The Case of the Tomb Jades


Dear Reader: The following is an excerpt from my memoir, The Emperor and the Motorcycle Mechanic published in Kindle format and available from Unfortunately through my appraisal activities, what follows is not unusual. Unscrupulous people sometimes can make jade collecting difficult. I am reminded of the old saying, “If it looks too good to be true, then it probably is.” Caveat Emptor!


The Tomb

The American couple were living and doing business in Hong Kong in the late 1990’s.

They signed up for my seminar and flew to San Francisco, bringing along a number of jades they had purchased from local Hong Kong dealers. Now they were in my gallery asking for an appraisal of their collection. As I methodically looked through their pieces and photographs of others, I realized they had bought fakes. Each and every piece had the same material, man made discoloration and workmanship techniques. Seldom, if ever, does this happen in nature. In my opinion, none of the over 100 pieces was older than my son who was a teenager at the time.

Giving an adverse opinion is always a delicate task for an appraiser. The couple had been told by their dealer that a tomb had been dug up and pieces were slowly trickling out. As they bought pieces, more great things would be offered. I had heard this scam before and I knew the couple were being defrauded. There was no tomb, but only a jade factory working overtime to produce copies of Han dynasty treasures published in archaeological publications. There was about a six month lag time between publication and the appearance of copies in the market place.

I reflected upon the situation and decided that since they were paying me good money for my opinion, I was obligated to give them my straight opinion. No sense sugar coating a sour situation. They took the news stoically and thanked me for my time.

Six months later on a trip to Hong Kong, the couple invited my wife and I to be their guest for dinner at a prestigious Hong Kong restaurant. I thought this was going to be a treat. Little did I know the couple had arranged for their dealer to also join us at the table.

I suddenly became clear to me their dealer was there with photographs of more “Han tomb jades” to offer the couple. They in turn were determined to have me kosher the pieces on offer. I politely told the couple that I preferred not to do any appraisal business at the dinner table. As I looked at the photos, I suspected that these were more elaborate pieces from the same factory and the slimy dealer seated across from me was hoping I would endorse the pieces with a favorable appraisal. The next day I called the couple and told them the items in the photographs were not convincing. That was the last I heard from the couple. My wife summed up the evening when she said to me, “Well at least we got to eat a good meal!”.



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