Jade has been blessed by nature with many fine attributes – jade is solid in texture, beautiful in color, comfortable to the touch, and produces a pleasant sound when tapped. These qualities matched the ethical standards and codes of conduct of the ancient people and were hence personified. Confucius (551-479 BC) concluded that jade had 11 virtues, such as benevolence (being smooth and lustrous), fidelity (the feel never irritates the skin), polite etiquette (there was an order of wearing), and sincerity (a flaw in jade never hides itself). The Confucian culture advocated that a gentleman should define his manners and conduct in accordance with the virtues of jade.
For a long time, wearing jade ornaments was in vogue. Ornaments were either a single piece of jade or comprised of as many as nine pieces strung together. People used the ornaments to symbolize their social status. The ornaments were carved with auspicious designs and words that wished good luck and happy lives. Wearing jade ornaments was most popular during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Those who did not wear them were considered improperly dressed, and houses without jade decorations were not considered homes. For poor and ordinary people who could not afford real jade, they would put up a few couplets that said something like “the hall shines with gold and jade.” For women, jade bracelets took up most space in their jewelry boxes. Bracelets received as engagement and wedding gifts were as precious as today’s diamond wedding rings. The Chinese describe a good marriage as a “gold and jade marriage.”