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.

Fake Pounamu?
Jade (both Nephrite and Jadeite) is found in a lot of countries and has been highly valued in different cultures for thousands of years.  You could/and do get jades from overseas described as Pounamu.  This is obviously deceitful.

This is an ongoing article. 


pounamu ruru
Pounamu Ruru

Guatemalan blue jadeite eagle ray
Pounamu Rolled Leaf