What is Jade, Greenstone, Pounamu?
There was a lot I didn’t know about Jade until I started researching for this piece. There are two types of Jade: there geological names are jadeite and nephrite. Another name for nephrite is Greenstone or in Maori Pounamu.
Jadeite consists of sodium and aluminum. Nephrite is made up of calcium and magnesium.
The two types of Jade do have some visual differences as well, Jadeite is a rare mineral and the lighter the colour of the jade the more valuable it is.
Nephrite is darker and richer in colour, it can be either dark or light – from almost black-green, through greens, rust to light, and nearly white in colour.
Why is Jade known as Greenstone in New Zealand?
Early European explorers noted that Maori were wearing Jade Tiki and other jade adornments and not realizing that this was in fact Jade, renamed it Greenstone and this name has stayed.
Although Jade is found in many countries in the world as little as 5% of all mined Jade would be considered good enough to be used to make carvings or jewelry. New Zealand produces some of the finest nephrite jade in the world.
Pounamu has great significance for Maori, it is believed Pounamu absorbs the mana or spirit of the wearer. It is also renowned for its toughness and beauty.
It is used for a variety of purposes, pendants, carving tools, adzes and weapons. The different varieties include translucent green kahurangi, whitish inanga, semi-transparent kawakawa, and tangiwai or bowenite.
When purchasing a piece of Greenstone hold the piece up to the light and look for any cracks. Cracks indicate a point of weakness in the stone and could eventually cause a break. The colour of the stone is an individual preference, some prefer the darker tones while others opt for the lighter more translucent stones.