The Formation of New Zealand Jade (Pounamu)

New Zealand Pounamu- Nephrite Jade

Jade, Pounmau, Greenstone and Nephrite are all names associated with a precious gemstone found on the West coast of the South Island of New Zealand. The Maori word Pounamu is also used to describe other precious stones like serpentine and bowentine. NZ Jade was and still is a revered taonga (treasure) to Maori and was used to make tools, weapons, adornment and gifts.

Chemical Properties

Nephrite consists of interlocking fibres of calcium, magnesium iron rich amphibole. The higher the iron content, the greener the colour. Nephrite Jade is a tough stone graded at 6.0-6.5 on the Mohs scale, with diamond as a 10.

How is Jade formed?

Jade is formed in subduction zones which, are collisions between two tectonic plates. The plates involved in the creation of our Pounamu are the Pacific and Australian plates. The Pacific plate which carries the chemicals necessary for the formation of Jade flows under the Australian plate. This collision combined with high pressure and relatively low temperatures create the structure of our Pounamu.

Types of New Zealand Jade (Pounamu)


Kahurangi literally means prized, precious, honourable, distinguished and treasured. 

Kahurangi is also a type of light-green, translucent greenstone without flaws or spots that is highly prized.
Kahurangi also means blue as in the phrase, 'Kahu o te Rangi' meaning 'the cloak of the heavens'.


Kawakawa Pounamu is the strongest and darkest form of pounamu. It is not usually translucent and occasionally has black flecks through the stone.
It shares its name with the New Zealand native Kawakawa plant, which is known for its medicinal and culinary properties. 


Inanga Pounamu is identified by its pearly white or grey/green colours, with varying translucency.
This stone gained its name from the New Zealand Inanga Whitebait fish. 


Raukaraka Pounamu has yellow and orange hues that blend into the greens.
This stone shares its name with the New Zealand native Karaka tree. 


The spotted textures and range of colour give this stone a diverse presence. Kokopu Pounamu shares its name with the New Zealand native fish.


Totoweka Pounamu has deep greens with red dots or streaks.
This stone takes it's name from the New Zealand native bird, the Weka. 


Tahutahi is the rarest type of all stones. It has a vibrant green colour with a snowflake imprint. 


Auhunga Pounamu is a pale opaque green colour. Resembling the Southern New Zealand mountains, its name translates to frosty. 

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