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Chinese Jade Devil’s Work Necklace

This dramatic necklace is an example of the art form of carving and piercing jade that Chinese often refer to as ‘the devil’s work’.

The necklace is composed of five nephrite jade carvings connected by a series of balls and circular links covered with 1mm glass beads.

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The four identical carvings are called ‘flower baskets’. For each flower basket one piece of jade has been pierced and carved into three sections that are interlocked and move freely.

In The Collectors Book of Jade (1978), the Chu’s say "this elaborate open work…was commonly referred to as devil’s work because it was hardly possible for human hands". They estimate it would take almost a week to carve and polish a single ring. My estimate is that this necklace represents at least a month of work.

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As always with Chinese ornaments, craft is only half the story…the flower baskets are symbols of abundance; the red of the beads is the color associated with wealth, summer and weddings.

The nephrite pendant at the the center is a vase filled with flowers. In Chinese the words vase and peace sound identical so the vase is a symbol for peace.

1The vase in combination with various flowers and fruits carries wishes for many kinds of peace…for the New Year; for a successful career or for a fruitful marriage. Here the two lotus blossoms in the vase suggest the wish for harmony, longevity and eternal love.

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