Jade, Pounamu or Greenstone, what is the difference?

Jade AKA Pounamu AKA Greenstone

Whats the difference?

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

Pounamu is the Maori word for NZ Jade (Nephrite) but Tangiwai (Bowenite – a translucent Serpentine) and some other Serpentines are also included under Pounamu. Serpentine 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/ higher quality Serpentine.

I’ve read Greenstone is the term Captain Cook used to describe Maori Pounamu 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 name for the mineral nephrite. It is used worldwide and is specific

If a carving is being sold as Jade in NZ, it could be Pounamu (New Zealand Jade) or Jade from another country.

If a carving is sold as Greenstone in NZ, it should be Pounamu but could also be a Jade from another country.

If a carving is sold as Pounamu it should be NZ Jade or a high quality Serpentine (the seller should tell you as its quite obvious to the carver which it is)

Note: 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.

Here’s some carvings I’ve made out of beautiful Pounamu and other Jades from around the world.


Pounamu (NZ Jade)

Honey Olive Jade (Wyoming, USA)
Jade Bracelet

Midnight Black Pounamu (He owns the night)
pounamu ruru morepork
Cassiar Jade (Canada)

pounamu toki

Siberian Jade
siberian jade owl

pounamu ruru