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Tangiwai is clear like glass, and ranges from olive-green to bluish-green in colour.
Tangiwai is the most ancient form of pounamu. It is bowenite rock, which is different in composition to the more common nephrite. Most tangiwai is sourced from two isolated areas at Piopiotahi (Milford Sound).
Tangiwai takes its name from the tears that come from great sorrow. Tangi means "to cry" and wai means "water", or "tears". Koko-tangiwai, the longer name for this stone, refers to a deep sorrow that is never completely healed.
There are many sad stories that tell of tangiwai pounamu’s origins. In one of them, Waitaiki – stolen from her husband, Tamaahua, by Poutini, a taniwha (supernatural being) – weeps onto the rocks at Piopiotahi (Milford Sound). Her tears form tangiwai, the tear-water stone.
Map of New Zealand's pounamu source areas.