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Care of Bone Carvings

Your bone carving is made of highly polished bone. This is a porous material and over time absorbs oils from your skin turning to a soft honey gold colour wherever it has been in contact with your skin. This is normal and one of the great beauties of bone crafted jewelry.

To bring back the shine on your carving simply buff it with a soft cloth. In ancient times the high gloss polished finish of bone carvings was achieved by the wearer rubbing it with the hands over many months and years.
A bone carving not only looks good but it also feels nice to touch. Handling the carving will not only keep it nicely polished but will also allow your body oils to enter the carving making it a part of you. The Maori people believe it also takes on the spirit of all those who wear it so the more colour it develops the more highly it is treasured.

  • Be careful not to spill other coloured liquids onto the carving such as red wines etc as these will also be absorbed into the carving.
  • Though bone is a very hard material it can also be brittle and will break if dropped onto a hard surface such as a road or concrete pavement.
  • Small carvings should not be worn while sleeping as they may catch on bed clothing and be damaged.
  • Check the condition of the cord often.
  • Never use household cleaning or polishing compounds on your carving.
  • Rain and the swimming will not harm white (unstained) carvings but avoid sudden or extreme temperature changes such as wearing it in a very hot shower or spa. Swimming with it then allowing it to dry rapidly in the sun is also not good for the carving until it has been worn for at least six months against the skin to “cure” it with your body oils
  • Handle the carving often as the oils from your skin will keep the carving in good condition and protect it from the elements as well as giving it that nice antique look over time.
  • Stained or coloured carvings should not be worn in the shower or while swimming as salt water in particular will fade the stained portions of your carving. 
  • Some people have particularly strong perspiration so stained carvings may fade when worn against the skin.
Do you sell carvings made from Whale bone?

We at the Bone Art Place have a great love and respect for our natural world and strongly support conservation in general and the protection for whales in particular.
We do not sell any carvings in materials taken from whale or other protected species.
We support CITES which is an international treaty drawn up in 1973 to protect wildlife against over-exploitation, and to prevent international trade from threatening species.

What type of bone is used for carvings?

In pre-European times there were no cattle or other large land animals in New Zealand other than a large (now extinct) flightless bird called the Moa which stood up to 3mtrs tall. Some items were carved from its bone but it was really too light and porous. There were therefore only a couple sources of bone available for the larger carvings. Many large bone carvings were made from whale bone from stranded whales (the Maori did not hunt whales) which should be cured for several years before it can be used.
Smaller pieces such as needles, tattooing knives and spear tips were made from the bones of large birds such as the Albatross and Moa.The pieces on our site are all carved from cow bone which is now the only readily available source of bone suitable for carving. The bone has to be very fine grained, very dense and also thick enough to make the larger pieces. It is the high density and fine grain of the bone that gives it the ability to hold such a high gloss polish.

Are Jade, Pounamu and Greenstone the same thing?

The short answer is no. 

New Zealand jade is Nephrite Jade which has inclusions of other minerals giving it the interesting colour.
Jade or Greenstone are common names for the jade used to carve Maori designs. These terms include jade sourced from New Zealand and also imported stone from places like Australia or Canada.
New Zealand jade is sometimes hard to get so it is common for stock or cheaper carvings to be carved from a mixture of local and imported stone.
We can not 100% guarantee that every single "stock" carving is carved from New Zealand stone as they are often not made by our own carvers so we simply describe them as "jade"
There is not really a pure black New Zealand jade (very dark but not completely black) so pure black jades are generally Australian jade.

Pounamu however is the term for New Zealand jade so is only used when we have been assured by the carvers that it is really New Zealand jade.
You will find "Pounamu" carvings in our featured artists galleries and "Jade" in our stock carvings listings.

New Zealand Jade

There are two types of jade, "Jadeite" often known as Chinese imperial jade and "Nephrite" which is found in places like British Columbia, Siberia, Australia and New Zealand.

The Maori consider this stone sacred and call it "Pounamu"
It is so important to Maori that the Maori name for the South Island of New Zealand is "Te Wai Pounamu" meaning "The Waters of Greenstone"  
It is only found along the west coast of the South Island and the stone from each area has a distinct colour or tonal range so Maori gave each of these Pounamu varieties a name.

  • Kahurangi
    This has a strong but lighter toned clean apple green colour and is often very translucent. It is a high quality and very highly prized stone.
  • Kawakawa
    A stunning dark green stone which sometimes has dark spots suspended inside.  It is named after the Kawakawa tree leaf which is a similar dark green.
  • Inanga
    This highly prized stone has a huge range of colours from almost clear with a light blue tint to light grey or a pastel green. 
    It is named after the inanga or "white bait" which is a tiny native fish with similar colours.
  • Kokopu
    This unusual stone has a range mottled blue/green or brown appearances often with regular spots through parts of the stone.  It is named after the native kokopu trout which has similar colouration. It is sometimes referred to as "trout stone"
  • Totoweka
    A very rare dark grainy red/brown or deep green stone often peppered with red spots.
    Tot means blood and Weka is a native ground dwelling bird so it means "blood of the Weka"
  • Marsden flower
    Also referred to as "Arahura" this is an amazing and very dramatic stone with layers of strong colours throughout. It is very highly prized by carvers and is the epitome of New Zealand Pounamu.
    It comes from the Marsden district near  the town of Greymouth
  • Tangiwai
    A rare and highly prized stone which when held in the hand or against the skin is very dark but as soon as it is held out to the light it becomes very translucent green with lots of spots and shapes within.  It is a true "secret treasure"
    Tangiwai is Pounamu but it is a type of bowenite not a jade. 
  • Serpentine
    Again a Pounamu but not a jade, this stone has a range of pastel colours and a waxy feel to it.