Upon arriving in New Zealand, the Maori discovered that their new home had an abundance of beautiful green stones they called Pounamu (Jade) which translated means Greenstone. They discovered that this stone had not only beauty but practical uses as well. It is a hard and tough stone making it useful as a tool or weapon. They also used it to carve beautiful Greenstone Jewelry (Jade Jewelry) including necklaces and pendants. On this page, you will find a list of facts about Greenstone. This information will include why this stone is culturally important to the Maori, what types of Greenstone there are, and where it is found. To see genuine Maori Greenstone jewelry visit The Bone Art Place.
Maori Greenstone Classification
There are two types of Jade found on earth, jadeite and nephrite. Nephrite is the only type found in New Zealand. It is found only on the south island. The Maori classify Greenstone according to its shade of green. The names they gave the various types of Greenstone are listed below.
Inanga (Whitebait): Very pale green.
Totoweka: A very rare form of Greenstone - streaked or spotted with red.
Kohuwai: Named after the greenish moss found in slow running streams.
Kawa-kawa: Has a strong green color with varying shades throughout.
Kako-Tea: Dark green with black spots.
Kahurangi: Bright green with light streaks resembling rolling clouds. This is the rarest form of Greenstone.
Maori Greenstone Facts
Greenstone (Pounamu) can only be found on New Zealand's south island, mostly around the Arahura River. The Maori refer to this island as Te Wai Pounamu loosely translating to "The land of Greenstone Water" or Te Wahi Pounamu "The Place of Greenstone".
The jade found in New Zealand is commonly referred to as "Greenstone" in English; Pounamu is the Maori name.
New Zealand Greenstone is usually found in rivers. It is hard to recognize the stones until they are cut open to reveal the beautiful jade inside.
Since 1947, due to its limited supply, it has been illegal to export raw greenstone (jade) from New Zealand.
There are limitations on how much Greenstone people can collect.
Maori Cultural Significance of Greenstone
The Maori regard Greenstone as a treasure (taonga).
In Maori culture there are numerous legends about how Greenstone was created.
Objects made from Greenstone are often passed down from one generation of Maori to the next, often for many generations. Many believe these Greenstone objects gain spiritual power (mana) as time goes on.
The Maori are known to give Greenstone gifts to visitors.