I became officially designated a fool in a town called Ross. You see a few days earlier I had travelled up the coast with a riding mate on our way to the official opening of the Paparoa Track. Given the long journey from the Deep South, we decided to break up the road trip and spend a day on the southern section of the West Coast Wilderness Trail. As planned, we arrived in Hokitika just in time for the free daily tour at the Mountain Jade store on the main street. Our tour leader, Brianna, gathered our small group and led us into a side room where she provided an informative talk about our country’s jade. She certainly is a rich mine of information, easily sharing her knowledge on all things jade. I glean from her, via backlit samples from around the world, the distinctiveness of our nephrite jade, its traditional uses and how it originates deep in the Alps before erosion over geological time washes it out to the West Coast beaches.

Watching the artists at work is a treat. Shaping the greenstone is a fine art (Mountain Jade)

Next, we are taken to the cutting room where huge circular saws cut the rock into workable slabs. Skilled craftspeople extract the best value from the raw stones by slicing them in different orientations. This water-lubricated process still produces a fine white powder which settles in every nook and cranny of the room. Punters like us stay clean in a glassed-off area that affords perfect viewing of the goings-on. The freshly cut stone slabs are then transported into the manufacturing room where artists transform raw pieces of the green rock into valuable and delicate artworks. We watch through a glass partition as a woman sitting quietly on a stool skilfully shapes and smooths the small stones. It is a fascinating process watching a jewel becoming jewellery.

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