Jade, Greenstone, Pounamu
Pounamu - Greenstone Jewellery
At Jewel Beetle, we share a love and affinity for New Zealand Pounamu. We enjoy creating and designing modern jewellery pieces using genuine NZ Jade from the West Coast of the south Island. Using designs that enhance the stone's natural beauty, we've created a large range of pendants and earrings in silver and gold. We also stock more traditional carved pieces from selected carvers in NZ.
We're often asked lots of questions about NZ's Greenstone so we've compiled some of those frequently asked questions in our latest blog dedicated to Pounamu.
What is the difference between Jade and Pounamu?
Jade is the common term for two different stones Nephrite and Jadeite.
Nephrite and is found in various places in the world including New Zealand. Pounamu is the traditional Māori name for Nephrite Jade, also known in NZ as 'Greenstone'.
Jadeite isn’t found in New Zealand. It’s much rarer and harder than Nephrite. Commonly found in Green and white shades in many locations around the world. It is very popular in China.
Māori traditionally classify Pounamu by various different names for example Inanga, Kahurangi, Kawakawa. These names are derived from native birds, fish and flora. Most Pounamu is Nephrite Jade but also the rare and translucent Bowenite rock known as 'Tangiwai' is also considered Pounamu.
At Jewel Beetle we often use the beautiful Flower Jade found in the Marsden area of NZ's south island.
Where can you find Pounamu/Greenstone?
In general, there are four main areas in the South Island where Pounamu is found, Fiordland, Southland, Nelson and mostly the West Coast in Rivers and Beaches after flowing down from the mountains.
In 1997 all Greenstone rights of ownership were returned to Ngāi Tahu. Making them the Kaitiaki or custodian of all South Island Greenstone.
The general public can only fossick for Greenstone pebbles on the Queens Chain area of the West Coast beaches from Cobden beach to Rapahoe beach and can only take as much as they can carry themselves unaided within a 24 hour period.
Historically Pounamu has been used as a gift to seal the bond between people and tribes and acknowledge gratefulness.
When carving Pounamu it was important to depict traditional Māori symbols showing the strength or spiritual significance of the wearer. This historical significance of gifting Pounamu is probably where the belief that Pounamu should be gifted came from.
The concept of 'Tapu' (sacredness) and 'Mana' (prestige, status) is important and disrespecting society is 'Hara' (an offence) that can have big consequences.
With respect of these Māori traditions, it is still considered bad luck to buy Pounamu for yourself.
Pounamu is though to have healing powers and wearing it will protect you from negative energy and give you strength and positive vibrations in a time when you need support.
Why is Pounamu blessed?
It is believed that Pounamu represents ancestors and has a very strong connection with the natural world creating strength, love, harmony and prosperity. By performing a Karakia (blessing) the Pounamu creates a spiritual link between the giver and the receiver of the gift.
There are many legends around New Zealand's precious Pounamu. One of them is the legend of Poutini.Poutini is a water spirit Taniwha that swims up and down South Islands West coast protecting People and the precious Pounamu (Greenstone).Legend has it that Poutini saw a young woman, Waitaiki, bathing near Tūhua in the North Island. Poutini fell in love with Waitaiki but she was married. Her husband Tama-ahua found out and threatened to kill Poutini. Poutini abducted Waitaiki and fled to the South Island. Tama-ahua did not give up and when there seemed no way out Poutini hid Waitaiki in the bed of the Arahura River and changed her into Pounamu before he fled out to sea. As the river washes over Waitaiki fragments are carried down stream to the sea. So Waitaiki became the mother-load of all Pounamu found down the Arahura River.
Do you carve Pounamu at the Jewel Beetle workshop?
At Jewel Beetle, we are fortunate to have both traditional and contemporary carvers on the West Coast and Marlborough working closely with us. Apart from buying finished Pounamu from West coast carvers we are also lucky to have a father (Ken) and son (Jeremy) team on the coast that are especially helpful carving stone to our specification. We design greenstone pieces that we can embellish with Silver or Gold. As we are both of European descent, we are drawn to the more feminine and less traditional greenstone carvings. We do have a deep appreciation for traditional carved Pounamu and often over summer have several traditional carved pieces in stock, like Toki and Koru.