Greenstone

A Touch of New Zealand
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Greenstone - A term peculiar to New Zealand to describe nephrite, with sometimes the inclusion of bowenite. It is also known as pounamu. Exports of raw greenstone have been illegal since 1947, because of its limited supplies.

Bowenite (tangiwai) - a very translucent, olive-green to bluish-green type of serpentine, found mainly near the entrance to Milford Sound in the South Island. The word tangiwai came from the Maori legend relating to the petrification of the tears of a lamenting woman. Sometimes it is referred to as koko-tangiwai, koko meaning ear pendant, and this signifies its predominant use.

Jade - The name given to two types of silicate minerals which come in a variety of colours, though the most valued is green. The finest jade is jadeite (which does not occur in New Zealand) and nephrite. Both are very hard and tough.

Inanga (whitebait) - pearly-whitish, grey-green coloured greenstone which can be translucent and with a fine texture.

Kahurangi - highly translucent, lightish green greenstone with lighter streaks (which look like clouds) and free from dark spots or any flaws. It is one of the rarest varieties of pounamu

Kakotea - streaky dark green greenstone with black spots

Kawakawa - a strong dark green greenstone with varying intermediate shades and is named because its color resembles that of the leaf of the kawakawa or lofty pepper tree (macropiper excelsum)

Nephrite - a European name for kahurangi, kawakawa and inanga. It is the only jade mineral found in this country. A very tough mineral and in New Zealand, sources of nephrite are confined to the South Island. The districts surrounding the Taramakau and Arahura Rivers in Westland and the Lake Wakatipu area of Otago are where the main deposits have been found.
With its ability to retain a very hard, sharp cutting edge, nephrite was very well suited as a wood-cutting tool and the most common early Maori use was for adzes (toki) and chisels (whao). These were fitted into carved wooden handles and lashed together with plaited flax fibre cords.

Pounamu - also known as greenstone, is the Maori group term for both nephrite and bowenite. The Maori classified pounamu according to colour and named many varieties. There are four (4) main types: kawakawa, kahurangi, inanga and tangiwai. The first three are nephrite and the fourth - tangiwai - is bowenite. Although the Maori placed tangiwai as a variety of pounamu, they knew of its difference and limitations. Three others are kakotea, kohuwa and totoweka
Pounamu will benefit from the addition of light, scented oil and if it is not be be worn very regularly, is best stored in a felt or leather pouch. A very light smear of oil in the pouch will enhance the carved pounamu with a beautiful warm gloss
Pounamu was normally suspended from thin leather or plaited flax; metal chains do not harmonise with the stone. It was traditional for a piece to be worn level with the cavity where the two collarbones meet above the chest.

Totoweka - espec. rare, usually streaked with white or spotted with red
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