Greenstone / Pounamu / Jade?

What is the difference?

Greenstone / Pounamu / Jade are often the same thing from different angles.

Pounamu is the Maori word for NZ Jade (Nephrite) but Tangiwai (Bowenite – a translucent Serpentine) and some other Serpentine’s are also included under Pounamu. Tangiwai is translucent green stone we have in New Zealand and is very similar to Jade though more fragile. I would use Pounamu to describe New Zealand Jade or Tangiwai.

“Greenstone” is the term Captain Cook used to describe Maori Jade carvings. It’s a term that is only used in New Zealand/Australia and can be confusing in nature as we have a lot of “green” stones.

Jade is the common word for nephrite. It is used worldwide and is specific. Internationally the term Jade is used for two different stones – Nephrite and Jadeite. In New Zealand all our Jade is Nephrite but overseas the term Jade could be used for either depending on where you are.

You can find out more about Nephrite and Jadeite here.

You can see photos of different types of Pounamu, other Nephrites and Jadeites on our Jades page.

This is an ongoing article.