The fetish object: "Green gold," revered by Chinese royalty for millennia for its supposed healing powers.
The craze: Once practically worthless in small amounts, the highest-quality jade in China has literally now become -- ounce for ounce -- more valuable than gold.
Although there's an ongoing debate over just how rare jade has become -- critics say that the stone is actually far more abundant than traders claim -- prices have increased tenfold over the last decade, with an ounce now costing $3,000. Further complicating matters, the finest stone is most commonly found in China's western province of Xinjiang -- a strife-ridden region where violent clashes between Muslim Uighur and Han Chinese killed at least 150 people in 2009.
Not surprisingly, other countries have begun to enter the Chinese market and cash in on their lucrative jade deposits. China's decision to use inlaid jade in the 2008 Beijing Olympic medals was a windfall for jade miners in British Columbia, the world's largest exporter of the stone.