Known in China as cuiyu, this stone was only introduced to the Qing court from the mines of Moguang following the conclusion of the campaign against Burma in 1769. The superior qualities of the stone elevated its value above that of jade and it was thus selectively employed for court items. During the Qianlong and Jiaqing reigns jadeite items were manufactured in Tengchong, Dali, and Kunming in Yunnan province, as well as in the workshops of the textile manufactories in Suzhou and Yangzhou, and the metal and jewel unit of the Imperial Household Workshops (Zaobanchu) inside the Forbidden City.
The outstanding workmanship of this vase is evident in the impeccably finished complex form of an integrated swing handle. The fashioning of jadeite plays a critical role in its beauty and value to a greater extent than most other gem materials. As the stone measures 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness and has a tendency to undercut or crack due to its slightly more brittle nature than jade, it demands considerable lapidary expertise to produce exquisitely carved and well-polished pieces.
In its form and design this vase is typical of the Qianlong period in its reference to archaism. Although no other comparatively jadeite example appears to have been published, similar jade versions are known; see a Qianlong period celadon jade archaistic hanging vase in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures in the Palace Museum. Jadeware (III), Hong Kong, 1995, pl. 152; another celadon jade hanging vase, the cover similarly surmounted by a lion finial, but the body left undecorated, formerly in the collections of Edward Drummond Libbey and the Toledo Museum of Art, was sold at Christie's New York, 20th September 2005, lot 1.
The evenness of tone of the jadeite stone from which this vase has been carved is notable. The evaluation of jadeite is similar to that of other gemstones in that it is based primarily on the 'Three Cs' – colour, clarity and cut. However, unlike most coloured stones, the fourth C (carat weight) is less important than the dimensions of the fashioned piece. Instead two further factors are also considered; the 'Two Ts' – translucency and texture. Colour is the most important factor in assessing the value of jadeite and top-quality pieces are pure green with an even, saturated hue and purity to the stone. Additionally, the absence of fractures, natural inclusions and a high level of transparency increase the value of the stone, together with the consistency of the grain size. Typically, texture and transparency are interrelated; the finer the grain the higher the transparency.
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