The Devastating Human Costs Of Jade

In China, jade has long-been prized for its durability and beauty, but what are the hidden dark realities surrounding the milky green gem?

Known as the "Emperor's stone" in China, jade is not only prized for its beauty and durability, but is also seen as a reflection of health and strength, purity and virtue. For over 9000 years, the milky green gem has been deeply ingrained in Chinese art and culture. To the Chinese, jade is worth more than its monetary value. One popular saying goes, "Gold is valuable, but jade is priceless."

Nowadays, a single green amulet can fetch tens of thousands of dollars or more. Jade remains a cherished gemstone in China, and the country's demand for it is booming. While jade mines in China have long-been depleted, the country has sought the treasured stone in other places, turning primarily to Myanmar. While jade represents luxury, luck and well-being for the Chinese, for the impoverished jade miners in Myanmar, the ornamental stone possesses a much darker underbelly. 

Jade exports account for half of Myanmar's GDP, but the mining system is corrupt and freelance miners suffer due to lack of safety measures, few profits and exposure to drugs and hardship. Seeker Stories partners with Minzayar Oo, a photojournalist who has been documenting the issue for three years, to understand more of the dark realities surrounding jade, showing that sometimes luxury comes with hidden costs - costs paid for by others.