The following series of 3 videos are a look into a secret culture that few have explored in-depth. My path follows the search for the elusive translucent black Omphacite-Jadeite gemstones of Myanmar. Traveling with my Burmese translator and Burmese Black Jadeite expert, we scan the Mandalay Jade market leaving no stone unturned.
Our search often leads us to low quality, high priced rough with little to no visible windows. Once in a while however, you can find high quality pieces for sale at extremely high prices, at this point it becomes a blind gamble to know exactly what can be cut to produce pieces that will pay for the high cost of the rough stone while also providing for a profit.
Another factor to consider when buying jadeite in Mandalay is how to safely transfer large amounts of cash in open markets without proper security measures in place. My guide explained that this is solved by transferring money to Myanmar bank accounts which is mostly done by the Chinese buyers from Chinese Banks as the Chinese control the whole monopoly on Jade at the Mandalay Jade Market as well as contribute to the continual increase in jadeite prices.
Deep inside the market they have many stalls with cutting saws of all varieties, utilizing the simplest forms of handmade equipment. Many buyers purchase stone from the outer market and take them to be cut inside this zone.
There are also many tables of Chinese buyers waiting with signs that read “Black Jade” . These buyers attempt to buy up all available black jadeite at the market which they will send to china to later be perfectly cut by digitalized laser cutting.
Thousands of people crowd the market with motorbikes and horns blowing making for a busy and exciting atmosphere. As the morning slowly turns into afternoon, the search for quality rough becomes less likely.
Finally, at the edge of the market we find 3 pieces of quality rough that have been polished on all surfaces. They look nice but there is no telling what will be inside once they are cut, my expert guide explains to me that the dealer will try and only show areas of the stone that are beautiful with polished windows but if the whole piece is polished then it means that it is of a higher grade.
Although these three small polished pieces of translucent black omphacite jadeite are gorgeous the price tag is far too high.
The dealer wanted 10 million Kyat (7000 US dollars) and with the uncertainty about whats inside and what could be cut from these pieces, it was deemed by my local expert to be too risky of a purchase.