Pounamu is also called greenstone or New Zealand Jade (nephrite). Pounamu is the traditional Māori name for this lovely gemstone. The Māori actually recognise four different types of pounamu - three of which are nephrite but the fourth is bowenite not nephrite. Pounamu is found only in the South Island although the stone was extensively traded in the North Island.

This gemstone is treasured by all the Māori but by the South Island Ngāi Tahu people in particular since it is found in their tribal area. Valued for its strength, durability and beauty, the stone is used in carvings. They place great significance on this stone for it has a sacred (tapu) status and is linked to chiefs and peace-making.

My friend Nancy (see my past post Iridescent, Irresistible Paua!) also treasures her pounamu jewelry which were given to her. She is not into jewelry making but was pleased that I could help her change the fish hook ear wires to more secure leverbacks. She was concerned about losing her precious earrings. The dark green earrings on the top right have been attached to the new findings.

Alas, Nancy came to me too late with her other pair for she had already lost one. The other pair is also pounamu but has been heat-treated such that the stone shows a wonderful array of warm colours in addition to the natural green (above left).

She took a picture of the remaining one with a ruler beside it so she could send it to the part-Māori New Zealand artisan, Clem Mellish who made them her original pair. He is making up some more for her and the lone earring she now has will be converted into a pendant.

Nancy tells me the Māori believe pounamu is very unlucky to buy it for oneself. You have to be given it. Another belief is one about dunking the pounamu briefly in a nearby river to prevent it from getting lost. She obviously didn't follow that one! She generously gave me a pounamu nugget pendant as a gift. Now for the nearest river......

Jade and Bone Co.
The Beading Gem's Journal