The term greenstone is self-explanatory but, like many field terms, covers a variety of mineralogical compositions and textures. It is well known that the Maoris of New Zealand have long used greenstone for their axes and ornaments, as did the ancient Chinese and peoples of Central America. However, in these cases the greenstone is predominantly composed of an amphibole, nephrite, a member of the actinolite-tremolite series. Variation in the Fe/Mg ratio of the nephrite provides an attractive colour range from very pale to dark green. Generally such greenstone artefacts are sold commercially as 'jade', although only rarely are they actually made out of the pyroxene, jadeite. Neolithic greenstone axes from Britain are different again and rarely completely composed of such an amphibole, although the mineral species is often present in variable amounts owing to subsequent alteration.
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Last updated: Wed Jul 1 2009