Authentic New Zealand Pounamu tells stories of pride and understanding, strength, empathy and leadership. No two pieces are the same, no stone not treated with the utmost respect by those who source and carve it.
Renowned for its beauty and strength, the rare stone is highly valued by both Māori and greater New Zealand. While generically known as ‘greenstone’ Pounamu refers to the particular types of hard nephrite jade, bowentine or serpertine found in southern New Zealand.
With the strong spiritual connection Māori have with the stone a number of different stories and characteristics have been bestowed on the stone and it’s wearers over the generations.
This is just one of the reasons why Pounamu is described as taonga, or treasure, by those who know its qualities.
Ngāi Tahu are the principal Māori iwi (tribe) of southern New Zealand, the kaitiaki (guardians) of greenstone and the only source of authentic Pounamu. In 1997 the New Zealand government returned the rights of Pounamu ownership to Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, the iwi’s elected tribal council.
This was a huge moment both for the tribe and for the greater identity of New Zealand. The southern islands are known by many as Te WaiPounamu which, translated, means the Greenstone Isle.
The importance of the stone to the greater identity of Māori cannot be undervalued. Along with rights to Pounamu came key responsibilities. Ensuring it can be sustainably managed means not just caring for the stone, but also protecting and advocating for the rivers it comes from, the artists that shape it and the communities that surround it.
The Pounamu Resource Management Plan of 2002 was a huge step forward in how the rare stone could be protected and valued by all of New Zealand.
By leading the new certification system Ngāi Tahu have continued to advocate for and uphold the cultural importance of the stone as a personal taonga, a commercially valuable commodity and an important natural resource.
Individuals or businesses can be licensed to use the authenticity assurance scheme developed under the authority of the Ngāi Tahu tribal council. By joining the system carvers and retailers can be sure they are receiving authentic, correctly sourced stone. And those that purchase the products can support the only true New Zealand greenstone - New Zealand Pounamu.
“It has been sought after and fought for, wept over and treasured, for almost the whole human story of Aotearoa. Its merits as weapon or ornament, as tool or treasure, are the suff of the proverbial whakatauakī and metaphor; and possession of pounamu has long been a mark of wealth and prestige, a mark of mana.”
Sir Tipene O’Regan