How to Find Greenstone in Hokitika
Hokitika is world-famous for its sunset but, most importantly, its pounamu, also known as greenstone. The town brands itself as “Jade Country” and every jade shop displays stunning hand-crafted pieces carved by local artists. Many shops will even give you access to their carving studio so you can see the artists at work.
As a keen backpacker, you might be looking at how to make the most of your time in Hokitika. Looking for greenstone is a great way to gather tokens of your trip in New Zealand or finding a gift without having to spend heaps. You can even bring them to carving studios and carve your own jade necklace – something that is culturally significant to the Maori people. How unique is that for a souvenir of your gap year?
The problem is greenstone is not that easy to find. Follow our tips below for the best chances to find that precious jade. By the way, if you need a place to stay in Hokitika, how about these 5 Best Backpacker Hostels in Hokitika.
1. The Best Spots to Find Greenstone in the Hokitika Area are:
Let’s start with the basics. To find greenstone you will have to find a good spot. The locals usually recommend the following spots to find the best jade:
- Along the beaches from Greymouth: any rocky beach along the way will hide its fair share of greenstone
- At the river mouth in Hokitika: jade often deposits from the river at the river mouth
- Near Barrytown: the small settlement north of Hokitika used to be a hot spot for greenstone before English settlement
- Around the shipwreck: the Hokitika beach is famous for its driftwood sign but also its huge shipwreck. Look around it for greenstone.
Note: Do not look for or collect greenstone at the Arahura River. This is sacred Maori land protected by the local iwi (tribe).
2. Ask for Tips from the Locals
Many locals in the area are carvers themselves, each with their own tips and spots to look for greenstone. Almost none of them will have twice the same tip, so go ahead and talk to the locals. They love to share their knowledge.
3. Look Where it’s Wet
When looking for greenstone, follow the tide line where it is wet. Greenstone will only appear green when they are wet. It will help you spot them very easily as opposed to looking between one dry grey stone and another.
4. Figure Out the Pattern of the Water Current
Once you have decided on which beach to spend time on, take five minutes to figure out the pattern of the current. You do not want to be looking near the rip (where the water is going back to sea) but where the water is washing onto the beach where it drops off the most stones.
5. Spot the Difference
Walk along the beach barefoot where the waves ripple and look for stones that shine more than the others. The waves do most of the work for you by moving them constantly. Your job is to spot what looks different and investigate.
6. Compare Your Finds to These Pictures
When on the beach, this is what you are looking for: On the left, greenstone. On the right, random rocks found on the same beach. As you can see, greenstone comes in all shapes, sizes and shades. Load this picture onto your phone for reference when hunting for jade.
7. Use a Bit of Sandpaper
A small piece of sandpaper is the best tool to take with you when looking for greenstone. When you find what could be greenstone, sand it for a few seconds with the sandpaper. Greenstone will create white power that, when washed off with water, will leave the stone greener.
8. Confirm Your Find with Body Oil
If you are almost sure that this is greenstone that you are holding in your hand, one of the best ways to confirm one more time is to rub it onto your forehead or face to cover it with body oil. This should make the stone shine green as if it was polished.
9. Triple-check with a Local Jade Shop
Now that you have 3-4 stones that have passed all the tests above, you are pretty much set for success. Take your stones to a local shop to confirm that you have greenstone. You may even be able to turn your find into an awesome necklace in BoNZ & StoNZ. Why not?!
10. Let the Stone Find You
Following all the tips above is sure to set you up for a successful greenstone hunt, but the Maori legend says that you do not find the greenstone, the greenstone finds you. Its mystical power matches those in your soul and you are paired for life. So, you really thought you were a good hunter? Think again! For more legends behind the greenstone, see The Greenstone Pendant Meanings.
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