NZ Greenstone in Milford Sound

New Zealand greenstone, or 'pounamu' was used by Maori to make weapons and ornaments.

New Zealand greenstone is divided into several different varieties according to colour: Inanga is highly esteemed, its grey green colour resembling that of whitebait, Kahurangi is a lighter rarer stone, and Kawakawa is dark green, like the tree it is named after.

The greenstone at Milford, 'Tangiwai', is not really greenstone at all as it is not nephrite but brownite. However Tangiwai has all the mystique of pounamu and highly prized by Maori. It is softer than nephrite so easier to work. It is a very beautiful stone that ranges in colour from a blue-green to an olive-green. The true splendour of Tangiwai is only revealed when it has light behind it that illuminate the white speckles that resemble tear drops in the stone. Tangiwai means “tear water” in Maori.

The Origin of Greenstone

Tama-Ahua was deserted by his three wives, Hine-Kawakawa, Hine-Kahurangi, and Hine-Pounamu. Tama searched vainly round the southern coasts.

At Piopiotahi he heard a suspicious noise and paddled through the towering walls of the sound. There he found one of his wives turned into a translucent greenstone. He bent over the cold body. The tears ran down his face and onto the hard stone, penetrating it until the tangiwai was flecked with tears and remain to be seen there to this today.

 

About Pounamu

The true splendour of Tangiwai is only revealed when it has light behind it that illuminate the white speckles that resemble tear drops in the stone.