Friday, May 1, 2009

Maori Greenstone Jewelry

The necklace on the left is a Maori greenstone pendant, a type of jade called nephrite. The Maori call this type of jade "Pounamu" in their native language, which translates to "greenstone." It's an extremely hard stone, harder than steel, and that, combined with its beauty, made it highly prized among the Maori tribes for tools, weapons, and jewelry. Nephrite jade can be found in the remote river valleys of the Southern Alps and the west coast area of the South Island in New Zealand. The supplies have become severely diminished, and as a result, the government of New Zealand banned the exportation of greenstone from New Zealand in 1947.

Greenstone pendants are worn as spiritual guardians. This particular pendant represents a chief in Maori mythology who ruled the land of Hawaiki. The symbol is supposed to represent a fish tail, the human body, and the beak of a bird. 

The Maori culture (Maori, by the way, are the indigenous people of New Zealand) has enjoyed a special resurgence in New Zealand in recent years. The number of people who speak the Maori language is increasing, and more focus has been placed on the traditions of the Maori people. I encourage you to watch the very short video below about the importance of greenstone to the Maori culture.


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