Soar with Glide Omarama Precious Treasures: NZ Jewellery
NEW ZEALAND JEWELLERY
There is a long and rich history in New Zealand of crafting jewellery from natural resources; from when Maori first harvested pounamu (greenstone) from the riverbeds of the South Island to the gold rush of the 1860’s and in more recent times, we have seen the successful commercial production of blue pearls from paua (abalone).
Maori legend tells us of the origins of pounamu ... A taniwha (mythological aquatic creature) became enamoured with a beautiful woman, Waitaki, the wife of a chief. Wanting her for himself the taniwha abducted Waitaki and took her south, only to be relentlessly pursued by the chief. Ultimately, in a bid to keep Waitaki with him forever, the taniwha transformed her into pounamu and laid her down in a riverbed, where she was later found cold and lifeless by her husband. It is said that you can still hear the chief’s tangi (song of grief) echoing through the mountains to this day.
Pounamu is a type of Nephrite (greenstone) found only in the South Island and is considered to be a taonga or treasure by Maori. In its natural state, pounamu belongs to the Ngai Tahu, who are considered the Kaitaki (guardians) of this highly valued stone. Depending on the area where it comes from and upon the individual stone itself, a variety of colours, combinations of colour and textures are found, giving New Zealand greenstone it’s unique and appealing characteristics where within a single piece different colours merge.
Using ingenuity and skill Maori crafted weapons and tools from pounamu, which were not only hard-wearing and perfectly designed for their purpose, but also beautiful works of art. Items for adornment were also created such as necklaces, earrings and rings. The most recognisable neck pendant is called the Tiki – shaped like a human figure sitting cross-legged with head tilted to one side. Pounamu holds a significant role in Maori culture and artefacts crafted from this stone are regarded as increasing in mana or prestige as they are passed on from generation to generation.
Gold was the making of the economy in colonial New Zealand - from the 1860’s; gold rush followed upon gold rush with thousands flocking to the fields in the hope of finding their fortune. An increase in investments and shipping in New Zealand soon followed.
Gold has been used through the ages worldwide as a form of currency and a gift of gold has long been the symbol of lasting love and devotion. Gold does not corrode or tarnish like other metals; it is virtually eternal. Prized by artisans for its durability and malleability gold can be made into a vast array of jewellery items from the most delicate bracelet to a seemingly endless array of forms and shapes. Adding to the desirability of gold is its rarity – it can take the extraction of several tonnes of ore to yield just one ounce of gold.
Jewellery popular during the Victorian and Edwardian periods in NZ included hand-crafted pieces in gold and pounamu such as lockets, pendants and brooches. Today – let your imagination run free and whatever your heart’s desire, a skilled jeweller will be able to bring it to life.
Found in the cool, clear waters that surround the coastline of New Zealand, paua is the name given to abalone by Maori, who gathered the shellfish both for food and its shell which was highly valued both for decoration and jewellery.
Maori legend tells the story of the creation of the paua shell: Tangaroa, the god of the sea, saw that Paua had great difficulties without a shell and resolved to make a unique one for him. Taking the blues of the ocean and the greens of the forest and borrowing the violet of the dawn and the lightest pink of the sunset and blending it all together under a shimmer of mother-of-pearl. Finally, he added a drab grey coat to enable Paua to blend in with his rocky habitat.
Naturally formed pearls are a rarity and over time techniques have been perfected for creating “cultured” pearls. Nuclei implanting or “seeding” involves a nucleus being inserted, (along with a piece of mantle tissue to generate nacre deposition) into an area near the apex or whorl of the shell. Nacre or mother-of-pearl is a strong, resilient and iridescent organic-inorganic material that forms the outer coating of the pearl. It takes several years for a pearl to be ready for harvesting and each one is unique; the ideal centrepiece for bespoke eye-catching and vibrant jewellery that reflects the individuality of the wearer.
So, join us now and read on as we hear from some of the creators of jewellery crafted from this land’s precious natural resources and reflecting the beautiful, unique nature of the landscape and spirit of Aotearoa.