Matawai - The 1.8t Pounamu Boulder | Mountain Jade New Zealand

The rich blue colour is extremely rare, and very mesmerising. 


The intense blue of it's heart fades into a milkier white around the edges.


Measuring over 1.5m in length, it is a very large pounamu rock.

travel - 07,Jan,2016

'Matawai' - The 1.8t Pounamu Boulder

FOUND IN travel


'Matawai' draws visitors from across New Zealand to Rainbow Springs Nature and Wildlife Park in Rotorua. It’s a huge 1.8 tonne pounamu boulder on loan from the Mawhera Corporation, a company tasked with the protection of all New Zealand pounamu.  As a jade carver I had to see it in person, hear its story and gauge its merits. Pieces of pounamu this size are rare.

When I arrived I was met by Toni Thompson, an extremely warm woman working with Rainbow Springs. As we walked to the pounamu boulder I noticed a throng of children gathered around an object I couldn't quite see, but as we got closer I spotted it. It was the boulder, and t’s positioned perfectly. The morning sun strikes the boulder head on and its inanga (whiteish blue) colours shine. Its surface is water worn and carries a full polish, something that would take hours to replicate on a small necklace in our carving workshop.

Its blueish hue is what struck me first. As a jade carver and wearer of jade I've never seen pounamu this ‘blue.’  We're conditioned to believe pounamu is green, greenstone is green, so it’s a surprise when we see otherwise. This happens all the time when we show customers the white jade from Siberia, and black jade from Australia in our Rotorua carving studio.

The blue hue reminded me of an inanga pounamu we have in this Rotorua studio. The piece is so rare and hard to come by that we will never carve it. Its value lies in being able to see it in a natural state, untouched by the hands of humans. I think this is also where 'Matawais' value lies.

'Matawai' was found in 2004 on the West Coast of New Zealands South Island by a 16 year old girl, Te Koha, and her aunt Horiana Tootell. A small plaque beside the stone tells the story of how Te Kohas aunty asked her too look very closely at a whitish boulder sitting below a waterfall. This turned out to be 'Matawai,' which when translated means 'to stare.'

"Matawai is a vessel that stores an ancient Maori myth. This is why it's truely valuable."

Aside from its inherent aesthetic beauty, the story behind it is just as special. I was lucky enough to speak with staff member James, a student who had recently won a Ngai Tahu scholarship to work at Rainbow Springs. We sat in front of 'Matawai,' I pulled an audio recorder from my pocket and listened as James told me the story of pounamu, its origin, and how 'Matawai' fits into it. Listen below: