Last week I mentioned a new report that highlights the links between the Burmese jade trade and the Beijing Olympics. The Kachin News Group has helpfully kept on the story. They report:

…Kachin jade merchants in Ying Jiang and Ruili (Shweli) in Yunnan, and Guangzhou told KNG [Kachin News Group] today that they believe that the jade in medals of the Beijing Olympic Games are from Phakant in Kachin State in Northern Burma. It is not true that the Olympic medal jade is from China’s Qinghai province as the Chinese government has claimed.

This is a big claim. Unfortunately I don’t have the requisite expertise to say (but reasonably good quality pictures of some medal designs are available here and here…perhaps a jade expert among us could offer an informed assessment. For non-experts, this brief guide to jade identification may also come in handy.)

In my time hanging around the jade industry I have regularly heard disparaging comments about China’s local jade. Kachin jade traders delight in the exquisite quality of their raw materials and trumpet the unique beauty of the jade mined in northern Burma.

The Chinese authorities are adamant that jadeite nephrite from Qinghai has been used, and their claims have been accepted by the 08-08-88 for Burma group and All Kachin Student and Youth Union that launched the original Blood Jade report. That Chinese jade is, in fact, part of the Olympic medals seems highly probable…but is there something more to the claims of the (admittedly anonymous) Kachin jade merchants? As many readers know, it is the gear from northern Burma that gets the really high prices and is most esteemed by Chinese buyers.

Now I don’t want to get too silly (or too far ahead of myself) but given the recent US law that “bans the import of Burmese jadeite” I am wondering — if someone could prove that the Olympic medals are, in fact, partly made from Burmese jade — whether there would be problems getting them into the US? With his haul of gold (and jade) could Michael Phelps be accused of breaking the newly toughened sanctions policy? Surely not.

The whole thing is murky, the evidence is clearly incomplete, and I am not really convinced that the jade in the medals comes from Burma. And I’m certain that if they could find sufficiently robust raw materials then the Chinese Olympic officials, with national pride in mind, would have opted for local jade.

But what if, for the obvious reason, that was not possible? I expect many New Mandala readers would love to know more.