New Zealand is a country of diversity. This is evident in the form of rocks and minerals found in abundance. The South Island of New Zealand provides ample opportunities for the amateur rockhounder to indulge in a little treasure seeking.
The most famous New Zealand rock is Jade. It is also called Greenstone, or Pounamu in the Maori language. It is illegal for anyone but Maori to remove greenstone from its source river, the Arahura. However, it is possible to find samples in other rivers and on the beaches of the west coast of the South Island. While difficult to tell from its relatives, Serpentine and Bowenite, there are a few telltale signs to look for. Greenstone has a soapy feel when wet and maintains a shine just from rubbing it as it takes up oils from the skin. Greenstone is also heavier than Serpentine and Bowenite. No piece bigger than eight kilograms is allowed to be taken from any location.
Greenstone is not the only rock worth hunting for. Bowenite, though generally less sought after, contains a beautiful translucency, which gives it a lovely appearance when made into jewellery.
There are a range of semi-precious stones found across the whole of the South Island. In the Nelson region we find granite and Grossular garnet (a green garnet). Red garnets, Jade, Tourmaline crystals, and Goodletite* all come from the west coast. Agates and jasper abound on the east coast; and pink manganese further south in Otago. These are just some examples of the delights to be found around the island.
Jasper in a range of colors, including red, brown, green, and purple is found in many rivers in North Canterbury. Quartz is easy to locate. Present, but not so common are moss quartz, carnelian (orange quartz), and smoky quartz.
The accessibility to material is relatively easy. Most riverbeds and beaches will yield an assortment of rock to select from. A number of ‘gemstone beaches’ are well known locally, such as Birdlings Flat near Christchurch and Orepuki Beach on the southern coast.
Local knowledge is very useful for a rockhound. Chatting with people in the area is a fine way to get information little known to the average tourist. People interested in rocks are only too willing to share locations to visit and what mineral you can expect to find.
There are numerous places which are not accessible to the public. Permission must be gained from the landowner before attempting to explore an interesting region. Here is where gaining some local knowledge is invaluable. Many wonderful fossil sites and mineral sources originate on privately owned land. However, for the hobbyist, public areas are sure to delight and provide generous quantities of rocks which are both varied and interesting.
* Goodletite, also called Ruby Rock, is a relatively recent discovery. It comprises a blend of sapphire, ruby, and tourmaline crystals in an emerald green fuchsite.