Nephrite, greenstone or pounamu
Jade is known by many names including nephrite, greenstone and pounamu. Around the world, nephrite jade is the commonly used geological term for the stone – which then gets shortened to jade. However, any nephrite jade found here in the mountains and rivers of New Zealand is also referred to as greenstone or pounamu. The name greenstone originates from New Zealand’s early European settlers, while Māori call their treasured stone pounamu. You’ll find that we use all these names across our website, but when we use greenstone, pounamu or New Zealand jade we are talking about stone which is found in New Zealand.
The origins of pounamu
In New Zealand, pounamu can only be found in the South Island, mainly on the West Coast – which is why the island is also known as Te Waipounamu, which translates to “the waters of greenstone”. There are two stories of the origin of pounamu, one being Māori legend and the tale of a taniwha named Poutini - the guardian of pounamu. The second being the story of mother nature, and her incredible power.
Pounamu the legend
One day, as he rested in the northern seas of the Bay of Plenty, Poutini watched a beautiful young woman named Waitaiki come down to the water to bathe. Enchanted by her beauty, Poutini captured Waitaiki and fled south with his treasure - lighting fires along the way to keep her warm. Waitaiki’s husband, the powerful chief Tamaahua, soon discovered his loss and furiously paddled his canoe in pursuit of his love and her captor. He followed closely, and found precious stones amidst the remains of Poutini's fires.
The chase was relentless, and Poutini finally stopped on the West Coast of the South Island, hiding up the Arahura River. Not wanting to give her up, he knew the only way to keep Waitaiki for forever, was to turn her into his own essence. So Poutini transformed Waitaiki into pounamu and lay her in the river bed. He quietly escaped past Tamaahua, and is thought to have ever since swam up and down the West Coast guarding the land and its precious pounamu.
This legend gives the West Coast its name Te Tai o Poutini – “the tides of Poutini”.
A world of jade
Jade is found in many spectacular locations around the world and each country has its own unique and beautiful variation. We source our jade from the wilds of Canada, Siberia, Australia, America, China, Indonesia, Australia and our own back yard – New Zealand. The minerals that are present in the earth where the stone is formed give jade its colour and texture. Australia is famed for its black jade, Siberia for its pale green almost white stone, China for its vibrant green base with black speckled dots, and New Zealand for its unique flower jade with hues of yellow and gold.
We’ve made it our company mission to source out the best stones from every corner of the world, and learn as much as we can from the jade experts that we meet on our travels. Three generations of the Sheehan family, the founders of Mountain Jade, have been driven to achieve this mission which has so far been carried out over 30 years - and we now have one of the largest jade collections to show for it! You can learn more about the different types of jade we carve below.