfisher bird and semi-precious gems mounted or attached to the design. These hair ornaments could be extremely elaborate. The metal might be gold-plated, but was not actually gold. Today, Kingfisher ornaments are getting scarce and the feathers are becoming worn and distressed. So as the Kingfisher ornaments are becoming rarer, the fakes are becoming more prevalent.
A lot of jewelry made in China is what we would call ‘costume’ and was done around the middle of the 20th century. Molded silver with relief designs were set with semi-precious stones such as turquoise matrix, coral and cheap jade. Often, this jewelry, particularly the bracelets, was enameled with bright colors.
Good luck jewelry is popular with the Chinese. From the early 20th century onwards, we can find gold charms, cufflinks and earrings with Chinese incantations wishing the wearer well.
Most of what we call Chinese jewelry, was not made in China at all, but was made for the Chinese market in the west. Hong Kong produced jewelry both for the mainland and for the West.
When the Chinese market was soaring, we saw a tremendous growth in the demand for jade. While jade does not actually originate in China (it comes from Myanmar/Burma), the Chinese have a special relationship with jade. Many of us do not comprehend the qualities of jade. To us, looking at one piece of jade is much like looking at another. However, jade seems to talk to the Chinese. There is nothing more astonishing than observing a Chinese jewelry or antique enthusiast look at a piece of jade. You can literally see the communication between them.
Jade has long held a fascination for the Chinese and they have carved it in many forms. Even the jade - ignoramus can look for beautiful carved items.
Dragons are a popular mythological symbol in China. Jewelry made for the Chinese market often included a modelled dragon. A dragon’s head could begin near the bezel of a ring and then wind around the shank, with the tail forming the opposite side.
Some of the most beautiful jewelry combines an illogical combination of Chinese and European themes. Made during the Art Deco period, when anything Chinese was considered the ultimate in exotic, a French bracelet might be made to include a Chinese jade medallion as a centerpiece. You would have very fine French enamel and then the Chinese good luck charm. Many companies produced jewelry like this including Cartier and Tiffany.