Gem Profile- Beautifully Colored Jasper
by Dale Armstrong
This article is one of a five-part series on Jasper. Here is a complete list of our Jasper articles: What is Jasper?, Bloodstone, Picture Jasper, Patterned Jasper, Beautifully Colored Jasper
While working on this final jasper article, I am very aware that without writing a complete book, there is no possible way to touch on all of those that have not yet been mentioned. Therefore I will finalize this mini-series by covering some of the better known, more colorful and most interesting jaspers that we use in the wire jewelry world.

Many beautiful lapidary materials are found in Australia, but did you know that it is the only location in the world for the jasper known as Mookite or Mookaite? According to outback prospector Glenn Archer of western Australia, "The name "mookaite" is derived from the locality where the rock is dug, namely Mooka Creek. According to locals, the Aboriginal word "mooka" means "running waters," no doubt in reference to the many fresh water springs that feed Mooka Creek." Other sources claim that this vibrant material was named for a sheep station (ranch) near an abundant source of the stone, found in the Kennedy Ranges. It is also called moukaite.
Exploring the wonders of jasper, we have discovered that many varieties contain other minerals such as feldspar (forming rhyolite) and now we learn that mookite is actually a sedimentary chert (containing silica or quartz) formed of microfossils! The beautiful shades of ochre, multiple reds, and browns have no organized pattern and sometimes contain small branch like dendrite inclusions. Mookite tends to be rather brittle however, so it is normal to find self-healed fractures in the material, and it is very difficult to cut. Glenn Archer has a very interesting page on his website, sharing all of the details about the formation and mining of mookite. If you would like to learn more, please visit Outback Mookaite.

At the present time, there is an adequate supply of mookite so there really is no need for people to try to make a synthetic, however I need to mention that there is a form of rhyolite called "Wonderstone" that is often mistakenly labeled as mookite. The best way to tell the two apart is to hold the Wonderstone in your hand. If it feels very light in weight and almost like a plastic, it is probably rhyolite. If it has a glassy appearance it is mookite. The colors between the two materials differ as well with mookite colors being more rich and Wonderstone rhyolite more subtle.
At the present time, there is an adequate supply of mookite so there really is no need for people to try to make a synthetic, however I need to mention that there is a form of rhyolite called "Wonderstone" that is often mistakenly labeled as mookite. The best way to tell the two apart is to hold the Wonderstone in your hand. If it feels very light in weight and almost like a plastic, it is probably rhyolite. If it has a glassy appearance it is mookite. The colors between the two materials differ as well with mookite colors being more rich and Wonderstone rhyolite more subtle.


Pendants wire wrapped by Beverly Brown, likely Wonderstone, left, and Mookaite, right.
Dale Armstrong's Gem Profile- Beautifully Colored Jasper - , General Education, , Pendants wire wrapped Wonderstone and Mookaite
Mookite is not the only jasper that owes its colors and design to fossils. When the earth was very young, some of the first life forms were different types of algae. No, I am not going to get into the scientific controversy over what is considered plant or animal life, although some scientists speculate that these fossilized mounds are actually formed of mud and not ancient bacterial life. During geological changes many of these algae colonies, or mounds of mud, petrified or turned to stone forming what is known as stromatolites, that when combined with silica made what we call Algal Jasper. Beautiful specimens of algal jasper have been found in northern Minnesota, Wyoming and Oklahoma as well as Australia, Canada and Africa.


A stromatolite from the Great Lakes area of North America. The outside doesn't look like much, but when a slab is removed and the area is polished, the piece shows potential to make nice cabochons. This is called a "window." Private collection, Dale Armstrong.
Dale Armstrong's Gem Profile- Beautifully Colored Jasper - , General Education, , Stromatolite Jasper
I wonder if this chunk I purchased as "tubular" jasper is actually an algal jasper? Private collection, Dale Armstrong.
Dale Armstrong's Gem Profile- Beautifully Colored Jasper - , General Education, , Tubular Jasper
Perhaps the most well-known variety amongst handcraft jewelers is what you may recognize as "Crocodile" or "Kambaba" jasper. Once again we have Madagascar, that lovely "pile of gemstones in the ocean," to thank for this amazing lapidary material. A sedimentary form of jasper consisting of fossilized algae or a stromatolite, Kambaba jasper is very attractive in shades green with deep green orbs. It is a relatively hard material, so finding cabochons, beads and carved decorative items for the home and garden is easy. Sources confirm that what is now marketed as a "new material," Kambaba or Crocodile jasper is geologically "Green Stromatolite Jasper," a fossilized algae that has been around, literally, for years!



Kambaba or Crocodile jasper makes lovely beads!
Dale Armstrong's Gem Profile- Beautifully Colored Jasper - , General Education, , Kambaba or Crocodile jasper
Jasper that resembles a mosaic picture made of sharp, angular and jagged stones is called Brecciated Jasper. However when the rock is formed of smaller, water rounded pebbles in the many colors of jasper, chalcedony, chert and quartz, cemented together by impure chalcedony (that from Part 1 of this series, we know is a description of jasper) it is known as a Jasper Conglomerate also called Puddingstone. If the material surrounding the smaller particles is hard enough, it will take a great polish and is very attractive in jewelry designs.


Examples of cut and rough, conglomerate. Private collection, Dale Armstrong.

Dale Armstrong's Gem Profile- Beautifully Colored Jasper - , General Education, , Conglomerate Jasper
One of the prettiest jaspers found in North America is called Morrisonite, named for the ranch where it was first found in the 1940's. In colors that rival a rainbow, morrisonite is a brecciated jasper indigenous to the Owyhee Mountains. Combining all of the patterns and pictures we have read about throughout this jasper mini-series, Morrisonite is known as the "King" of jaspers (and this time I have to agree). Rather than rewrite the fascinating history of this amazing jasper, I invite you to read, "The King of Jaspers" by Philip Stevenson. Personally, I only own a small specimen of Morrisonite, (and I will not let my husband cut it!) therefore I hope you will take the time to follow this link to view Hans Gamma's beautiful photographs of Morrisonite Jasper.
The last type of jasper that I want to share with you is my personal favorite, Imperial Jasper! Found specifically in Mexico, north of Guadalajara, this porcelain jasper has terrific colors and takes a great polish. The veins that resemble abstract spider webs were actually formed when the original jasper material cracked during geological formation, and the cracks filled with transparent chalcedony. When the material is found with bulls-eye or orb shapes it is known as "Royal" Imperial, which is the most sought after by collectors. Usually found in rounded chunks or nodules, the outside is a softer chalky white but the jasper inside is filled with soft shades of green, pink, cream, beige, and muted reds that can resemble a watercolor painting. Good pieces of both Imperial and Royal Imperial are difficult to find and can be quite costly, but it is a favorite material by all jewelry makers.


About 130 pounds of hand-picked, Imperial Jasper rough with windows, waiting to be cabbed. Private collection, Dale Armstrong.
and
Imperial Jasper cabochons and slabs. Private collection, Dale Armstrong.
Dale Armstrong's Gem Profile- Beautifully Colored Jasper - , General Education, , Royal Imperial Jasper
Dale Armstrong's Gem Profile- Beautifully Colored Jasper - , General Education, , Imperial cab slabs
Imperial Jasper cabochon cut by Charlie Armstrong and wrapped into a bracelet design by Dale Cougar Armstrong.

Dale Armstrong's Gem Profile- Beautifully Colored Jasper - , General Education, , Imperial Jasper bracelet
The world of jaspers is huge! Although we have only touched on a few I hope you have enjoyed learning more about the jasper products you use in your wire jewelry designs.
Resources

Print Resources:

Peterson Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals by Frederick H. Pough, ISBN-0-395-91096-X
The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Rocks and Minerals by Charles W. Chesterman and Kurt E. Lowe, ISBN 0-394-50269-8
Internet Resources:

www.mindat.org
www.wikipedia.org
www.worldofjaspers.com

Materials

Wire
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Beads
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Apple Jasper 10mm Round 8 inch Strand
A1-914
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Black Silver Leaf Jasper 12mm Coin 8 inch Strand
A1-927
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Dragon Blood Jasper 6mm Round Beads - 8 Inch Strand
A1-142
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Green Brecciated Jasper 13x18 Rectangle Beads - 8 Inch Strand
A1-572
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Imperial Jasper 18x25 Faceted Trapezoid Beads - 8 Inch Strand
A1-532
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Iron Zebra Jasper 10x20mm Double Drilled Beads - 8 Inch Strand
A1-213
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Mexican Red Snowflake Jasper 30mm Square Beads - 8 Inch Strand
A1-561
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Noreena Jasper 12mm Coin Beads - 8 Inch Strand
A1-539
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Picasso Jasper 10x20 Double Drilled Beads - 8 Inch Strand
A1-591
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Picture Jasper 10mm Round Beads - 8 Inch Strand
A1-359
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Porcelain Jasper 8mm Round Beads - 8 Inch Strand
A1-355
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Red Creek Jasper 30x40mm Oval Beads - 8 Inch Strand
A1-390
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Venus Jasper 12mm Square 8 inch Strand
A1-904
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White Lace Red Jasper 8mm Round Beads - 8 Inch Strand
A1-596
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Wildhorse Picture Jasper 30x40mm Oval Beads - 8 Inch Strand
A1-482
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Iron Zebra Jasper 10x14mm Oval Cabochon - Pack of 2
E8-21B
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Cabochons
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Tools

WireJewelry - Ultimate Wire-Pliers Jewelry Pliers with Case, Set of 5
G15-20
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Bench Tools
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  • Category: General Education
  • Technique(s): General Education