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Jade: the treasure of New Zealand

Jade: the treasure of New Zealand


Have you seen Lord of the Rings? The Chronicles of Narnia? King Kong? Hollywood has tapped into New Zealand's natural beauty and wide-open spaces to create beautiful backdrops for some of your favorite movies. But a closer look at New Zealand's jagged mountains and winding river beds reveals one of the country's most prized possessions--its supply of pounamu, or green jade.

New Zealand is one nation, but two islands. There is a North Island, where Auckland and the capital Wellington are located, and a South Island, where the landscape comes alive. Before Europeans arrived in New Zealand there were Polynesian inhabitants, called Maori. They settled New Zealand almost one thousand years ago, and called the hard, green rock found in the South Island's mountain and riverbeds pounamu, which means 'greenstone.' Carefully cutting, carving and polishing the pounamu, they created tools. weapons and jewelry so beautiful that the European settlers, who arrived in the eighteenth century, traded their Western goods for the jade creations.

Today, Maori carvings are a major part of New Zealand culture. Necklaces made of New Zealand jade are worn by everyone, from native-born Kiwis, as New Zealanders are called, to tourists from around the world. Some of the most popular Maori necklace designs are the tiki, the matau and the koru.

With its large head and stout body, the tiki is one of the most famous Maori carvings. Many people wear jade tiki necklaces to remind them of past ancestors. Another popular carving, the matau, or fish hook, is said to be good luck for fishermen heading off to sea. The koru, an endless spiral shaped like the new stalks of a fern, symbolizes new beginnings and growth.

Contemporary New Zealand jewelry designers have taken liberties with their jade necklace patterns, creating pendants featuring different animals, symbols, and abstract patterns.

You don't have to travel to the other side of the world to experience New Zealand's jade creations. Check out this website to learn more:

COPYRIGHT 2006 International Child Art Foundation
COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale Group

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