Formed by the movement of Pacific and Australian tectonic plates over thousands of years.
New Zealand nephrite jade, also known as greenstone, or pounamu to Māori, is formed by intensive heat and pressure deep under the earth of the Southern Alps. This precious material has been forced to the earth’s surface by the movement of Pacific and Australian tectonic plates over thousands of years and freed from its origin rock with glacial movements, landslides, and erosion from streams and rivers. New Zealand’s pounamu fields may be small, but they’re home to the finest nephrite specimens in the world.
Our jade is rare and found only in the South Island
In New Zealand, pounamu is only found on the South Island, which is why the island is also known as Te Waipounamu, which translates to “the waters of greenstone”. There are a few key rivers and regions, mainly on the West Coast, where pounamu can be found, including the Arahura and Hokitika Rivers. Our jade is rare, and offers incredible variety in colour, pattern and texture, with each region tending to produce different variations.
Types of New Zealand Pounamu
Pounamu holds incredible significance among Māori and is considered a gift from the earth, making it a tapu (sacred) material for many. The deep spiritual connection Māori have with pounamu reflects how various stone types were named, with each pounamu type given an identity that corresponded to the world in which they lived. Stones were named after native birds, fish, plants, locations or legends. Inanga, the lightest of our pounamu, gets its name from our native whitebait fish, whereas, Kawakawa pounamu is one of the darkest and richest shades of green and gets its name from being like the colours of the kawakawa tree.
Learn more about the different types of pounamu below.
New Zealand Kahurangi Jade
New Zealand Kahurangi jade (pictured above) is a rare and beautiful form of pounamu, highly treasured for its gem-like qualities and being a pure stone with little to no imperfections. The stone's light to apple green shades are intense and vibrant, and being highly translucent it easily radiates its colour without being held to the light. Kahurangi is also a Māori word meaning a precious, honourable and distinguished treasure or jewel.
Mainly found north of the Arahura River and the Marsden Region.
Kawakawa pounamu is a common type of New Zealand jade and is popular with carvers for being easy to work with and for its ability to hold most shapes. With its name coming from the kawakawa leaf, the stone is the darkest green shade of all pounamu, ranging from emerald-green to almost black, and its rich and intense flesh often includes tiny dark inclusions/flecks. As an opaque stone, it is only translucent at the extreme edges of a slab or when very thinly sliced and held up to the light.
Found in the Arahura and New Rivers.
A distinctive pounamu, Kōkopu is known for its speckled appearance and takes its name from the native Giant Kōkopu (freshwater trout) as it resembles similar patterns and spots to the fish. The stone’s spotted textures and range of colours, from light to dark browns, creamy whites, and olive greens, give this stone a diverse presence and character.
Found mainly in the Wainihinihi Creek and Arahura and Taramakau Rivers.
New Zealand Inanga
New Zealand inanga jade (pictured above) is a highly prized pounamu that takes its name from the juvenile native minnow (small freshwater fish), more commonly known as whitebait. Inanga pounamu has a distinctive milky grey-blue-white flesh and can be highly transparent in lighter stone shades, resembling the pale colour and transparency of young whitebait. The milky colours transcend to rich green inclusions, and the stone has a soft, porous rind.
Found in the Arahura River and the Kawhaka and Waimea Creeks.
Flower Jade (Marsden Jade)
A valuable and highly sought-after type of pounamu, New Zealand Flower Jade is prized for its beautiful and distinctive golden-yellow-orange patterns unique to Aotearoa. It is also known as putiputi pounamu, with putiputi meaning "flower" in Māori.
Over thousands of years, Flower Jade undergoes a unique weathering process where the stone gets its beautiful colours after forming, rather than during formation like most other jades. As the stone sits in the river getting tumbled and smoothed, flowing water pushes minerals into it through tiny fractures, causing oxidation and unique yellow-gold colour to form – reflecting its name, flower jade. The golden patterns are referred to as the “flower” and are found in stones that range from light transparent inanga to the darkest of kawakawa.
Found in the Marsden region, just outside of Greymouth.
Like mid-green Kawakawa pounamu, Totoweka has intense green colour but is distinguished with red-brown, blood-like streaks and spots. It is a rare stone to discover and is thought to be the bloodstone of the native New Zealand bush hen - with its name coming from toto (blood) and weka (a native hen).
Found in the Arahura River and South Westland area.
New Zealand Raukaraka Jade
With striking yellow and orange shades that blend into vibrant olive greens like the leaves of the native tree, after which it gets its name, Raukaraka (pictured above) is a beautiful and rare type of pounamu.
Found mainly north of the Arahura River but also in the Kawhaka and Goldsborough areas.
Tahutahi pounamu or “snowflake jade” is one of the rarest types of pounamu. It is prized for its vibrant green colour and white fleck imprints described as snowflakes.
Found in the Cascade River.
Mutton Fat Jade
Mutton Fat jade or Yellow Jade as it is also known, is very rarely found in New Zealand. "Mutton fat" is used to describe the creamy white and yellow colours of stone. Pure white Mutton Fat jade from China is one of the most expensive varieties of nephrite jade in the world.
AUTHENTIC NZ POUNAMU
Protecting our treasure for future generations
New Zealand is the only country in the world that does not mine for its jade, the stone is instead fossicked in riverbeds and glacial valleys. In the late 1990s, the New Zealand government vested ownership and guardianship of all pounamu to the South Island tribe of Ngāi Tahu. As kaitiaki (guardians), Ngāi Tahu ensures any raw pounamu is sustainably and ethically sourced to make sure our taonga (treasure) is safeguarded for future generations. This includes not just caring for the stone but also protecting and advocating for the rivers it comes from, the artists that shape it and the communities that surround it. Under their leadership, the Ngāi Tahu Authentic Pounamu Licensing Scheme was borne and we were the first New Zealand retailer to be registered. Being licensed grants us the ability to purchase raw stone certified as genuine New Zealand pounamu directly from Ngāi Tahu to carve in our studios. We also work with independent artists from around New Zealand who carve from their home studios, and source their own pounamu.
We take care when listing our products for sale on our website. On each product page, in the product title and description, you will see the stone origin. If the stone is from New Zealand, it will say either; New Zealand Pounamu, New Zealand Greenstone, or New Zealand Jade. As we are jade specialists, we also carve beautiful pieces of jade from many different countries and clearly label the country of origin as; Canadian Jade, Indonesian Jade, Australian Jade, Chinese Jade etc.