The Maori people are well known for their beautiful greenstone carvings.
The Maori word for greenstone is pounamu and it is often referred to as Maori jade or New
These works of art are becoming increasing popular throughout the world.
In his 2011 visit to the United States, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key
presented United States president Obama with a greenstone wahaika (Maori weapon).
Where Greenstone is Found
Greenstone is found only in the Westland area of New Zealandís south island.
It is mainly found near the Arahura and Taramakau rivers in Westland, in Milford Sound
(in Fiordlandand), and around Lake Wakatipu in Otago.
A town called Hokitika in the Westland area is referred to as the Jade capital of New Zealand.
This town attracts tourist from all over the world. There are
many shops offering all types of beautiful greenstone art.
The History of Greenstone Carving
Greenstone has played an important part in Maori history and the Maori consider
it a treasure (taonga). Over thousands of years Greenstone has been used to make beautiful jewelry and
due to its hardness has also been use to make tools and weapons. Greenstone is so hard that often
the artist who carve it must use diamond cutting tools.
Weapons made out of greenstone were not only used in fighting but were often used in ceremonies, carried
by chiefs to show their high status, and sometime offered as a symbol of peace.
Before entering into battle Maori Warriors would sometimes wear jade around their necks for good luck.
After killing an enemy, warriors would often take their jade for themselves.
The Maori truly treasured these items and would often pass down items made from greenstone
from generation to generation.
Types of Greenstone
Greenstone is classified into the following categories by the Maori:
- Kako-Tea: Is dark green and has black spots.
- Kohuwai: Named after the green moss that grows in some streams.
- Kawa-kawa: This stone has a strong green color with varying shades.
- Inanga (Whitebait): This stone is a very pale green.
- Totoweka: Greenstone that is spotted (or streaked) with red. This stone is very rare.
- Kahurangi: A bright green stone with faint streaks resembling rolling clouds.
Greenstone Carving Designs
There are several shapes that are carved by the Maori which have special spiritual significance for
them. Beautiful greenstone carvings of these shapes hand carved by Maori artist can be found at
The Bone Art Place
For more information about the meanings of these shapes see
Maori carving designs
Examples of these shapes include:
- Koru (spiral)
- Hei Matau (Fish Hook)
- Single Twist
- Double or Triple twist
- Hei Tiki
- Whale Tail