Jade, Pounamu or Greenstone, what is the difference?

What’s 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 included under 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.

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).

*This is an ongoing article. 


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