Authentic pieces from the sparkling collection of New Zealand jade at Arrowtown’s Jade & Opal Factory can be found in homes all around the world.
The business, locally owned by the Mullings family, has a rich history in hand carving nephrite jade, better known as pounamu or greenstone, into magni cent large-scale sculptural art works, a range of beautiful traditional jewellery and customised Svord knife handles.
“The selection we have on display is predominantly hand carved by our master carver, Lee-Roy Mullings,” says manager Lisa Marshall. “What makes these pieces so distinctive and sought after is that they are made right here in Arrowtown in our carving studio. We pride ourselves on perfecting the stone’s nal polish and nish – something that requires high quality skills from the carver.”
The Jade & Opal Factory was established by Gary Mullings in the 1990s and his son Lee-Roy trained under renowned Queenstown master carver Rob Lynes.
The family business has always been based around hand crafting raw stone into original and beautiful pieces.
“Quite often the stone itself dictates the nal shape that is carved by its size, colour and any natural fractures,” says Lisa. “Typically, a large stone is rst cut by Lee-Roy into a large sculptural piece and then he recuts what is left into pendants, bracelets and jewellery items. Nothing is left to waste and if there are left-over stones, they can be tumbled and polished into little specimen pieces for people to buy.”
Located in one of Arrowtown’s oldest, heritage buildings in the heart of Buckingham Street the store offers the only jade carving workroom open to the public in the region.
“We are lucky to have one of the few female carvers, Emily Cannan from Dunedin, assisting Lee-Roy. She loves working with stone and produces some of our disc pendants,” says Lisa. “It’s a really good way to learn the intricacies of polishing and getting a feel for the stone.”
There is an intriguing array of traditional jade jewellery sold instore such asToki, Koru, Fishhook, Pi Circles andTwist pendants. Lisa says they make ideal gifts for visitors to take home or as a present for someone travelling overseas.
“Quite a few people don’t wear a lot of jewellery these days, but we nd they will wear a piece of New Zealand jade, particularly guys. We sell a lot of jade pendants for birthday presents, weddings and for couples starting a family – it’s a unique and natural gift that is traditional yet modern.”
Keeping the craft local is important to the Mullings family and the Queenstown Bead Shop provides most of the intricate binding required to nish Toki pendants and other pieces. Smaller braided bracelets and necklaces are woven and completed by Lee-Roy’s wife Nicola.
“The pieces Nicola makes are cool and very popular, kids love them. Our point of difference is the broad range of products here – anyone who comes into the store can and something they like, and you can spend as much as $20,000 or as little as $2 and take something home.”
“We have earned a reputation for well-priced New Zealand jade and are often asked why our prices are so reasonable. It’s really down to the fact that we work with the stone ourselves and are a locally owned Arrowtown business without the overheads a Queenstown store has,” says Lisa. “Some of the jade pieces are bought in from select carvers around the country to keep up with supply and demand but its Lee-Roy’s work, particularly the large sculptural pieces, that are our major attraction.”