batteries not included

The Ladies’ Market along Mongkok’s Tung Choi Street may be the place for fake bags, accessories and knock off women’s clothing but gear heads know to drop off the ladies and head round the corner to Sai Yeung Choi Street and the massive Electronics Market. Not just another series of market stalls, the EM is a street full of (un)conventional shops selling cameras, mobile phones, robots, mp3 players, anime … if it has batteries, they sell it. Packed with youngsters and hipsters alike there is an altogether different – if slightly nerdy – energy to be found here. There also isn’t much room for haggling.

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in the market for jade

To my amusement I’ve discovered in just a few short days that it’s common to think you’ve arrived at one of the city’s famous markets – and trust me, there are dozens of them – only to discover in short order that you’ve come up along the fringe. Today’s example: the jade market. After wandering a few streets scattered with merchants selling all sorts of jade objet in the Yau Mae Tei neighborhood, I figured I had visited what was an overhyped version of New York’s diamond district. Then I noticed a covered compound literally just across the street from where I was standing. It had a large sign out front that read Jade Market. Duh. (And not for the last time, might I add.) Inside were hundreds of stalls – plus an annex out the back and across a parallel street – selling jade trinkets, jewelry and tchotchkes of all kinds. This was a proper market – virtually a commodities exchange. Karen, above, a vendor, even took the time to teach me the difference between real semi precious jade and the various knockoff varieties of jade-colored glass and nephrite which are often passed off as the real thing. For one, true jade has a weight to it. Another good test is to lightly ding two pieces together: they should produce a clear high-pitched ring and not a metallic clang. In the history of Imperial Chinese art jade was comparable to gold and diamonds, used for the finest objects and furnishings. The rise of a moneyed middle class in China as of late has given the formerly flat market for many shades of jade a serious boost. For example, the creamy white jade known as “mutton fat” has seen a tenfold increase in value over the past decade. If you’ve never taken much notice of the gemstone this market is certainly a good place to gain an appreciation. Just be wary – especially if you’re thinking of spending substantially on something that can’t be authenticated. Inexpensive souvenirs are a safer bet – the only expertise you’ll need involves haggling.

 

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