Huge green­stone haul for GNS


A col­lec­tion of one of the coun­try’s most cher­ished nat­u­ral taonga has been gifted to the peo­ple of New Zealand.

Green­stone ex­pert Rus­sell Beck has do­nated his per­sonal ref­er­ence col­lec­tion of pounamu and jade, which will be held as part of the GNS Na­tional Rock and Min­eral Col­lec­tion.

The 1500 sam­ple pieces from New Zealand and around the world have be­come the Beck In­ter­na­tional Jade Re­search Col­lec­tion, which was for­mally handed over on Thurs­day at the GNS re­search in­sti­tute in Lower Hutt.

Beck has stud­ied green­stone for more than 50 years and has be­come New Zealand’s fore­most pounamu ex­pert. He has worked closely with GNS and Nga¯i Tahu to sur­vey de­posits in the South Is­land and has trav­elled widely to in­spect oth­ers across the globe.

He is also a carver and has au­thored four books on jade and pounamu. He was made an Of­fi­cer of the New Zealand Or­der of Merit for ser­vices to art and lo­cal his­tory in 2000.

GNS prin­ci­pal sci­en­tist Dr Si­mon Cox said Beck’s work had been very im­por­tant to both the ge­o­log­i­cal un­der­stand­ing of the stone and its re­la­tion­ship with hu­man his­tory.

‘‘GNS is ab­so­lutely thrilled to be look­ing af­ter this col­lec­tion on be­half of New Zealand.

‘‘This col­lec­tion is pos­si­bly the only col­lec­tion world­wide, to have all the main lo­cal­i­ties in the world [where green­stone is found] rep­re­sented. It’s cer­tainly the only one I’m aware of.’’

The col­lec­tion could be used for a num­ber of pur­poses such as pro­mot­ing re­search on the prop­er­ties and for­ma­tion of the stone, ar­chae­o­log­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tions and the study of ero­sion.

Pounamu also faced pres­sure as a re­source and the col­lec­tion will be used to in­ves­ti­gate sus­tain­abil­ity and trade­mark­ing is­sues.

GNS worked in close con­sul­ta­tion with Nga¯i Tahu to es­tab­lish the col­lec­tion. Own­er­ship of all New Zealand’s nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring pounamu de­posits in the South Is­land were re­turned to the iwi un­der the Nga¯i Tahu (Pou- namu Vest­ing) Act 1997.

Nga¯i Tahu kauma¯tua Sir Tipene O’Re­gan said the iwi’s re­la­tion­ship with Beck was highly val­ued and went back a num­ber of years.

Pounamu was an ex­tremely im­por­tant ma­te­rial to Ma¯ori and par­tic­u­larly Nga¯i Tahu, and Beck’s sur­vey work had been in­valu­able to their un­der­stand­ing of it as a re­source.

‘‘[Beck] has made a huge con­tri­bu­tion to our own un­der­stand­ing of pounamu which is es­sen­tial to our her­itage and cul­tural story.’’


Rus­sell Beck ad­dresses the crowd at the gift­ing event at the GNS re­search in­sti­tute in Lower Hutt.

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