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Suddenly you’re in a strange part of  town. Nothing is familiar to you. Smells, sights, sounds are all unknowns. Still, it’s better than being where you were – starved, beaten, freezing cold at night and chained to that tree. You run through the streets looking for help, but everyone avoids you. They pretend they don’t see you. Why? You catch a glimpse of yourself in a store window and you understand. Your hair is all matted and caked with dried mud. There’s blood on your face from a cut. There was no first aid and it became infected. Now it’s all oozing and horrible looking. No wonder it hurts so much. You’re so hungry you know you can’t go on much longer. You spot a food bin up ahead and run toward it. You smell leftover hamburgers. Heaven! You start to climb into the bin but then suddenly someone is beating at you with a broom, shooing you away. The broom hits the sore on your face and you cry out in pain before you run away, panicked, into the street….
This is the plight of rescue dogs. Each day hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dogs across the nation suffer similar, or much worse, fates. The reason dogs end up in rescue is never the fault of the dog – it is always caused by human shortcomings – because of neglect or ignorance or plain bad luck. Some dogs are surrendered because the owner did not bother to train them as pups and then cannot deal with the unruly adults they have become. The owner may have died or become seriously ill without making provisions for the dog. Some dogs are rescued from the squalor of puppy mills where the unscrupulous value money over life. Regardless of the reason, it is the dog who suffers. The lucky ones are found by rescue groups who provide veterinary care, food and a warm place to stay while a great new home is lined up. But once a rescue dog goes to that new home, the trauma he has experienced stays with him. A rescue dog may have very special needs. His housetraining skills may lapse and he may revert to urinating in the house. He may have problems with separation anxiety because of abandonment. His stress levels may cause him to chew furniture or walls. He may be fearful and shy, afraid of being abused or rejected again. Until he bonds with his new people, he may try to escape, not understanding that he has finally found his forever home. The good news is that all these behaviors can be reversed with time, patience and appropriate training.  Hiding inside the matted coat and skinny body of a rescue dog is a shining example of perfect loyalty and love. It just needs the chance to be rediscovered.
The best case scenario is when the rescue group offers ongoing mentorship to adopters of rescue dogs to make sure they will be a good fit in the home. This can take the form of phone calls, personal contact, training manuals,  on-line support or all of these. The keys to success with a rescue dog are understanding, patience, and consistency.
•Understanding. Empathize with the dog. Try to put yourself in his skin and understand what he has been through. It does not excuse inappropriate behavior, but it can go a long way toward establishing a real rapport with the dog.
• Patience. Some rescue dogs “take” to their new homes right away and are a near perfect fit. Other dogs may take up to six months to really accept the new home, bond with their new family, and finally believe that they have found their forever home. Go slow and show him you love him.
•Consistency. Perhaps the most important tool for success is consistency. Have the rules in mind before you get your dog and stick to them. Use reward/praise-based training methods and practice every day to build your dog’s confidence and help him to bond with you.  Have fun with him!

There is no better feeling than to see a fearful, neglected dog return to health, confidence and the true enjoyment of life – and to know that you made it happen!
Copyrighted Cherie Fehrman 2010. All rights reserved.
STOLA–Saluki Tree of Life Alliance, an IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit rescue charity. STOLA 3701 Sacramento Street, #345, San Francisco, CA 94118 • www.stola.org.

JADE’S SECRET LANGUAGE

On November 4th, 2010, posted in: Design by Fehrman Books

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A particularly charming aspect of collecting jade  is the hidden meaning in the carvings.  Jade carvings are often symbolic puns on spoken Chinese.  Bats, for example, are a symbol of happiness or blessings because the spoken syllable for bat (fu) sounds the same as that of blessing.  Bats are often shown upside down because the Chinese word dao  (upside down) is a pun on the word “arrived,” so an upside down bat implies that happiness has arrived.  The swastika is a visual pun on the word wan  meaning “ten thousand,” making the whole object a symbolic invocation of 10,000 blessings.  The three legged toad symbolizes prosperity; the peach, longevity; and ducks, marital bliss.  The variety of symbols is seemingly infinite, and trying to decipher the secret messages in old carvings is another aspect that makes jade collecting an addictive pastime.

The cryptic message in jade is called a rebus, a riddle composed of words with syllables depicted by symbols or pictures that suggest the sound of the words or syllables they represent.  For example, a common rebus for blessings is the foshou or Buddha’s hand citron, a fruit which resembles Buddha’s fingers.  When the Buddha’s hand citron is combined with the peach and pomegranate, it forms the motif of “the three plenties”–a wish for abundance of blessings, longevity and offspring.

In China, xi  or happiness, was often represented by the magpie whose name (xi) is a pun for happiness.  A magpie perched on the top of prunus branch (mei), which stands for eyebrows, represents a rebus for “happiness up to one’s eyebrows.” Two magpies become a symbol for double happiness.

The flower that symbolizes marriage is the lotus (hehua or lianhua).  He  is a pun for harmony while lian  is a pun for continuous, therefore, a wish for continuous harmony.  The lotus is one of the few flowers whose seedpod is already present when the flower begins to bloom.  To the Chinese, this excellent omen prophesied the early arrival of sons.  Other symbols of marriage include the double fish, a symbol of fertility and conjugal bliss; fish and water (a rebus for “may you agree like fish and water”), and a pair of mandarin ducks, symbols of fidelity and a happy marriage.  The crab (a pun for xie)  holding a stalk of grain is yet another rebus for harmony.

The dragon and phoenix were originally reserved as royal symbols of marriage, but they soon came into common use.  Another symbol of connubial bliss is represented by two badgers, a rebus for “double happiness.”  Symbols for children include gourds and vines, or melons with butterflies.

In ancient China rank was closely associated with wealth, for once a man became an official he was set for life.  Therefore it was the ardent wish of parents that their sons become scholars to pass the civil service exams with flying colors.  The flower that symbolizes this wish is the tree peony–the most popular Chinese botanical motif.  Because of this association the peony became known as “the flower of wealth and rank.”  Peonies are often combined with magnolia and crab apple blossoms to form the auspicious phrase yutang fugui  or “wealth and rank in the jade hall or wealthy establishment.”  (Jade Hall was also an elegant name for the Hanlin Academy, an official bureau in China made up of the highest literary degrees.)

The wish for an abundance of riches is evident among numerous rebuses connected with wealth.  Cash (coins with a square hole in the middle)  or gold and silver ingots were the symbols of wealth in China.  The interlocking coin motif was a popular one.  A goldfish wrapped in a lotus leaf signifies hebao jinyiu  or “an abundance of gold in one’s purse.”  A school of goldfish swimming in a pond (tang)  is a pun implying a wish for one’s household to be filled with gold and jade.  Abundance leads to prosperity.  Three rams (sanyang)  meant prosperity in the springtime, a complicated rebus which was a very auspicious symbol of the new year.  There were a number of gods of wealth in China including a seated official holding a gold ingot; a child dancing on an ingot or carrying one; or Liu Hai who teases his toad with a string of cash.

Shouying, the God of Longevity, is a benevolent old gentleman with a prominent cranium holding a staff and the peach of immortality.  The peach is of paramount importance in Chinese culture and one of the most popular motifs.  Cats and butterflies are also symbols of longevity.  Cranes, traditionally associated with pine trees, are both motifs for longevity.  When shown together they imply a wish for the bride and groom to live to a ripe old age.

The Chinese believed in combating poison with poison and created the motif of wudu  or the “five poisons” represented by the viper, the spider, the toad, the centipede and the scorpion.  The amount of poison generated by these creatures was thought to counteract any pernicious influence.  A tiger was also thought of as a charm against evil influences.

Animals played an important role in Chinese symbolism.  The water buffalo was the most important animal in Chinese agriculture.  The pig represented the main source of meat in the Chinese diet, and bears were a favorite animal to use as supports to show the ability to carry great weight.  With the introduction of Buddhism into China came the use of different animals native to India, where Buddhism originated.  Lions (sometimes called foo dogs) guarded temples and tombs, the elephant symbolized Buddhist teachers and was often carved in jade, as were the attributes of the Eight Immortals, symbolized by the fan, the double gourd, the iron crutch, bamboo fish drum, the lotus, flower basket, sword and fly whisk, castanets and the flute. The ancient tomb jades, which were buried with the deceased to prevent decomposition of the corpsez, included the cicada or locust, dragons, hydras, kylin and fish images.  The cicada was particularly symbolic because the larva of this insect spends the first four years of its life underground and emerges as a complete insect, symbolizing immortality and resurrection. Even abstract patterns were used to depict clouds, rice grains, silkworms and bamboo, all important features of Chinese culture.

Time and space restrictions prevent a more detailed account of the symbolism found in jade carvings which can become very complex in their intent, but the next time you encounter an old jade carving take a moment to consider the secret message it contains.
Copyrighted Cherie Fehrman, 2010. All rights reserved.

Fatigue is the best pillow – so said Benjamin Franklin – but he might have been off the mark on that.
In 1983 a pair of early 18th century needlework pillows sold at a London auction for over $30,000 marking antique pillows as serious objects for study and collection.

Studying the history of pillows is not easy, since it embraces the vast history of tapestry, needlework and other textiles. As utilitarian objects, pillows have been made for centuries. Wherever people have been civilized enough to desire more comfort than that of the floor or bare furniture, the pillow has a strong historical presence. In England, medieval references to pillows are sometimes found in illuminated manuscripts where they are shown arranged on benches and settles. Early inventories also mention them as early as the 15th century, and it was during the Tudor and Stuart periods that pillows were most fashionable. Given the starkness of the furniture–there were few chairs and most people sat on benches–pillows must have been a great comfort and a source of color within a dark space. Even in fairly small houses, several pillows would be found. These comprised long pillows for bed, settles, window seats or benches, and square or round pillows for stools or chairs. There were also pillows for special purposes–for resting a bible on, for example. These were presumably made out of reverence both for the book itself and for the beautiful needlework cover it might have. In the 16th century, it was also customary to carry a pillow to church to kneel and sit on.

Pillows offered inviting opportunities for the enthusiastic needleworkers of the Elizabethan period to demonstrate their skills. It seems that much of this work was done by both men and women at home whose skill merits something better than the term “amateur.” In addition, there were professional embroiderers, often  men, who were commissioned to produce sets of hangings and furnishings for grand households. pillows were less daunting for the domestic needleworker to tackle than hangings, so many of those which survive are said to be the work of highly skilled amateurs. In Tudor times, pillows made popular gifts in courtly circles. Queen Elizabeth is recorded as giving and receiving several from the ladies of the court. While the Queen herself seems to have been adept at needlework, her half sister, Mary Queen of Scots, preferred to employ someone to sew pillows for her as gifts. The amount of money she is recorded to have spent on these pillows suggests that these were prestigious presents.

The pillows that survive from the Elizabethan period provide impressive examples of the embroiderer’s art. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has several Elizabeth pillows in the English primary Galleries which are well worth studying. Particularly popular at this time were the long pillows about 20 to 22 inches wide. (this was the size of the loom on which their linen base was woven) and about 40 to 44 inches long. They were placed on benches, window seats and other pieces of furniture. The designs with which these and the other pillows of the time were embroidered often come from newly published herbals, bestiaries and natural history books. They would be drawn either by a professional draftsman, or by some able craftsman attached to the household. These designs would then be stitched in tent stitch (petit point) using the newly imported silks, and for finer pillows, couched silver and silver gilt thread. Sometimes such embroidered designs or “slips” would be cut out and applied to a velvet ground. Otherwise the whole pillow cover might be made up on tent stitch, as often as fine as 400 stitches to the square inch.

During the 17th century, needlework pillows in a variety of sizes were popular. Pictorial slips with fruit, flowers and insects were worked in tent stitch and applied to pillow covers. The 17th century fashion for embroidery in high relief, called “raised work” or “stump work,” also found expression in pillows, although in lower relief than in stump work pictures. Another vogue was for “turkey work” wool knotted in imitation or Oriental carpets. This technique was applied to pillows. Another technique that was applied to pillow covers was tapestry. The correct meaning of tapestry has nothing to do with the modern “needlepoint tapestry” which is distinct from needlework since it is woven on a loom. The colored weft threads cover the strong warp threads, forming the pattern and building up a firm, ribbed texture. In the 16th and 17th centuries vast tapestries were made in Europe to furnish the halls of grand houses and castles. These depicted all manner of scenes and were either copied from paintings of the day, or had designs (cartoons) created especially for them. Overshadowed by these great tapestries and often overlooked, are the small examples. These were probably woven as pillow covers and bear a wide variety of designs–classical, biblical and armorial. Sets of such tapestries were made, showing scenes from a story, or related allegorical subjects. The armorial examples may have been presentation pieces, made as gifts for those of high office. Sometimes these tapestries bear the mark of their maker, a date or a motto. Tapestries were made in many European countries including Holland, Flanders and some German principalities.

In the 18th century French tapestries became dominant, with examples of pillow covers made at Beauvais and Aubusson. The designs reflect the lighter, more frivolous spirit of French art at that time and contrast to the bold, strongly colored Baroque designs of the previous century. Major artists such as Boucher and Oudry involved themselves with the French tapestry factories of the 18th century resulting in tapestry designs of the highest quality. Small tapestries were designed and used as sets of pillow covers.

The advent of upholstered furniture at the end of the 17th century made pillows less important as a part of furnishings for a time. Attention was instead focused on chair coverings which showed some of the finest needlework in the 18th century. Demand did continue for pillows in the early 18th century though and even Chippendale mentioned the importance of scattering pillows on a sofa.

Tent stitch and cross stitch embroidery in floral designs remained popular in the early 18th century, with appliqué (or applied work) coming into fashion later in the century. Crewelwork covers and hangings were ordered from India and these influenced designs early in the century. French tapestry furnishings were imported to this country during the 18th century.

The 19th century saw a continuation of interest in needlework. Much woolwork was executed on meshed canvases. Some examples were worked to a high standard comparing favorably with the work of earlier centuries. Pillows made without needlework or tapestry were also popular. Damask and brocade, cut velvets and mohair were used. Arguably, the star of textile design in the 19th century was Mario Fortuny. His creations were sumptuous and lasting. Today, pillows made from Fortuny fabrics are highly coveted and they wear better than many other textile forms, making them highly collectible.

Collecting Pillows

Most people who are interested in collecting pillows do so  to furnish their homes. Condition is always an important consideration. Antique fibers, particularly silks, are subject to ultraviolet deterioration and it is important that these fabric are stabilized using conservation methods. All of the textiles offered through the Fehrman Collection are preserved in this way. In addition to condition, other factors affecting the price of an antique pillow are the design and the coloring. Pastel coloring typical of 18th century French tapestry is currently popular, although rich original color is also popular. A recognizable design showing well defined subject matter is preferable to a blurred example. Fine embroidery is highly collectible as is tapestry. Embroideries and tapestries can be complemented by fine period brocades and damasks which are usually less costly but add a richness and sheen that can only be found in a gently aged silk.

A pillow without trim is like a painting without a frame; it looks unfinished. Proper selection of fringes and trims add to the overall cost of an antique pillow but they are the finishing touch that displays the antique textile in the way it was intended to be seen. Proper application of trim also helps to protect the edges of antique textiles.

Care and Maintenance of Antique Textile Pillows

Antique textile pillows which have been properly conserved prior to purchase are very durable and can last a long time with reasonable care. The two biggest enemies of antique textiles are dust and sunlight. Dust can eventually saw through fibers an ultraviolet light can cause sun rot. Regular gentle vacuuming with the hose nozzle held just above the textile will keep them free of dust. Keeping antique textiles out of direct sunlight is also desirable. Damage can be done to an antique pillow by picking it up by the corners. Antique textile pillows should always be picked up with both hands as though carrying a box.  It goes without saying that an antique textile should never come in contact with mothballs, spray-on “fabric protectors” or stain repellents since these will damage the fibers. These textiles are sturdy enough to have survived the centuries and with reasonable care they will be enjoyed by future generations.

Copyrighted Cherie Fehrman, 2007. All rights reserved.

To purchase Fortuny and other collector pillows, visit the Fehrman Collection

JADE-THE LIVING STONE

On October 28th, 2010, posted in: Design by Fehrman Books

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It is seductive, mysterious, addictive–it’s jade. People have died for it. Legends surround it. A Chinese emperor once offered fifteen cities for a jade carving so small that it fit in the palm of his hand. Jade was thought to be a male stone, so naked virgins were sent to gather it from stream beds in the belief that the stone would be attracted to them. Jade has survived floods, fires, burial, and economic upheavals. Not least of all, during the past decade, some jade carvings have appreciated at a rate of nearly three thousand percent. Another plus for collectors is that many of these treasures are small enough to be easily portable or worn as jewelry.

Jade carvings are hoarded by some shrewd investors and continue to be avidly sought. Jades worth investing in are gem quality Burmese jadeite or the archaic jades from the Han through Sung Dynasties (206 BC. to 1297 AD.) or the more recently produced Ming (1368-1644) and Ching (1644-1912) Dynasty pieces. White it’s true that some jade carvings can set you back thousands of dollars, fine, authentic pieces can still be bought for a few hundred dollars or less.

Any potential collector must first acquire at least a working knowledge of the mysteries and myths surrounding jade. It was thought to protect the dead from decomposition, so many jades were buried with the deceased. When excavated, these are sometimes called “tomb jades.” Chinese authors have called jade “tears of the Imperial Dragon,” “a window to reality,” “the stone of heaven,” “the stone of immortality,” and “the living stone.” Such references allude to nephrite, one of the two stones which are grouped under the general term jade. The other is jadeite.

When most people think of jade, the color green comes to mind, although jade comes in every color of the spectrum. Pure jade (both nephrite and jadeite) is white. Color comes from impurities of other minerals in the stone. Iron gives the largest variety of colors from pale green to browns, yellows, grays, near black and, on very rare occasions, blue. Manganese is responsible for shades of gray and black and, very rarely, pink. Chromium makes possible the vivid emerald green of the valued Imperial green jadeite color.

While manly cultures, including native Americans and ancient tribes from the South Seas to New Zealand have collected and prized jade, it is the oriental jades which excite most collectors. West Coast fanatics are especially fortunate because so many fine jades are available in the area.

So, jade is really a broad category which includes two separate stones. Nephrite is a silicate of magnesium. It is the old, original jade of which all archaic pieces are made. A relative newcomer is jadeite, which comes from Burma and was not known in China until 1784. It was pure white nephrite which the Emperor of China used as an instrument for communicating with heaven. It was nephrite which was used for ceremonial implements and on which the history of Chinese art and symbolism is hinged. Nephrite is the toughest stone on earth: it takes fifty tones of weight to crush one cubic inch of nephrite. Because of its toughness it wears extremely well, and even ancient pieces often appear in flawless condition. Jadeite, however, has a crystalline structure and breaks relatively easily.

Nephrite jade was highly prized by the scholaars and moneyed classes of ancient China. When the nephrite deposits eventually began to run low, jadeite was introduced from Burma. At first the jade carvers scorned it, saying it was not true jade. Since it was considered inferior, it was used only as ornaments on clothing or on relatively insignificant personal items. These are a source of interest to today’s collectors and can be found as earrings, bracelets, comb backs, mirror handles, buttons, belt buckles and brooches. Gradually, necessity and a scarcity of nephrite caused jadeite to gain acceptance.

Webster’s Dictionary defines jadeite as “true jade” but, in fact, the original true jade was nephrite. Chinese legends represent nephrite as a living stone “highly charged with creative force,” and there are more than a few jade connoisseurs who would agree that wearing nephrite rings, bracelets, or pendants on a regular basis forms an intimate rapport between the stone and the wearer. Nephrite reacts with the skin and body chemistry, often changing color and growing more lustrous with use.

The Colors of Jade

Certain colors of jadeite, the newer jade, are highly valued as gem material. The emerald colored “Imperial green,” along with lavender, rare blue, yellow and red are the most sought after colors of jadeite. It is an interesting quirk of the jade market to note that the most highly prized nephrite is pure white, while white is the least valued form of jadeite.

Color is as important as the quality of carving when grading jade. There are said to be over one hundred distinct classifications of green, with such fanciful names as “moss entangled in snow” or “spring onion green.” The Chinese respect for nature was the basis for most of the jade color categories. “Sky after the rain” and “sky reflected in clear water” refer to two of the rarer shades. From the animal kingdom come antelope, chicken bone, egg, kingfisher, mutton fat (a highly desirable lardy white color of nephrite), nightingale and shrimp. From the vegetable kingdom: apple, bamboo, betel nut, chestnut, date, melon, moss, olive, young onion, peach, pine flower, rice, rose, sunflower and spinach. Other equally descriptive but less charming names include “purple of the veins” and “mucous of the nose gray.”

Today’s jade collectors usually fall into one of two categories: those who seek out the old nephrite pieces, and those who prefer the more showy jadeite carvings and jewelry. The soft, waxy luster and subdued colors of nephrite attract collectors whose tastes run to the antique and archaic pieces while the bright, glossy finish and sharp, clear colors of jadeite are preferred by those who like a brighter, more contemporary approach. Many of the old jade pieces are very plain with little or no surface decoration. Animal carvings or symbols are often highly stylized. The more recently produced carvings or symbols are often elaborately decorated with floral or animal forms.

Determining the authenticity of jade can be extremely tricky. There are well over a dozen substitutes that can fool both the eye and the touch of the unwary, including serpentine, bowenite, soapstone, chrysoprase and even glass. While the only way to be absolutely sure if a piece is jade is to have it tested by a qualified gemologist, there are several things the consumer can do to protect a potential investment.

The most obvious form of insurance is to buy from reputable dealers who will stand by their merchandise. But what about the collector who loves the hunt (and what true collector doesn’t?), the collector who haunts the flea markets and garage sales in the hope of finding a treasure among the plastic fruit and broken china? This collector has to have some ammunition for protection, and the following suggestions may help.

Tips for the Novice Collector

1. Jade is a relatively hard substance. Nephrite is 6.5 on the Mohs scale and jadeite is a 7. (The Mohs scale is used by gemologists who measure the hardness of a stone with the following designations: 1 talc, 2 gypsum, 3 calcite, 4 fluorite, 5 apatite, 6 feldspar, 7 quartz, 8 topaz, 9 corundum (sapphire & ruby), 9 diamond.) Because of its hardness, most jade cannot be scratched with a steel blade. With the consent of the seller, try pulling a steel knife blade across an inconspicuous spot on the jade. If a white mark appears it is not jade because the knife has scratched into it leaving a white, powdery substance. If a silvery or gray mark appears, it indicates that the stone is hard enough to have worn off some of the steel and it might be jade, but not necessarily. This is not a foolproof test, but it will help you to eliminate the softer jade impostors.

2. The surface appearance of jadeite and nephrite are quire different, which is helpful when trying to tell them apart. Nephrite is more fibrous and much tougher than jadeite. It takes a waxy, greasy looking polish where jadeite can be polished to a high gloss resembling glass. Being able to differentiate between the two types can be an aid in dating a piece. For example, if a piece of jade is being offered as archaic or “tomb jade” but it is made of jadeite, you will know it is being represented incorrectly since all of the archaic jade pieces were made of nephrite.

3. Another way to distinguish between jade and its substitutes is to look at it under a magnifying glass or jeweler’s loupe. You can usually see air bubbles in glass, and the holes at the end of glass beads will be sharp and often chipped, where jade will be polished. When you look through a loop at old jades the surface looks rather like orange peel, rather than smooth from today’s diamond or laser cutting and polishing methods.

4. Jade feels cold to the touch, but so do some of its imitators. The novice collector must learn by study and experience to distinguish jade by eye and by touch. Some of the best professional jade buyers rely on the touch method and recommend carrying a small piece each of nephrite and jadeite as guide stones whenever you go to buy jade.

5. A sad but true fact is that jade jewelry is often dyed. This is particularly true of jadeite. Because jadeite has a microcrystalline structure it is a relatively simple matter to dye inexpensive white jadeite with exotic lavender and bright green dyes to imitate the rare and expensive jade colors. There simply isn’t enough natural lavender jadeite to account for all the lavender jewelry and carvings in today’s market. If you develop an eye, it is usually easy to spot dyed jade because of its harsh, synthetic tone. During the last 1950s alone over 25,000 pieces of dyed jade were known to be imported into the U.S. and these pieces are still out there waiting to fool the unwary.

6. Fortunately, ancient jades are seldom faked because the process of creating the exquisite workmanship is too time consuming and therefore not profitable enough.

7. In today’s jade market both jadeite and nephrite are considered jade, but the novice collector has to be cautious about jade terminology because the less than savvy can be easily fooled if depending on names alone. Chinese dealers often refer to nephrite as “old jade” and to jadeite as “new jade” or “Hong Kong jade.” If a stone is offered as “Taiwan jade” it is serpentine. “Colored jade” is dyed jade. “Pink jade” is colored quartz. “Mexican jade” is usually dyed onyx and “India jade” is aventurine.

8. Always look at jade in natural light. Artificial light alters colors sufficiently so that you can’t really see what you’re buying. Always ask the seller if you can take the piece into the natural daylight before making your decision. If they understandably balk at letting you walk out on the street with an expensive piece, ask if you can buy the piece with a 24 hour return policy. This will give you time to see it in natural daylight.

9. Finally, size is no guarantee of financial appreciation. A carving four feet high of inferior quality or workmanship is worth less than a palm sized piece of excellent quality.

Before you buy:
Always ask yourself three questions before you buy jade: (1) Is the piece of good quality? (2) Is the workmanship good? (3) Do I really love it? (Don’t ignore the last point. Fine collections are built on a combination of knowledge and love.)

To be a true connoisseur of jade you must begin a love affair with it. Fondle it. Get to know all of its moods and nuances. You may choose to overlook some of its flaws, but you will know instantly when a piece is right for you. When that moment comes, buy it, treasure it, and enjoy. An ancient legend says that jade, the living stone, must be loved and appreciated in order to show its true beauty.

Copyrighted 2006, Cherie Fehrman. All rights reserved.

As the kids are getting ready to head back to school, I’ve been thinking about the current state of education in the U.S. What the heck happened to it? We used to turn out highly educated students from our public schools, kids who could compete and excel anywhere in the world. Now, we have crumbling buildings, overworked teachers, a huge dropout rate, and even those who do get a high school diploma have received a deficient education in comparison to years past. We could blame the economy, or funding cuts, but there may be a lot more going on here, friends.

Those of you who are familiar with my novels, the Conspiracy Series, know that I did a great deal of research and initially intended to write a nonfiction expose of what I had discovered. What my research uncovered with regard to education made me both sad and angry, because it is our kids and our future that are the victims.

My eyes were first opened when I taught a university course to mostly first-time freshmen who were graduates of the public school system. Frankly, I was stunned. These kids had been so cheated of anything resembling a good education, that I practically had to go back to square one to do basics before I could even begin to present anything at a level suitable for a university. These kids had never taken an art class, or been exposed to music appreciation. Their written work was something I would have expected from elementary school students. Some did not have cursive writing skills, but could only print. Their math skills were rudimentary. Even worse, they did not know how to think. They wanted to be told step by step what to do and were quite unable to come up with creative solutions when problems were presented. Some did not even know how to tell time–I swear this is true–and yet they held high school diplomas and had been accepted into a university. These were intelligent kids whose intellectual growth had been stunted by a seriously deficient education. That is what started me on my road to research, and what led me to ask: Is this an accident, or is something more going on here?

Research gave the me the answer, and it was not one I wanted to discover.  It ate at me for weeks, months, until I  had to write it down. I had to try and get the word out to all of you. In my novel, Conspiracy, one of the characters is part of a sinister shadow organization with plans for subverting the educational system for their own purposes. In his speech, he is talking to a group of educators who are part of the clandestine group. Here is an excerpt:

“As you know, the workplace is rapidly changing and will soon be a place where managers will need to keep control of a large number of workers. Most employees under this model need not be educated. It is far more important that they be reliable, steady and willing to follow directions. Very soon now more than seventy percent of the jobs in American will not require a college education. What are needed are workers who do what they are told, with a good attitude. We must now start teaching students from the earliest grades the attitudes and social behaviors that will please business. We need workers that are dependable and willing to follow instructions. We don’t need thinkers. The masses don’t need to be educated. They need to obey and to believe they are happy while obeying. The only way to keep a pool of such workers available is to be sure that most students don’t get educated. As long as the masses are poor and uneducated a small cadre of highly educated, creative people can control them. Our special (private) schools will train the brightest and most creative to be the managerial block.”

Do you find this unbelievable? Do you think this is not happening? Look around you. Because of the sharp division in the private and public education systems, we are rapidly becoming an unequal society, one in which one group is being groomed to lead while the other is being groomed to follow. It is subtle, but it is sinister, and it is happening right now, right under our noses. Our public education system is currently as fragile as a footprint in the sand–with one wave it can be washed away.

My intention in writing my novel, Conspiracy, and the Conspiracy Series was to let the public know what I had uncovered in my research. If you read  Conspiracy you will begin to see the big picture in all its disturbing reality. When you understand what is going on, then perhaps you can change it. Get involved in your children’s schools. Find out what’s happening. Demand a good education for your children. Their future depends on it.

Stay alert, friends!
–Casey Alden