The West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. This beautiful land we live in, a narrow strip of green sandwiched between a rugged coastline and the majestic Southern Alps. This region is renowned not only for its breathtakingly beautiful scenery, but also for producing some of the finest Nephrite Jade in the world.
New Zealand Nephrite Jade or ‘Pounamu’ is found in seven main areas of New Zealand – all in the South Island. The biggest fields are the Wakatipu region and the West Coast. New Zealand Jade is much admired for its high translucency and rich yellow-green colours, although colours can vary immensely from white-green to almost black.
Formed deep within the Earth’s crust millions of years ago, then gradually brought to the surface through geological and tectonic forces, the Pounamu’s journey began. Years of glacial erosion, earthquakes, avalanches and storms have carried the Pounamu from rugged mountains downstream towards the sea. It is here, spread through many of our rivers, streams and coastal beaches, that most Pounamu is found.
Archaeological evidence suggests early Polynesian Maori settlers discovered Pounamu in New Zealand as early as the twelfth century and it was in common use by the fourteenth. Many Maori legends tell of the origin and discovery of Pounamu, most relate to it being a fish – It is said that when the fish is taken from the water it is so vexed that it turns into stone.
The Maori people regarded Pounamu as a treasure of immense spiritual and material value, it’s ethereal qualities making it the most prized possession, representative of Mana (spiritual power) and rank. Pounamu was tradionally used by Maori as tools, weapons and ornaments and was traded with northern people for their prized possessions such as finely woven garments and speciality foods not available in the south.
Types of New Zealand Jade
There are many different varieties of New Zealand Jade. Some of the well known types include: Inanga, Kahurangi, Kawakawa, Kokopu and Totoweka.
One of the most beautiful and unusual jades in New Zealand is called flower or picture jade. The Marsden district near Greymouth is well known for these stones. The jade is generally green with contrasting patterns of cream, brown or yellow inclusions, creating beautiful and dramatic patterns in the stone.
The Maori Koru design is inspired by the New Zealand fern frond unfurling as it grows. It represents peace, tranquility, personal growth, positive change and awakening. It is associated with new life and harmony, so makes a wonderful gift for a new parent or child, newlyweds, or anyone starting on a new phase of their life.
A Maori twist symbolises the path of life. It is believed to have been based on Maori kete basket weaving. The path of life takes many twists and turns but carries on regardless. In the case of the Single Twist, the design simply means the path of life and can be called the Maori Eternity Symbol.
DOUBLE OR TRIPLE TWIST
The Double and Triple Twist depict two new shoots growing together - it represents the joining of cultures, the bonding of friendship for life. The design shows the joining of two people in love or friendship for eternity, so makes a wonderful wedding or friendship gift. The Twist can also relate to the joining of two peoples or cultures.
HEI MATAU (FISH HOOK)
The fish hook was an important resource for Maori, as the sea provided a rich source of food. In Maori mythology, New Zealand was fished up out of the sea by Maui. The fish hook signifies abundance and plenty, strength and determination. It is believed to bring peace, prosperity and good health. It is a device for catching good luck and energy, and is believed to provide safe journey over water. It is therefore considered a good luck charm by travellers, boaties, fishermen and surfers.
The Manaia is a spiritual guardian, a guardian angel, to ward off danger and protect against intruders. It acts as a provider and protector over the sky, earth and sea. The Manaia has a bird-like head, symbolising flight of the spirit. Its three fingers are believed to represent birth, life and death, symbolising the life cycle of man.
The Tiki depicts the first mortal born to the Gods. It is also a strong fertility symbol, with the hands on the loins symbolising fertility. The Tiki is a good luck charm, and believed to give the wearer clarity of thought and great inner knowledge.
The closed circle represents the circle of life, and the belief it has no beginning or end.