‘Pounamu’ is the Maori name for Greenstone. It is the God stone of our Maori people, along with Serpentine and other closely related stones of the Amphibole group of minerals.
It is hugely significant for Maori, for it was often used as a seal for transfers of title, the Greenstone 'taonga' or treasure taking the place of a document as proof and sale of land.
When Captain Cook first discovered New Zealand in 1769 he noticed the Maori working a green coloured stone. It's thought that this is where the name 'Greenstone' originated from.
In fact the name 'Greenstone' is a slang term. Its correct mineral name is "Nephrite" (pronounced nef '-rite). It is an extremely tough stone made up of interwoven fibres that will actually bend before breaking. Even then the parts have to be pulled apart.
Nephrite is found in many parts of the world but New Zealand Greenstone is being particularly unique because of its vast range of colour variations between the main varieties.
Carver Nathanael Provis
This magnificient sculpture is of the Kahurangi flower variety and from the J. Leighton stone. Note how it recesses into the base with a wide steam which is part of the carving. The striking orange hues are created through heat when polishing.
Greenstone is a metamorphic rock formed through tremendous heat and pressure. It is found throughout Westland’s alluvial glacial moraines. The main historical gathering places are between Greymouth and Hokitika. Just where certain varieties and types of stone originated from, remain a mystery, locked away in a distant past, when all was upthrust and under ice.
Bands of Pounamu formations, which tend to run in a North Easterly direction, consist mainly of Serpentine, Dunite and similar Olivine rock, Serpentine talc formations and actinolite. The addition of other combinations, with a mixture of minerals, accounts for why these formations are often referred to as a mineral belt.
A grey-green colour. It is either very translucent or quite opaque. Highly prized by the Maori and the desired material for making mere and patu.
A highly translucent, lightish green shade, free from dark spots and other flaws. One of the rarest varieties, held in high esteem by the Maori.
A dark rich green with varying intermediate shades, named after the leaf of the Kawakawa. It is the main type used in gem purposes.
A translucent to transparent olive green to bluishgreen variety of serpentine known as bowentine. Often known as Koko-Tangiwai.
A pale green opaque variety, given as the intermediate of Inanga and Kawakawa.
A type streaked or flecked with white. The name Kahotea derives from Kaho, meaning light-coloured tea (white or clear).
Also known as trout-stone named after the dark brown, olive green and yellowish markings found on the three species of the native freshwater trout.
This is the term used by the Maori of the Cook Strait region of the Kawakawa variety that is streaked with a shade of olive green.
Founder Pat Thompson
Pat Thompson was another prospector from Kumara who worked on the Kanieri Gold dredge. He arrived outside my factory one day, having worked the night shift, with a stone in the boot of his car. We both went out to look, he raised the boot lid, and as soon as I saw the stone I knew it was something special.
Pat's find was completely worn smooth, what’s known within the trade as "water washed". I knew from the time I first saw this stone that it would never be cut like so many of the beautiful water worn stones were in those early years. Stones like this are rare specimens indeed.