Maori Carving Designs

Maori carved Koru Necklace
Koru Necklace
The Maori are famous for their beautiful and unique carvings. Maori carvings can be found on their houses, boats, statues, and on the jewelry they make and wear. A Maori carving can be made from many different materials including greenstone (jade), bone, silver, and wood. For a great selection of pendants, necklaces, and other jewelry made with Maori carving designs visit The Bone Art Place. Below is a list of the most common shapes found on Maori carvings and what meanings the Maori have given to these shapes.
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Types of Maori Carving Designs

Koru (spiral)

This shape depicts an unfurled new leaf of New Zealand's silver fern. It represents harmony, growth, and new beginnings. This design can be seen throughtout New Zealand as a kind of national symbol; New Zealand's national airline, Air New Zealand, has a logo that uses a koru design. This is a popular design for Maori jewelry and tattoos.

Hei Matau (Fish Hook)

This shape represents many things including the Maori's land, prosperity, determination, strength, and good health. It also provides for a safe journey over water. Fish has always been an important food supply for the Maori and the fish hook represents the ability to catch fish for good health and prosperity. This is a very important symbol for the Maori and is considered taonga (treasure).

Single Twist

The Maori carving of a single twist symbolizes the bond between two people; this bond might be love, a close friendship, or a relative. The twist represents how the individuals may travel away from each other but how they will always cross paths again. The single twist is often given as a gift to a lover, close friend, or family member.
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Double or Triple Twist

This is one of the most popular Maori carving designs. Unlike the single twist which represents a bond between two people the double and triple twists symbolizes the joining of groups of people or cultures. The shape represents loyalty and friendship that stays strong through the many challenges of life.


This Maori carving depicts a spiritual guardian against evil and a messenger between humans and spirits. The figure is traditionally carved with the head of a bird, a fish tail, and a man's body; although it is often depicted in various other ways. The Manaia looks after an individual's spirit and guides the spirit to where it is supposed to go upon death. Other Polynesian cultures besides the Maori have similar carvings depicting this creature.

Hei Tiki

Hei Tiki, often just called Tiki, are carvings that were generally worn as necklaces, in fact "Hei", in Maori, means around the neck. These Maori carvings are very popular in New Zealand and are regarded by many as a symbol of that country. Hei Tiki's made of Greenstone (jade) were valuable possessions handed down from generation to generation. The meaning of this symbol and its history are not exactly known.

Whale Tail

Maori Whale Tail Whale Tail
This Maori carving represents strength but also sensitivity. This is also one of the many Maori shapes that symbolizes protection. Carvings made of whale bone are highly valued by the Maori; in fact the Maori have legal rights to the bones of any whales beached in New Zeland that cannot be saved.


Dolphin Design Dolphin Design
Represents a free spirit. Symbolizes closeness to nature, especially the ocean. This is also one of the many Maori carvings that represent protection.

Adze (Toki)

The Adze was an important Maori tool used by Maori craftsmen to carve wood. This implement was made from greenstone (jade). Maori elders were known to wear jewelry in the shape of an Adze. This shape represents wisdom, strength, focus, power, control, and determination.