New Zealand Jade also known as Greenstone or Pounamu is a rare natural stone called Nephrite formed in the Alpine Fault in the South Island of New Zealand. Jade in New Zealand plays a very important role in the Maori culture as it is considered as Taonga (treasure) and is a sacred, spiritual material that was traditionally used for making weapons and tools. Jade is an exceptionally strong and durable stone and is modern times is a popular material used for jewellery in New Zealand.
How is Jade in New Zealand formed?
Jade is formed by intensive heat and pressure over 10km deep under the earth in the Southern Alps area of New Zealand where rock becomes molten and mixes with other materials. Due to the enormous pressures and heat generated in this volcanic zone for over millions of years and then pushed to the surface by the Australasian tectonic plates, Jade is then sourced out of natural sources such as rivers, mountains and beaches, and forms what is commonly known as a Jade Field.
Why is Jade significant to Maori people?
The indigenous people of New Zealand, the Maori’s, believe that Jade is a sacred stone due its spiritual and mythological properties. Jade is a Taonga, meaning treasured and pieces of this sacred stone are kept in families for generations, carrying stories, history and great honour to certain tribes. New Zealand Jade has been a main source of trade between South Island Iwi (tribe) and North Island Iwi for over a hundred years as Jade was traditionally used to make weapons and tools and in modern times is now used to make jewellery.
Jade, Pounamu or Greenstone?
You might hear Kiwis commonly refer to Jade as being called Greenstone and that is because it’s a nickname that’s been around for a very long time. Apparently, when Captain Cook first came to New Zealand and discovered Jade, he referred to it was “Greenstone” and the name has since stuck.
Pounama is a term used by Maori that signifies any sacred or spiritual stone that is used for jewellery. In the Maori culture, many stones or natural materials are seen as a blessing and so the word Pounama is an umbrella term to describe these. Worn with pride, Pounama is a symbol of authority and status.
Jade is made from Nephrite or Jadeite (depending on the composition) and are both exceptionally tough and similar in appearance and have the same value.
Where can I find Jade in New Zealand?
If you are going to try and find Jade in New Zealand there are few places to consider. All of these places are found in the South Island as this is the only place where Jade is found in New Zealand.
Hokitika is a good place to start when looking for Jade in New Zealand. Along the Hokitika River on the West Coast is a popular spot when searching for Jade as the beautiful turquoise river water and surrounding walkways are very accessible and the water is a popular swimming area.
Kaimata River in Greymouth is hidden behind hills and used to be well known for gold dredging. The Kaimata River is a good place to find Jade in New Zealand because it is rocky and with a strong current, makes it the perfect place to find clumps of Jade.
Jade in New Zealand is extremely beautiful and has a great deal of meaning to the people of the country. If you’re looking for a special gift, or hoping to purchase a heirloom item then this is a great thing to shop for!