February 26, 2018 - Serpentine, Turpentine
My little camouflage camping worked out well. At least I didn't find a ticket under my wipers so I assume all was good. I woke up before the alarm went off and I quickly changed from my nightdress into my daydress. Pants really. Then I drove to a public toilet I had seen the day before and did my business. I made fresh coffee and deiced to pay the local New World supermarket a visit to buy some high protein yogurt for my muesli and some coffee. Before 8.30 I was on my way to Jade country, Hokitika. The stretch between Greymouth ad Hokitika on the west coast is famous the New Zealand greenstone which is actually jade. I'm pretty sure you have seen the typical green carvings from New Zealand with either the spiral or the double twist or the hook or one of the lucky charms and protector symbols. Once you are in NZ you can find them almost everywhere where you find tourists.
I had read on the Internet (of course) that you can go jade fossicking on the beach and take your treasure to local carvers and either have them carve something or even carve something yourself under their supervision. That would be an awesome souvenir! Once in Hokitika I went to the first carver I saw (one that offered do-it-yourself carving too) and enquired about the deal. I also wanted an expertise of the handful of greenstone I had collected on a beach before. Well, I had a nice sample of serpentine which was also a Poukumaku, greenstone. Yet, it was not the jade version. Serpentine, Turpentine. I still had the option to go and look for some more at the beach in town or buy a piece from them and carve my pendant or whatever piece. That would be abut a half-day's work and cost me NZ$180. Not too bad. I told them I'd think about it and do some more jade hunting first.
Before I went out to the beach again I strolled through town some more and stopped here and there to look at some jade jewellery. One shop (with really beautiful pieces) had a film running which gave some background information on the traditional jade carving and the meaning to the Maori. I was fascinated to see what that stone can do and how difficult and tedious the work was back in the time where things were truly handmade. Very conveniently for me, they sold the DVDs of the film and I bought one.
So I combed the beach for about two hours and picked up some more pieces mot of which I was pretty sure wasn't anything either. I just didn't have the eye for it. When I got back I saw a couple who offered their carved pieces on the parking lot. They said they used certified New Zealand jade and not imported one like most of the shops in town did. They even had a certificate with them. I asked them why everyone advertised with 100% New Zealand then. Brett said because it's carved in NZ but the jade comes from somewhere else. I then showed him my new collection of rocks and once again I had a nice collection of greenstone but not jade. I rock!
Then he consoled me and said he'd be surprised if I even found a piece on the beach. He was from that area and grew up there, his wife had lived there for over 30 years and both have found five or six pieces on the beach in all those years. The whole sending-the-tourist-to-the-beach-to-go-look-for-their-own-jade is just a joke. The jade comes from the mountains and the glaciers and is washed down in the rivers. Those then lows into the ocean and of course some pieces of jade are flushed back onto the beach. But the number is very small. The vast majority of jade is found in the river inland closer to the mountains.
That area however is by law protected for the Maori only. If you get caught jade fossicking there you might end up spending up to seven years in prison. There isn't even a penalty fee, it's directly prison. I'm not sure if everything he said is true, I would have to check it. However, I'm glad he told me because I had actually been playing with the idea of driving up into the mountains and go to the river there. I mean, I wouldn't mind spending a few years in NZ but not in prison.
Since Brett and his wife Janice were such a friendly and helpful couple who worked for themselves and not for a bigger shop I decided to buy some pieces from them. The prices were slightly cheaper which of course I didn't mind. I knew though that the process of making a piece takes some time and skill. Then there is the jade itself. There is no way to get a handmade piece at a dumping price. I picked four pieces, one of which was free because of the amount I had picked and am proud owner of nice greenstone. (FYI, only one piece is for me 😉 )