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The inanga variety of pounamu takes its name from inanga – a native freshwater fish (Galaxias maculatus). The young of this species are commonly known as whitebait. Inanga pounamu resembles the pale colour and transparency of the mata (young whitebait).
Inanga pounamu is described as pearly-white or grey-green, and varies from translucent to opaque. It can change colour over time, developing a light-olive tint as it ages and oxidises. The mere pounamu (nephrite weapon) is an example of this aging.
Maori sometimes heat-treated other varieties of pounamu at low temperatures to give them inanga’s silvery characteristics.
Inanga is found in most of New Zealand’s seven pounamu source areas, and is especially prized by southern Maori.
Map of New Zealand's pounamu source areas.