Greenstone or Pounamu

In New Zealand, Nephrite jade is known as “greenstone” or “pounamu” and it plays a very important role in Maori culture. It is considered as a “Taonga” (or treasure). The jade is only found in the South Island of New Zealand, known in the Maori language as “Te Wai Pounamu” (“The Greenstone Water”). Traditionally weapons, tools and a variety of ornaments and jewellery were made of jade. Treasured items are still passed on as valuable heirlooms and are often given as gifts to loved ones or as gifts to conclude important agreements.
In New Zealand, Greenstone was formed by great heat and pressure on the ocean bed over 2300 million years ago. This beautiful gemstone was uplifted high into the mountains 10 million years ago during the formation of the Southern Alps. Over time erosion has released greenstone boulders into the glaciers and rivers that carry them to today’s remote valleys and streams.

Around The World

Primitive tribes of the British Isles used the stone for their axes, knives and other weapons because of its strength.
Jade is the most prized stone in the long history of culture and art in the Chinese empire, because of its stunning beauty and its power for healing and protection. There is an endless variety of gemstones, beads, vessels, incense burners, earrings, musical instruments, burial objects and images carved beautifully out of jade. The stone was known as the “Royal Gem” (“Yu”).  The value of jade to the Chinese could be compared to that of diamonds and gold in the west. A Chinese emperor once offered 15 cities for only a single jade carving which he could hold in the palm of his hand!
The indigenous tribes of Mexico, Central and South America used it for their sacred masks and other ritual objects. They threw it into wells as a sacrifice to the holy spirits for plenty of fresh water. Montezuma, the famous ruler of the Aztec empire smiled when he heard that the Spanish Conquistador Cortez was only interested in his gold, since his most precious possession was jade.

The Dream Stone

Jade is most prized for its special metaphysical properties. Jade is considered the ultimate “Dream Stone”. The stone is revered in ancient cultures, but it is also used today to gain access to the spiritual world, to gain insight into ritual knowledge, to encourage creativity and to understand the meaning of dreams. The stone is popular as a protective talisman, to ensure a long life and a peaceful death. That is why the stone is also considered a powerful healing stone. As a talisman of happiness and friendship, jade stands for wisdom gathered in tranquility, to eliminate all the negative and stimulate everyone to see themselves as they really are.

Nephrite and Jadeite

Jade varies in size, color and silicate mineral amounts, which determines whether the stone is made of Jadeite or Nephrite. Jade made from Nephrite is the most common. Nephrite isa calcium-magnesium silicate and Jadeite is a sodium-aluminum-silicate. Although they differ in composition, hardness, density and crystal structures, both types of stone are exceptionally tough, similar in appearance and of equal value as regards the metaphysical properties. Both types occur in the beautiful olive shades that we recognize as jade, but there are also differences. Nephrite usually occurs in creamy white, brown, black and medium to deep olive green. It has a smooth surface that can be polished to a waxy luster and is more common than Jadeite. Jadeite can also be found in shades of blue or blue-green, white/gray/green, leafy green, emerald green, pink, red, orange, lavender, green-black or black. It is hard and shiny, usually more expensive and rarer than Nephrite. The rarest and most valuable form of jade called Imperial Jade. This is a translucent, emerald green form of Jadeite, colored by traces of chromium.

Frontispiece from Picturesque New Zealand, by David Paul Gooding.
Original caption: Maori Wahine with Matt of Kiwi Feather and Pendent Heitiki.

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