JewelsJade, pearls, cinnabar and Balinese silver-these materials conjure some of the world’s most exotic and breathtaking jewelry.  Formed into a myriad of designs, Oriental jewelry has a style that is reflective of the Far East in both craft and aesthetic.  The following article touches upon some of the most well-known and beloved jewelry of the Orient.

The Chinese have enjoyed a love affair with jade spanning more than seven thousand years.  While it was once anciently used in burial ceremonies, it is now considered “good luck” stone and used in a vast array of jewelry.  Because jade varies in color, it is helpful to know that the most valuable kind is called imperial jade or jadeite and is a beautiful emerald green color.  However, jade may be a milky white to various shades of green.  When purchasing jade jewelry, beware of the massive amounts of fake jade on the market. 

Cloisonne is a technique perfected by the Chinese.  Cloisonne jewelry represents enamel work at its highest level-an art that has created many beautiful jewels.  From bright dragon pendants to simple peony beads, cloisonné is the art of covering an object with metal wires, a base and enamel to create beautiful Oriental designs.

Sea and freshwater pearls are prized by the world.  In the East, pearls are highly treasured adornments that have legendary status.  Japanese cultured pearls are also world-famous.  While the Far East is famous for its pearls, women around the world and throughout history have enjoyed adorning themselves in ropes of this fabulous jewel of the sea.

A more recent development in Eastern jewelry are the Japanese glass beads.  Their tiny glass beads and bugles are used to concoct some very intricate jewelry pieces including necklaces, bracelets, and even hair jewelry.  Exquisite designs often form beaded sculpture in floral arrangements that are breathtaking to behold.

Balinese silver beadwork incorporates many styles.  These silver beads feature embellishments using fine granulation and wire.  Bali has a historic silversmithing heritage making its jewelry world-renowned.  Thai silver beads are also ranked highly among jewelry enthusiasts.

Also famous is the Orient’s fine shell work and carved jewelry.  Cinnabar in the form of beads and bracelets is widely prized.  The wooden beads of the Philippines are equally well-known. 

Many jewelry collectors base their collections around Oriental jewelry.  Many western designers have borrowed the imagery of the East to create highly collectible (and valuable) jewelry today.  For instance, a Bakelite pagoda brooch would be both rare and valuable.  Other images might include Japanese Geisha, dragons, Bonsai, etc…

While jewelry is beloved around the world, the jewelry of the Orient is one of the most recognizable and beloved.