Last Christmas 2015, SIC completely sold out of our first batch of fashioned Kōhatu strung on white turquoise necklaces. The Kōhatu was sourced sustainably from Tīmoti, a wonderful local kaitiaki and carver, who has a strong ancestral line connected to Pounamu and was drawn to his own awa (river) and the tāonga through a series of revealing dreams.
At first sight, we were all sure our taōnga were a form of īnanga or white Pounamu nephrite but when we met with NZ Pounamu expert Russell Beck, he confirmed it wasn’t ‘white jade’ but Rodingite-Hydrogrossular-garnet – a tāonga that has traditionally been mistaken for jadeite. Our own journey to knowledge has inspired us so much we wish now to share information on this beautiful rare rock/stone.
Early Māori used stones including garnet to cut and polish weapons & implements – hence the name Kōhatu (cutting or hammer stone). Kōhatu was used as a tool to shape Pōunamu (Nephrite) and Pākōhe (Argillite). Kōhatu is very hard (around 7-7.5 on the MoHs scale) so perhaps it is only with the advent of the modern lapidary saw that Kōhatu can now be cut and fashioned for gems and adornments.
Garnet is the group name for several closely related minerals that form important gemstones, including Grossular. Grossular or Grossularite is the most varicolored of the garnets, and it’s colour is indicative of various impurities. Pure Grossular is colorless. A compact, massive calcium-rich form called Hydrogrossular is often regarded as a variety of Grossular, but is chemically distinct from true Grossular.
Hydrogrossular is found across New Zealand. Two other forms of garnet; Hessonite and common Almandine garnet are also found in NZ. Hydrogrossular is also found in South Africa, Russia, Canada, the United States. White hyrdogrossular can be sourced from Burma and China. Good quality gems are very rare.
Hydrogrossular can be carved into gemstones and polished in cabochons. Unlike other garnets it is never transparent. It ranges from translucent to opaque. The most common color is a green, to bluish-green, but we have seen Kōhatu in all shades of gold, grey, white, pink, and multi-colored. Flecks of black “pepper” reflect the magnetite within. Because of its coloring and translucency, Hydrogrossular is often used as a jade substitute (hence our initial mistake).
Early Ngāi Tahu used Hūkatai (sea foam) or white stones (representing intellect/intelligence) coupled with with Rehutai (sea spray) red stones (representing intuition), to show the assimilation of the dual forms of wisdom. They were used practically for shrines, to protect tapu (sacred areas) māuri (life force) and practically in many healing and worship ceremonies (Robinson). We are really intrigued that in New Zealand this hdyro or ‘water stone’ naturally manifests as both Hūkatai- white and Rehutai – reddish stones.
In modern Crystalogy, Kōhatu is regarded as having a strong calming masculine energy with the traditional Grossular powers of: protection, strength and balance along with the qualities of water stones: healing, soothing, enhancing wellbeing. Grossular helps to calm emotions and enable reasoning. It is a good crystal to deflect worry, and fears. It has particular influence for Aquarius, Cancer and Capricorns with an energy associated with family and the number six
NZ Garnet info: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/interactive/5125/garnets
If you would like to commission a unique piece of Kōhatu we can source many designs in clear Kōhatu, clear flecked, grey, grey-white, gold, green and brilliant white. Our unique tāōnga tracing systems guarantee provenance, cultural and sustainable harvesting practices. POA.