Workers process jade products in a workshop in Dali, Yunnan province. File photo
Yunnan authorities planning to develop jewelry industry
KUNMING: Long Jiheng, a 41-year-old jewelry billionaire, will never forget his bittersweet experience of gambling on stones in 1997.
"Thanks to my luck, I became a 28-year-old young millionaire overnight that year," he told China Daily at his Kunming-based Yunnan Cuizhijia Jewelry Company.
A raw stone cost him 2 million yuan ($295,000), which increased in price about 20 times after the raw stone was cut, showing a hidden jade.
"But I never imagined another stone gamble would drive me mad just months later," he said.
"The seller made up a dazzling story to make me believe I have quite a good chance of getting a big jade," he said.
He offered 7.5 million yuan on another raw stone in Myanmar, and even persuaded his mother and wife to lend him 800,000 yuan each.
He moved the 1.2-ton stone from Myanmar to Guangzhou, Guangdong province by plane, and invited the best handyman to cut it for him.
However, he had no luck upon the cutting of the stone, which held no treasure gems.
"The world was black and white in my eyes during those days. I was afraid of explaining my bankruptcy to my family," he said.
He sat on a chair by the side of the Zhujiang River in Guangzhou without eating for three days.
"I planned to commit suicide by jumping into the river to end all of the mess," he said.
Gambling on stones is the practice of buying a raw stone and then cutting it open, with the hopes of it holding some gems. If a jade is in the stone, the buyer can make a huge profit. But if the stone holds nothing, the buyer has bought a valueless rock at a high price.
An increasing number of people have been seeking jadeite dreams by gambling on stones in Yunnan province in recent years.
The jade industry creates more than 500,000 jobs in Yunnan, according to the latest data from the Gem and Jade Jewelry Quality Supervision Inspection Office of Yunnan.
The annual sales of jadeite, the star product of the gem and jade industry in Yunnan, have exceeded 16 billion yuan, said a report of the Yunnan Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
Provincial officials plan to develop the gem and jade industry up to 100 billion yuan in 2020, with more than one million employment opportunities, the report said.
It also said that jewelry industry would become the third consuming hotspot following houses and cars in China.
The China Jewelry Association estimates that the gem and jade market will keep a stable increase of more than 10 percent every year.
Thanks to the bright jade market in Yunnan, Long recovered from his failure several months later with his wife's support, and restarted his business in the wholesaling of 10-yuan jade pendants.
The couple's efforts won Long another chance to return to the stage of gambling on stones one year later.
Today, the couple runs a high-end treasury shop in Kunming, and also have a branch in Beijing.
"My business is blossoming even in face of the economic crisis, and an increasing number of collectors come to Yunnan to buy jadeite since 2008," Long said.
Many celebrities buy jadeite from his shop, and he designs the jewelry himself.
"I feel as if I marry off my daughter when I sell my jadeite jewelry to a buyer. I would like to keep track of her fate by contacting the buyer, who becomes my friend later," he added.
Long is just a lucky example, but innumerable people who are excessively fond of gambling on stones suffer heavy losses, because nine out of ten stones have no gems inside.
"There are too many uncertainties in gambling on stones. The seller always shows you the most beautiful aspect of the stone, so you will be able to visualize jade," a jade products dealer Zhao Dongyue said.
Yang Taiyi, a raw jade trader of Myanmar, said, "Each cut of the stone frightens us" during the gambling process.
"Each cut is a gamble, and that's why we say every cut is soul-stirring."
"There is so much jadeite ore, but not many good pieces of jadeite. Stone businessmen will transfer the risk to others during gambling on stones," jade connoisseur Li Hongyan said.
Wang Chaoyang, a jade carving collector, said that nobody can find out the width and thickness of the green gem inside a raw stone.
"We can't form a judgment even with sophisticated scientific instruments," he said.
Ke Wencong, a jade products dealer, said the more professional people are, the less bold they are in gambling on stones.
"They don't dare to gamble on stones that haven't been cut open a bit, and only laymen are bold enough to gamble," he said.
"There are not many stones that have good prospects. About 20,000 to 30,000 tons of jade ore is mined every year. Only a small quantity can be used as presentable materials," an anonymous raw jade trader said.
"With so many varieties of jade, there's no way for anyone to know everything about jade. That could explain why gambling on stone is luring an increasing of people to try their luck," a Chinese woman named Ericka, who refused to give her full name, told China Daily.
(China Daily 01/26/2010 page4)