THE HIGH price of gold, the taste for Chinese design and demand for antiques (real or reproductions) is making jade, in many forms, a precious item in Washington shops.

Current hot items made of jade are carved goodluck pendants and smooth green or black jade bangles, or jade beads to add to already existing necklaces. Another popular way jade is sold; according to Jackie Martin-Hutman of The Mineral Kingdom, is with pearls. "Historically, the Chinese have thought of jade as yang [male] and pearls are ying [female]. And since they wanted to achieve balance even in what they wore, their jewelry had to have a combination of both forces."

If you are considering buying jade, the most important thing is to go to a reputable dealer. A reliable dealer will help you get the most for hour money, and you can be sure that your Chinese antique jade necklace is really jade and not serpentine, or that it is in fact an antique. Jade prices, depending on age and quality, go from a 90-cent jade bead to a $5,000 Imperial jade necklace.

Here is a list of some of the local places that carry jade:

The Chinese Choice of Three Noble People (809 Cameron St., Alexandria) is the retail shop of a nationwide wholesale business called Three Noble People, whose things are also carried in such stores as The Watergate Collection, Woodward & Lothrop, Sak-Jandel and Elizabeth Arden. All their jade is Chinese, and 60 percent is antique. The buyers make three six-week trip to China each year. Their selection is vast, with the range including $28 silk-wrapped jade hair ornaments, jade figurines for $300, a pair of circa 1780 white jade matched dragon bangles at $400 and jade pendants.

The Madison Shop (Madison Hotel). Choice Chinese jade pieces ranging from carved jade plums, grapes, pears and pomegranates ($50-$150 each) to jade miniature trees ($300-$950 a pair) are available here. You'll also find white jade figurines (140) and jade and coral necklaces, some antique, from $350-3,000.

The Mineral Kingdom (3251 Prospect Place NW) offers not only jade jewelry but raw jade chunks in natural form from $50 to 800. Their jade and pearl necklaces are from $200 to $600, plus jade beads from 10 cents to $5 per bead.

The Tiny Jewel Box (1143 Connecticut Ave. NW). This longtime Washington jewelry shop buys from estates and collections, and almost always has some choice pieces of jade, much of it antique. Rings, earrings, pins and necklaces and occasionally figurines or bowls can be found at all price points.

The U.S.-China Friendship Center and Store (1924 I St. NW). Modestly the coin pendant at $25, a round disc with a center hole and carved Chinese characters. They also have jade hoop earrings at $6.

Bloomingdale's. As part of their upcoming Chinese promotion, there will be a lot of jade coming into the store. Some examples are antique white jade archer's rings on silk cords at $50-$60, jade stud earrings from $60, necklaces from $50 and up and a pair of Chinese Foo dogs at $220 a pair. $6