Taking fruits on a long journey to China was actually not quite cost-effective. Merchants preferred the much more portable and valuable gemstones, as China had a relative dearth of gemstone resources and largely relied on imports. As we can see from the Journey of Gemstones on the Silk Road map here that many precious stones like rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and more were imported from Afghanistan, India, Sri Lanka, and other regions.
A gemstone’s value is generally determined by its color, transparency, and gleam. Apart from the aforementioned, hardness is also an important factor that affects a gemstone’s value as greater hardness indicates better durability and a higher collection value. The hardness classification is detailed in the display panel on the right. We have adopted the Moh’s Scale to measure a gemstone’s hardness. For example, the hardest diamond has a Moh’s hardness of 10, ruby and sapphire of 9, topaz of 8, and ordinary jade of below 7. Under the display panel is an interactive experimental device, which allows you to measure gemstone hardness with the Hardness Test Pen.
As we all know, the most important function of gemstones is as decorations. As a result, foreign gemstone processing techniques were also taken to China along with the gemstones. The display panel on the right has several pieces of gemstone and gold jewelry. Foreign styles tended to inlay gemstones in gold jewelry, and this kind of pairing and aesthetic taste of gold inlaid with jade were also introduced to China through the Silk Road, impacting traditional aesthetics in China. Since the Yuan Dynasty, gold jewelry inlaid with gemstones mushroomed in the market, becoming hugely popular during the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
In addition to natural gemstones, Marco Polo could also choose to bring a hand-crafted luxury to China, that is, glass. So, please look to your right at the glass section.