The term Jade is used to translate the Aztec Chalchiuitl, Chinese Yu and Maori Pounamu. True Jade refers only to Nephrite and Jadeite. Nephrite, which is found in New Zealand is a calcium magnesium silicate, often with iron or other elements that give the stone its range of seven colours, from subtle white’s to brilliant greens, browns, blues, blacks, reds and yellows.
In New Zealand ‘Pounamu’ is the Maori term for Nephrite Jade, Bowenite and Serpentine.
Jade has been endowed with symbolic as well as material significance by many peoples around the world. The meanings which accrued to Jade over the millennia have changed throughout history. In the early periods Jade became associated with the owner's power it was also linked to spiritual power through its use in native ritual. The fascination for Jade is in large part due to the nature of the material, it is glowing and lustrous when polished and is permanent and enduring.
In New Zealand ‘Pounamu’ is the Maori term for Nephrite Jade, Bowenite and Serpentine. There are four main types of Pounamu all of which have sub-categories, these are Kawakawa, Kahurangi, Inanga and Tangiwai. The fourth ‘Tangiwai’ is actually Bowenite but is still considered Pounamu.
In the early periods Jade became associated with the owner's power
Pounamu is sourced from several locations within the South Island. The largest Jade fields are on the West Coast in the vicinity of the Taramakau and Arahura Rivers, in South Westland and Northern Fiordland.
THE MAORI NAMED VARIETIES OF NEPHRITE
Pearly white, grey to green or blueish, wide variety of colours translucent or quite opaque. It has been named after the native spawning trout Inanga which is a local delicacy in its own right.
This is considered the most highly translucent and rarest of New Zealand Nephrite, lightish green in its shades and free from dark spots or flaws.
Strong dark to rich green with varying intermediate shades commonly flecked with small dark inclusions which add to its character and makes the stone very desirable as jewellery.
Translucent to transparent greens and blues a variety of Serpentine known as Bowenite. Found in Anita and Poison Bays in Fiordland.
The mineral composition of Nephrite Jade
7% Iron Oxide