‘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’. 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.