Jade, Pounamu and Greenstone. What is the difference?

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

Pounamu is the Maori word for Jade but Tangiwai (Bowenite – a translucent Serpentine) is also Pounamu. Tangiwai is another 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 is confusing in nature as we have a lot of “green” stones. I don’t normally use the term greenstone.

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.

Jadeite is a semi precious stone. It is harder than Nephrite so takes longer to carve and finish.  It comes in a range of colours a little different than Nephrite. Along with white and green, jadeite comes in reds, lavenders and yellows.


– I would use Pounamu to describe NZ Jade (Nephrite) + some high quality Serpentine’s. 

– I don’t normally use the term Greenstone but it should mean the same as Pounamu.

Jade could refer to Pounamu or other jades from overseas (Nephrite and Jadeite).


More articles on jade carving

Can Pounamu only be gifted, is it ok to buy a piece for yourself?
Cloud fractures or cracks, what’s the difference? 
Jade carving, who do you work for?
Hand shaped jade beads

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Inanga Pounamu Ruru (Jade, Nephrite, Greenstone)
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Guatemalan Jadeite Dolphins (Jadeite, Jade)
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Pounamu Rolled Leaf (Jade, Nephrite, Greenstone)
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Siberian Jade beads (Jade, Nephrite)
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Jade insect necklace (17 different jades – both nephrite and jadeite from around the world)