New Zealand Jade
The term greenstone, or pounamu in the Maori language, is often considered synonymous with new Zealand jade. However only the nephrite stones found there can truly be classed as jade. Bowenite was also worked by the Maori and they included it as a type of pounamu, although modern analysis classifies it as a variety of serpentine.
History of Maori jadeworking
The arrival of the Maori ancestors in New Zealand is thought to date to about 1,000 years ago. They adapted their techniques for working the volcanic rocks of their original pacific islands to the stones found in their new environment. Nephrite was well suited for practical purposes, it is a tough stone that can be sharpened to a fine edge.

The earliest tools were probably adzes and chisels roughly fashioned from pieces that were already of approximately the right size. They would have been simply shaped and sharpened on a grindstone.
Over time more sophisticated techniques evolved. Many processes would have been used to create an object. Sawing with an abrasive sand and water. Grinding on sandstone or quartz schist. Drilling, and even polishing with mudstone slabs or hardwood.

The pieces also developed from simple tools into ceremonial items and prized personal adornments. A unique artistic heritage developed, and many motifs popular today trace their origins back to these earlier times.
Flower jade Manaia pendant by Graeme Wylie
Sources and types of jade
Seven areas of the South Island yield jade. The rivers between Hokitika and Greymouth are an important source, known as the Westland field, and the town of Hokitika is the centre of the industry.

Much of the jade is found in rivers and streams in the form of pebbles or boulders, but oxidation of the outer layers makes it difficult to distinguish them from the surrounding stones. Over time the rocks can be transported great distances by the force of the rivers, and flash floods that occur will tumble and expose new stones.The terrain in these areas is very rugged and isolated so prospecting is no easy task. Larger finds are sometimes removed by helicopter when access is impossible by road.
Iron is the main colouring agent of New Zealand jade, but the stone can be found with a wide range of shades. The Maori gave each of these an appropriate name.

Inanga jade is a light grey green colour, named after a juvenile minnow.

Kahurangi is light green and highly translucent. The term means prized or treasured.

Kawakawa is named after a plant, which, like the jade, is dark green with flecks that are a deeper hue.

Kokopu, is known as trout stone because the spotted brown, olive green and yellow jade looks like a native freshwater fish.

Totoweka is a rare type of jade with small reddish markings, the name translates as the blood of a woodhen.

Flower jade is green with patches of yellow, cream or brown. A skilled carver will utilise the colour variations to enhance a design.
Flower jade spiral and crossover by Jackson Zhang
Motifs and meanings
The best known ornament is probably the tiki, a simplified human figure with accentuated features that is derived from Polynesian culture.

The matau is a sylised fish hook, and was probably worn as a talisman on fishing trips to ensure a safe return.

The manaia is a mythical creature depicted with the head of a bird, the body of a man and the tail of a fish. Representing the balance between earth, sky and sea it protects the wearer from evil.

Other ancient traditional forms include the pekapeka,thought to be a representation of a native bat, and the kaka poria, a form of leg ring used for tame birds.

Other designs that are popular today and have evolved from more traditional shapes are the spiral or koru, and the twist and crossover. Many artists continue to draw on Maori culture as a source of inspiration to create works that are modern but linked to a rich heritage.
Kokopu jade matau pendant from the studio
              of Stan and Doug McCallum.
Other jades
Some of the jade mined in Canada closely resembles types of New Zealand jade. This piece was carved in China from stone imported from there. It was not bought in New Zealand, but is worth including as a curiosity.

New Zealand artists sometimes work with jade from other places, black jade from South Australia or white jade from Siberia for example, but this is always clearly stated.
Canadian jade pendant
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