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Pounamu (New Zealand greenstone) is a highly prized hard nephrite jade found in New Zealand and parts of Australia. It is composed of chlorite and epidote which makes the stone a mid-to-dark green colour.

Greenstone rocks are generally found in rivers. They appear as nondescript boulders and stones and are difficult to identify without cutting them open. The mining of pounamu is closely controlled.

The Māori call the South Island of New Zealand Te Wai Pounamu, meaning "The [land of] Greenstone Water". Pounamu is highly valued by the Māori and it plays an important role in their culture. It is considered a taonga or treasure, and so is protected under the Treaty of Waitangi.

Pounamu is a very hard stone and must be worked with care and patience. Today, diamond tools are often used to carve it, and it can be turned into beautiful jewellery such as Hei-tiki. Much of this is in traditional Māori designs. Pounamu jewelery is now very popular among New Zealanders and is seen as somewhat iconic of the country. Such jewelery is often used as gifts to visitors. Viggo Mortensen of The Lord of the Rings fame, took to wearing a hei matau around his neck. Michael Hurst of the television program Hercules was gifted a large and heavy pounamu pendant necklace which he wore on the program. During a particularly energetic action scene the pendant hit his teeth. The producers felt the ornament suited the nature of the program yet a safety risk and so had it replaced with a latex replica.

Because pounamu is so hard it has been used as an alternative to iron in axes and similar hand tools. The Māori club, the mere, was often made of pounamu. Pounamu artefacts were often given as gifts to seal important agreements.

See also

  • Greenstone Digital Library Software
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Pounamu". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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