For hundreds of years, jadeite has been a symbol of supreme status and extreme wealth. The original definition of the two Chinese characters, Fei Cui, which stands of jadeite in modern days, attests the pre-eminence of this special gemstone. Yi Wuzhi (literally “The Book of Foreign Matters’) explains, “Cui, a bird resembling a swallow, the male and red bird is named Fei, whereas the female green bird is named Cui, its feathers are used as adornments.” Cui was a very rare and precious bird in the old days and were hunted for their exceptional bright-coloured feathers. Jadeites, which come in a wide range of attractive colours, were coined Fei Cui for their beauty and high value.
Jadeite is considered the king of all jades; its translucent texture mirrors the profoundly exquisite beauty of the Orient, furnishing luscious pleasure for mere observation, and immensely gratifies those who collect. Yet much to the surprise of gem connoisseurs, this mystifying charm was only discovered quite recently in the extensive history of China. Many people still fail to differentiate between jade (also known as jadeite and soft jade) and jadeite. While the colours of jade varies between white, dark green, reddish brown and black, jadeite comes in a full array of colours including red, yellow, lavender, black, and the most dominant green. The first written account of jadeite only dated back to about seven hundred years ago. The exact period of time as to when jadeite first appeared in China was never determined, which gave rise to a couple possible hypotheses. The article in the appendix by Zhang Rong, a researcher from Beijing’s Palace Museum, elaborates on this line of thought and discusses the Imperial family’s passion for jadeites.
The Hutton-Mdivani Necklace offered in this sale is undeniably the most important piece of jadeite jewellery known to the world. This jadeite necklace brought together the finest jadeite in the most striking proportions, exhibiting a colour so delightfully saturated but never salient. Its grandeur is manifested by those luminous beads that emanate a soft and serene glow from within, echoed by a succulent and rich green that grant this jewel its captivating vivacity. This necklace is a true beauty almost too substantial to be real.
The most astounding fact lies in the size of its beads, even the smallest bead in this suite measures 15.40mm, far exceeding those that made their way into the auction markets, and the largest of all measures an impressive 19.20mm, not to mention that there are twenty-seven of such enormous jadeite beads in total, amassing to unprecedented illustriousness. In general, to fashion a strand of matching jadeite beads, all the beads must be carved from the same boulder, and as many as thrice the desired number of beads are often needed from which to select the most suitable and matching ones. With the immense wastage involved, jadeite bead necklaces rank among the most valuable andsought-after forms of jadeite jewellery. To put together a suite of such colossal and fine jadeite beads as those found on the Hutton Mdivani Necklace was utterly challenging, since a jadeite boulder of supreme quality and gigantic size must be recovered in the first place for to fashion such stunning beads.
The intricate beauty of jadeite is best seen in their mere simplicity, the finest jadeites are always polished as a cabochon spared of superfluous embellishments, while jadeite beads are the epitome of all form of jadeite jewellery under this guiding principle. Top-quality jadeites are often referred to as ‘old mine’ jadeites originating from the reputed mines in Hpakan in Burma. Their dense structure, fine crystals, even colour and high translucency deem such specimens to be the best in the world. However, such exceptional jadeite boulders are extremely scarce and relatively small in size, jadeite beads that could be cut and polished from these rough are mostly 5mm to 10mm in diameter. A magnificent and rare double-strand ‘old mine’ jadeite bead necklace sold in our Autumn auction a year ago was exemplary of Hpakan jadeites, composed of more than two hundred beads, yet the diameter of the largest bead was only about 10.15mm. With that said, the Hutton-Mdivani Necklace, composed of twentyseven exceedingly large jadeite beads, ranging from 19.20mm to 15.40mm, is undeniably a supreme suite of ‘old mine’ jadeites that is unique for its bead size and superb quality.
Metaphysics pronounces jade as a spiritual gemstone, if it is worn close to one’s skin, energy would be transferred to the wearer and a healthy influence would be exerted, and the jadeite itself, attaining positive aura from the wearer, improves in colour and translucency. The twenty-seven jadeite beads on the necklace was of extremely fine texture, round and succulent in shape and colour, like mouthwatering grapes under warm sunlight, glowing through their thin skins, exuberant and mellow, elating the spirit of whoever set eyes on them. The owner and the wearer of this necklace was indeed a figure of utmost importance in the world of jewellery collection in the past century, a famous socialite with a lavish taste for luxurious living, prodigal when acquiring the most exquisite gems, but never imprudent in her tasteful and refined selection: ‘Million Dollar Baby’ Ms Barbara Hutton. Every piece of jewel in her treasury was worthy of special mention, and this one-of-a-kind jadeite bead necklace by Cartier is no exception. The understated opulence of this necklace renders the subtlety of Hutton’s beauty and graceful demeanor, which was in no need of ostentatious parade; her strong presence alone defines timeless elegance.
The necklace only remained in Barbara Hutton’s possession for about twenty years, after which she gave it to her childhood friend, Louise van Alen, who also married into the Mdivani royal family. The jadeite bead necklace was kept as a family heirloom till 1988, when it was offered as part of Princess Nina Mdivani’s collection in an auction in Geneva. For its debut in the auction market, this magnificent necklace fetched an impressive US$2 million, which was the highest price ever paid for a piece of jadeite jewellery, causing a great sensation both in the East and the West. Six years later in 1994, the necklace took centre stage at an auction room in Hong Kong and was sold for double its previous hammer price, achieving an astonishing US$4.2 million, setting a new record yet again for jadeite jewelleries worldwide. Since then, this impressive jadeite bead necklace has become one of the most legendary and important piece of jadeite jewellery known to the world.
7 April 2014 | Hong Kong