Have you used jasper in any of your beading projects? There are so many types of Jasper – displaying an astounding array of patterns and colors, enough to inspire any artisan. Jasper is a type of chalcedony, a microcrystalline variety of quartz. It is one of the most common gemstones in earth, and is generally found in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil and Uruguay, Madagascar, Indonesia, Egypt, India, Australia, Kazakhstan and Russia.
<To the right, see Traewyn Jewelry’s Goddess Necklace with Dalmation Jasper>
References to jasper can be found in ancient Assyrian, Persian, Hebrew, Greek and Latin texts. The word "jasper" is derived from the Greek word meaning, "spotted stone." Humankind has used jasper for millions of years. Prehistoric artifacts made of jasper, possibly weapons or tools or both, have been uncovered in Ethiopia. The Vikings used red jasper, rich in iron content, to start fires by striking it with steel.
There have been recent 21st century excavations at the site of a 12th century church in Iceland. Along with red jasper with the expected striking marks, archeologists have also uncovered abundant pieces of green jasper there. The specific use of the green jasper pieces at this site is still a mystery. But for thousands of years, humans have revered green jasper as a symbol of faith. It would come as no surprise if these green jasper pieces, found among the ruins of this ancient church, were symbols of personal faith and devotion.
Jasper is an important stone of Judeo-Christian faith because of its place in the Bible. Jasper is listed in the Old Testament as the 12th gem in High Priest Aaron's jeweled breast plate. There is also a reference in the Book of Revelations to jasper being the first of twelve foundation stones of the New Jerusalem. Curiously, the jasper referred to in the Bible is described to be a transparent crystal. Was the stone that these ancient believers referred to as jasper actually diamond? The answer is probably lost in antiquity.
<At the left is a necklace from Jaspers Jewels, featuring carved Green Jasper, mixed natural gemstones and sterling silver>
Besides a being used as a symbol of faith, human beings have also assigned jasper healing and supernatural attributes. The Egyptians buried their dead with jasper amulets carved with passages from the Book of the Dead. They believed jasper had the ability to safely transport the dead to the afterlife. The Egyptians also believed jasper had the power to improve digestion and other bodily functions. In Roman times, green jasper was believed to have the ability to summon rain. In medieval times, people believed jasper cured ailments of the heart and liver and improved sexual prowess. It was also worn to protect children and expel evil spirits. Modern day alternative healers believe jasper is a stone of positive energy and protection. Different varieties of jasper also have been assigned different metaphysical attributes. For example, green jasper is thought to help those with mental disorders overcome their obsessions.
There are dozens of variations of jasper. All have been popular with jewelry artisans and beaders for centuries. Jasper can be carved into almost any shape imaginable. There are many types of jasper beads available for artisans. These include smooth rounds and ovals, faceted rounds and ovals, cubes, flat teardrops and faceted briolette shapes. Jasper has even been carved into stone cameos. Most of these jasper cameos hail from Idar-Oberstein, the world renowned stone cutting and polishing region of Germany. It has been a center for ornamental stone cutting since the 15th century.
<To the right is a men's necklace of Picture Jasper from The Spiral River>
Some of the most popular variations of jasper are: Dalmation Jasper (peppered with big black spots, as you would imagine); Dendrite Jasper (with fern-like blotches, reminiscent of trees in Chinese paintings); Leopard-Skin Jasper (with lovely brown and black spots as on the coat of a leopard); Picasso Jasper (with bold stripes of black and gray in modernist form); Landscape Jasper, or Picture Jasper (as the names imply, this one has folds of earth tones resembling mountains and desert landscapes); Poppy Jasper (with bright red rings around black or brown centers, like real poppies!); Rainbow Jasper (with a rainbow of warm, earthy tones); and Zebra Jasper (with black/gray/brown and white stripes just like a zebra hide).
Much credit goes out to Beads Guru for compiling all these interesting Jasper stories.
And finally kudos to the Etsy jewelry artisans featured here for their work with Jasper. They are a true inspiration!
Until Next Time,