These three words we often hear being used in reference to that beautiful stone we treasure and value so much, and we get often asked 'what is the actual difference?'. The three words, to an extend mean the same thing, however there is a difference in intention when we use the word pounamu.
Nephrite jade is the word used around the world as nephite jade is found not only in New Zealand but also Canada, Siberia, Australia and many other countries. It refers to the mineral composition of the stone and is specific.
Captain Cook is said to be the first person using the word Greenstone. When he reached the shores of Aotearoa New Zealand, he noticed that Māori were wearing a 'green stone' which they also used for tools and trading. He did not know what it was and called it Greenstone.
Pounamu is the collective word we use to describe the various types of New Zealand Nephrite, Bowenite and Serpentinite and is the traditional te reo Māori name. The word Pounamu means much more than just a reference to the stone, as it embodies the cultural and spiritual significance that Māori held and are still holding for the stone .