One of my favorite joints in all of Hong Kong is the jade market. Beads. Bangles. Tchotchkes. The baubles that always end up in my bag without fail are the chunky jade rings, freshwater pearl studs, long tassel necklaces, oh and the humongous bracelets. And then there are the foo dogs that I accidentally smashed against a fence before I was even able to get on the mtr home.
Arrive prepared to barter with the hawkers. Never pay what they are asking. Not even half. Begin at a third and move slowly from there. Very slowly. I have never paid more than $100hk ($13us) for anything. As I slowly whisper 'I live here' their shoulders drop just as quickly as their prices. And yes, I have walked away. Hawkers have very high starting prices so they have a lot of room to move and possible profit (mainly from tourists).
Consider yourself lucky if your treasured jade bauble should break. This just means bad luck was coming your way and the jade took the hit on your behalf. Most married Asian women wear a jade bangle tight on their wrist to press the acupuncture points activating the energy chi for youthfulness and good health.
Never be afraid to ask the hawkers to customize an item. If you like the beads on one strand, but the clasp or pendant on another they will be happy to rework the piece to your satisfaction. I have had them change tassels and even make custom bracelets with my personal charms.
I could not resist this ceramic doll trio. The hawker insisted that three makes a set. They are marked in Chinese characters indicating good health, money and long life. They were $30hk each or $4us.
Jade's Chinese character is a combination of the words beauty and purity. Traditional green is the most desirable jade color and the most pure. It also is available in a range of colors including white and lavender. Most of the jade you will find in Hong Kong is jadeite from Myanmar. Jadeite is much less expensive than jade. A lot of the baubles at the jade market are either very low quality jade or fake. Sometimes inferior qualities are injected with polymers or dyed to appear green. Again, this why you should never pay full asking price or anywhere near it. Don't fall for their usual usual lines, 'this is my first day' or 'this is my best price.' When they don't turn around after your last offer and you walk away-- that may have been their best offer.
During Chinese New Year, it is customary to gift friends and family a jade amulet. Each Chinese zodiac sign has a corresponding animal that they should keep near them in order to start the new year off with good fortune. Last year, mine was a tiger.
I have discovered some great deals in these $30 bins. Perfect for stocking stuffers. I have also dug out some interesting pendants that I've had made into long tassel necklaces in Shenzen, China. So the jade market is totally worth a gander. But don't expect Cartier and you'll walk away tickled with your new baubles.
photos courtesy of Heidi Selch
Get of on the Yau Ma Tei stop on the red or green line
take exit C
follow the pink signs to Kansu St.