Chinese people love rocks.
It’s also a well-known fact that Chinese people love gambling. (I hate losing so I don’t really gamble; my limit is maybe $20 at the slot machine and it’s never lasted more than 10 minutes.)
If you’ve been to Vegas during Chinese New Year, you know what I am talking about. The Strip is decked out with dragons and red lanterns, and the daily seafood buffet turns into the Chinese New Year Feast. All to welcome the high rollers from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
A lesser known fact is China’s latest gambling craze over stones like jade and crystal—the official Chinese term is 赌石. We first heard about this from our tour guide on our trip to Yunan, a province that borders Myanmar, one of the birthplaces of high quality jade.
This is how stone gambling works: these stones are all shapes and sizes, one common feature is that they are all in their natural state—no cuts so you can’t see what’s inside. Imagine a diamond in its original state. You don’t know its flaws or clarity until you cut it open.
In this case, neither the buyer nor the seller knows the quality of the stone that they are selling or buying; everything is based on a hunch. The exchange price can be anywhere from thousands of RMB to millions of RMB, depending on the stone size. Afterwards, the buyer takes his new purchase to a stone-cutter.
Almost every time, the buyers leave their stones with the cutter and wait for the phone call, because they don’t have the stomach to stand there and watch the outcome. If the phone call comes soon after, then you know you effed up and lost your bet, because the high quality stones have much higher density and take a lot longer to cut.
Some stones can take up to 8 hours to cut. If you had two meals before getting that phone call, then you know you have already doubled or tripled your investment.
With good quality stones, people can choose to sell it to a jewelry company or keep it, just like stock and housing—the price could go up or down. The track record has been good, with prices steadily going up since this craze started over ten years ago.