Maori Hei Matau Necklaces - Choosing The Right Piece | Mountain Jade New Zealand

A range of fish hook (hei matau) necklaces crafted in our Rotorua studio. Explore them below. They represent a connection to the ocean. 

jade - 08,Dec,2016

Maori Hei Matu Necklaces- Choosing The Right Piece



Maori hei matau necklaces are a popular design for pounamu lovers and carvers alike. The design is based on traditional Maori matau, which typically featured a barbed point. Maori legend is embodied in this design, with the belief that New Zealand was once a large fish pulled from the ocean floor by Maui with a fish hook made from his grandmothers jaw bone.

Wearing one is said to symbolise a connection to the sea, granting strength, good luck and safe travels over water. The hei matu necklace design not only symbolises a strong connection to the ocean but also to Tangaroa, the god of the sea. The ocean is deeply rooted in Maori culture, historically being a significant source of nourishment and also the reason for a variety of religious ceremonies. Such ceremonies were typically undertaken prior to fishing and were based around the hooks the fisherman were about to use.

Fisherman would chant to provide details of their fishing traditions to neighbouring tribes or younger generations, passing their knoweldge of the sea on to others. They would use the tapu (sacred) objects (often pounamu though sometimes bone) and create shrines or resting places for the gods. Many of the Matau fishing hooks had small detailed carvings on the outer looped edge and were interpreted to symbolise Tangaroa, in hope to bring luck to their fishing excursions.

These fishhooks were not typically worn as adornment but rather worn for safe keeping in the ear. Adornment with wood, shell and bone was common in Maori culture, however it wasn't until the introduction of metals from colonisation that the common Maori culture adapted the concept of adorning themselves with highly precious items. Though their tools made from wood, bone and shell were mostly discarded, Pounamu was the most frequent material used for adornment as it was the highest taonga (treasure).

Ironically when Aotearoa was first colonised, many thought the traditional Maori fish hooks were anything but practical and couldn't possibly catch large quantities of fish. Though contrary to their opinions, Maori fishing technology was actually far superior and today many of the traditional Maori fishhook have been reinterprited by commerical and recreational fisherman. 

A pounamu hei matu is the perfect piece to show respect for Maori heritage and beliefs. If you’re just passing through, reminicing on a trip of the past, or a resident with strong ties to Aotearoa, this design is the perfect taonga (treasure) tying one to New Zealand culture and scenery.

All the New Zealand jade we craft our Maori hei matau from is 'authentic Ngai Tahu pounamu,' hand picked from the arctic waters of New Zealand’s South Island. Because we strongly believe in the sustainability and validity of each stone, they come with an authenticity certificate and trackable code, so you can verify their South Island origin.

This is a nice addition if gifting to family or friends living overseas, as they can then see their stones particular origin within our beautiful country, New Zealand, giving tangible ties and further meaning to it's source both physically and spiritually. 

Also included with your purchase is an artist profile and meaning card, as each of our jade hei matu necklaces are hand carved by a true artisan. By buying an ‘authentic pounamu’ hei matau from us, you’re buying legal, sustainably sourced stone, which will ensure it lasts for generations to come.



Maori Hei Matau Necklace

Stone Origin: Arahura River, New Zealand

Size: 65mm (2.5") x 35mm (1.3")

This necklace is particularly large. It was shaped by the hands of Maori artist Tamaora Walker, a long time stone carver whose trained under some on New Zealands most talented stone artists. It's available in a dark green piece of New Zealand pounamu, is soft to the touch and nicely weighted when held in the hand.




Traditional Hei Matau Necklace

Stone Origin: South Island, New Zealand

Size: 39mm (1.5") x 28mm (1.1")

Available in two colours of certified and sustainably sourced New Zealand pounamu, it's a small unisex design that is simple, traditional and unassuming. This piece is carved in our small Hokitika carving studio found on the rugged West Coast in the South Island of New Zealand.




Curved Fish Hook Necklace

Stone Origin: South Island, New Zealand

Size: 38mm (1.5") x 28mm (1.1") 

Crafted by our team of talented carvers in Hokitika, this small fish hook is a unique and stylised design. It's small in size and for both men and woman and is available in multplie colours of New Zealand jade. The first is pictured above, a glassy green with yellow bottom, the second is a rich even green, and the third is a mottled dark green. 




Large Koru Fish Hook Necklace

Stone Origin: South Island, New Zealand

Size:  60mm (2.3") x 40mm (1.5") 

Carved by Tamora Walker, this piece is available in New Zealand and Canadian jade. It can be worn by both men and woman and its reatively large in size. It's a unique design, penned by Tama himself in our Rotorua carving studio and incorporates two barbed spirals (representing growth) into the fish hook design.




Large Manaia Fish Hook Necklace

Stone Origin: South Island, New Zealand

Size: 67mm (2.6") x 38mm (1.4") 

Carved by Tamaora Walker, he was inspired to combine two traditional Maori symbols. Typically oposing motifs with a bird's beak and a fish hook, these elements come together harmoniously in this design, honouring both elements respectfully. A nice addition and point of difference is the inclusion of paua shell for an eye. As this is a larger piece of Pounamu, it's more masculine in nature. 




Stylised Hei Matau Necklace

Stone Origin: South Island, New Zealand

Size: 49mm (1.9") x 22mm (0.8") 

This piece was designed by John Jnr himself and carved by our dedicated team in Hokitika. It's a modern take on bone fish hooks used by the Maori people before the introduction of steel. This is a simple piece with a nod to its origins and medium in size.


Awhile ago we wrote a short article on how to clean and care for your jade necklace. Follow the steps outlined there to ensure your maori hei matau necklace lasts for generations. Also, you can find our shipping times under the heading 'shipping' on our FAQ page along with answers to many questions asked by customers when looking for a necklace.