Greenstone jewelry has a long tradition in New Zealand. Pounamu is the name given by Maoris. The stone was a prized possession with values above gold among the traditional Maori people.
The durable characteristics cultivated the use for tools, weapons, and personal wearable artefacts. Tools ranged from adze a form of axe to matau the fish-hook and patu a short club. The amount and quality of personal art corresponded to the rank one held within a tribe, or the tribe within rival tribes. Anyone could carve but only true masters were asked for their service to craft ceremonial objects and objects of honour.
An act of bravery proved to be the recovery of pounamu and perseverance to work this exceptional hard material. Men who mastered both enjoyed high respect as experts. The resources are located on the South Island in the land of the Ngāi Tahu people. However, the stone was treasured on the North Island all the same. Tribes of the south used it regularly for trade.
The four variations of greenstone are: a very clear greenstone named kahurangi, in kawakawa black dots are viewable, aotea is the stone retrieved from Milford Sound that has signs of tears, and takiwai.
Carved jewelry was worn around the neck or in pierced ears. Often practical utensils like matau or poria a parrot leg ring gave motif for decorative pieces.
The most ancient of design is the hei-tiki. It represents ancestors. The shape embodies the human figure variations give information about regional origin.
Maori language was an oral language that passed stories and events on
through objects. The hei-tiki is such a typical object. As heirloom, the
hei-tiki keeps memory, mana, and stories around its pre-possessors
alive. It changes ownership always with the story it is related to.
Ancestral success defines its spiritual and magical value.
With modern technology carving greenstone jewelry gift became a lot easier to craft. The traditional motifs live on in today’s design paired with contemporary influences of each carver.
On the North Island living master carver Ewan Parker and Wayne Turnbull even use the traditional technique to insert paua pieces into their eyes for their wide selection on hei-tiki carvings.
Some exquisite New Zealand jade jewelry from a selection of carvers is found under this link. Presented artists use green or black jade. Some stay two-dimensional and others create amazing sculptures to wear around your neck. The outcome is a New Zealand gift with high traditional and contemporary significance.