Jade symbolism includes links with royalty and wealth. Many deem as a protector of generations, living and dead. Jade has been and eternally will be the “Gem Supreme” and the “Jewel of Heaven,” stone of the heart.
Jade as a Symbol of Hope
Jade is perennially valued in Asian cultures, where it is deemed more valuable than gold and diamonds. Legend has shown that it protects the subject from ill fate — if your bangle breaks, that's because it was canceling the evil plans targeted towards you. It’s common for many to splurge hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on a precious piece.
For most immigrants, jade is one of the few links to their homelands. “Jade is the indestructible bond between generations. [To keep it safe] you hide it in small embroidered jacquard pouches within medicine cupboards, sock drawers, safety deposit boxes, or even in the pantry next to the rice,” says New York City-based publicist Cynthia Leung. Passed down from one female kin to another, bangles and pendants start to take on the baggage of history; you can quickly get a collection with pieces that are centuries old. “The pendant and bracelet I own are family heirlooms, given by my mother or grandmother, whom I was very close to. They were passed down from their mothers and grandmothers,” she says.
Associating jade jewelry with the old generation made it difficult for younger women to love these pieces, but now, that attitude has changed entirely. The reason is partly the recent wave of anti-Asian racism and the subsequent retaliation it prompted among Asian-Americans. “My attitude towards traditional Asian things — my jade bracelet specifically — started to shift before this recent bout of anti-Asian racism, but now I’m even more resolute. The first instinct might be to hide, for fear of our safety, but we risk losing that part [of our identity] forever. I'm determined not to let our light be dimmed,” says Lisa Lu.
Emily B. Yang echoes Lu’s sentiments. “I’ve been wearing my jade more in the last two years. It’s a mix of turning 30 and growing into myself more. I want to be more outspoken about who I am and what I stand for, which includes being unafraid to ‘seem Asian’ in a time of anti-Asian sentiment,” she says. Along her day job as an adjunct professor at Parsons School of Design, Yang volunteers for Welcome to Chinatown, a grassroots organization that preserves New York City’s Chinatown.
The pandemic was revolutionary for Emily Cherkassky — with its effects on small Asian-owned businesses. While spending time at her old home in Minnesota with her family, Cherkassky bought her mother a jade jewelry set. “I always frequented small shops in Chinatown for this stuff, so I DM-ed Jalee Jewelry for help,” she says. The order was so effortless that it prompted her to start L. Lu Fine Jewelry, a website that links customers to minor Mom-and-Pop fine jewelry stores in New York City-area Chinatowns. “[They] have great products but tend to face negative stigmas and lack of foot traffic, so I wanted to change that. Sites like Mejuri make it easy for women to buy pieces, so why not do the same for them?” she explained. L. Lu is named after her grandmother, Long Xian Lu. Initially, she sold 14k gold, but customers kept requesting jade, and it’s become a top seller.
Crystal Ung also wished to reciprocate to her ethics class over the pandemic, which inspired her to found Ren, a direct-to-consumer jade jewelry website.