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September-October 2010

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Mineral Treasures of the World Exhibition, Beijing, China

WHEN ASSOCIATING CHINA WITH A GEMSTONE OR MINERAL, MOST PEOPLE THINK OF JADE. China's culture of jade use and connoisseurship spans more than seven millennia. My first memorable exposure to jade was at a small shop in Flushing, New York, the city's second “Chinatown.” The carvings and gemstones were beautiful and interesting, but what really grabbed my attention were their price tags. I thought that there must have been some mistake. What appeared to me to be very subtle differences in the objects made huge differences in price, and the value of some stones was immense. The Chinese appreciation and value of jade objects is similar in its breadth and subtleties to that found among collectors of minerals in the West, yet the hobby of mineral specimen collecting is uncommon in China.

Dr. John Rakovan, an executive editor of Rocks & Minerals, is a professor of mineralogy and geochemistry at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

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