13 months
Mar 4:
lawn bowling
Mar 5:
hello, dahlia!
Mar 24:
bromeliads &
serial killers
Mar 26:
the low down
new zealand gallery
all galleries
next location
(buenos aires)

farms in the land of the long white cloud
driving from Invercargill to Queensland, New Zealand; Mar 8, 2005


One cannot visit New Zealand without coming away with an admiration for the beautiful, cool, translucent "greenstone,” pounamu. There are many types of jade and New Zealand’s jade is nephrite, not quite as tough as jadeite (mainly found in Myanmar), but equally as captivating. It comes in shades from almost black to almost white and often includes intriguing flecks of reds and browns. It is beautifully translucent and wonderful to touch.

now that's a big piece of jade

The Maori (New Zealand's indigenous people) have been using jade as weapons and decorative items since about the 12th century. The stones are found only on the South Island but jade artifacts have been found in the northernmost parts of the North Island. To the Maori, pounamu is considered to have great spiritual value as well as material value. It was difficult to obtain and difficult to work and this led people to believe that the strength of the previous owner was absorbed by the jade and so it became even more valuable. [Note from Grace: this explains why mom tried to kill me for the small jade necklace I bought here.]

All over the world where jade is present, it is endowed with values and virtues. The Maori were no different. Maori mythology ties pounamu to water. They say the pounamu was originally a fish that transformed itself into a stone when it was taken from the water. Another legend tells the story of Tama, a Maori warrior whose wives were abducted by Poutini, the guardian of the greenstone. Tama wandered about searching for his wives and found one of them at Milford Sound. She had been turned into pounamu. He cried and his tears fell on the stone and changed into tangiwai, or weeping water, the pale translucent bowenite which is another form of greenstone valued for pendants. He searched further up the river until he came upon a waterfall blocking his way. The boulders he rested upon were his other two wives who had also been transformed into greenstone.

The easiest way to get a piece of jade in New Zealand is to buy one of the beautifully carved pieces that have been made into pendants. It's important to ask whether the origin of the jade is New Zealand. Much of the jade that's being sold in New Zealand, oddly enough, is from South America where jade is much cheaper and easier to find. Grace bought a pendant for Susan, a triple twist, representing a bonding of friendship, two lives becoming one for all eternity. Finding greenstone is very difficult as it is often covered by a whitish rind that makes it look like any other old rock in the world but I found my small piece of greenstone on a pebbly beach. It's polished by water and rocks and it feels cool, smooth and almost greasy. It's a touchstone and I carry it around in my pocket. Of course it brings me good luck!

© 2004-2012 susan & grace, all rights reserved

-- comments from readers --


Hi, just searching the net for details of the third Bionicle movie and found your article. Im definately a fan!

--George [Lego Sales Rep] (New Zealand); Nov 1, 2005

Whoohoo! One of my wishes come true - correspondence from somebody at Lego!

--Grace; Aug 13, 2005


I'm one of the 3 or 4! Great article by your mom BTW, and very interesting about the Bionicle names! My favorite article of yours still has to be the near death encounter with the snake in Australia though - classic!

--Steve S. (Emeryville, CA, USA); Aug 12, 2005

Well... knock me over with a feather. I wonder if the other 2 or 3 will send in a comment, too. :)

--Grace; Aug 13, 2005