Friday, April 5, 2019

Ocean Jasper

Image courtesy of Enter the Earth

Every time I see Ocean Jasper, I'm amazed at the colors and patterns. 

I became very curious about this delightful lapidary material. Thinking it was so well-known in the lapidary world that there would be a wealth of information available from a variety of sources (, you disappointed me). I found myself doing my initial research at Enter the Earth.

The first thing I learned is that rather than being a general description of a multi-colored stone that typically features spheres and may include banding and/or druzy, Ocean Jasper® is a registered trademark owned by the Gem Shop.

Image courtesy of Enter the Earth

FUN FACT: This material that is only found on the Northwestern side of the Island of Madagascar, which, at 228,900 square miles, low off the eastern shore of southern Africa.  It is the world's fourth-largest island. Many of us know of  as the supplier of 80% of the world's natural vanilla.

Ocean Jasper is not mined from the ocean, but close.  Paul Obeniche had seen references to the material in a 1977 photo of Kabamby Ocean Jasper which was included in Grund’s Encyclop√©die des Min√©raux (French, “Encyclopedia of Minerals”). 

 Years later when  a prospector brought him samples, Obeniche set out to prospect for it himself. He found it in October 1999 in northwestern Madagascar when low tide made the veins visible. The material was underground and as prospecting advanced, each additional vein has been found further inland.
When you find Ocean Jasper at a show or online, it came from Enter the Earth which owns the mines. Obeniche, who discovered the deposits, mentored Nadar Kawar who now owns the mine.

FUN FACT: It was first introduced to rockhounds and lapidary artists at the Tucson Show in 2000.
Image courtesy of Enter the Earth
When asked about the availability of the material, Chris Matthews, spokesperson for Enter the Earth, says,  "We never know how much Ocean Jasper is going to be available.  Some years there is none.  For example, we had no new rough from 2006-2013.  The vast majority of what is found is lower quality, with little to no color and patterning.  Since we only import the "A" and "B" quality rough and polished materials, Ocean Jasper may be limited, even when being actively mined. Speaking for lapidaries everywhere, I hope they find an endless vein of the best stuff this year!

"While we have not found anything large enough to be called another "vein", we have hit a few larger pockets of rough since 2014.  The most recent one is very dark green, with light yellow and white banding, and the previous one was more muted, mostly blueish green, yellowish green, and gray." They continue to search for more veins and pockets.


There are many kinds of orbicular jasper in the world, but the trademarked Ocean Jasper is found only in Madagascar.

Kambaba jasper, green and dark, is also found in Madagascar, but it is not Ocean Jasper.

 Other orbicular jaspers I've seen have been distinctly different enough to easily differentiate them from the Ocean Jasper material such as this piece of Morgan Hill Poppy Jasper.


My Ocean Jasper!
While my experience with Ocean Jasper is somewhat limited, I love this material. In addition to telling stories with its orbs and patterns, it has two of my favorite characteristics: it is stable and contains druzy-lined vugs. 

I bet that you, like me, have worked with material that contains orbs of one sort or another and found that when you were busy trying to craft a shape and polish it, that many of the little orbs were busy jumping ship, leaving you with small, spherical holes. Not the look you were hoping for. I haven't had this problem with Ocean Jasper.

As your Lapidary Whisperer, you know I'm always looking for the story in the stone. Druzy-lined vugs are perfect for giving a cabochon character. For example, this is one of my Ocean Jasper cabs.  I absolutely love the shiny dark green druzy that lurks like a hidden forest in this Ocean Jasper cab I made.

I've found that the pieces and slabs of this jasper take a very nice shine, always a good thing in my book!

Depending on the vendor you shop with, Ocean Jasper can be a bit dear, but it's absolutely worth it. It's for sale at the Enter the Earth site, some other vendors and at shows. I've mostly seen it priced by the slab or by the pound (when I see prices by the gram, it tends to scare me away). 

I'd love to see what you've done with the Ocean Jasper you have. Send me an image at

Next time, let's talk about carnelian, the mineral named after a fruit!

Until then,

Your Lapidary Whisperer,


Tuesday, March 5, 2019


Image credit: Wikipedia

 One of the fun things about doing this blog is that I often start it thinking the subject will be simple and I'll get through it in no time.  So . . .

Garnets, I thought! I'll do a blog post on garnets! I love them, I've seen them in a few different colors, and I've heard words like Grossular thrown around a lot. Should be a piece of cake, right? You already know the answer; it's not. 
Uvarovite Image: Wikipedia

First, garnet is more of a category than a specific gemstone. For identification, these six minerals are considered garnets:  pyrope, almandine, spessartine, grossular, uvariote and andradite.   All of the species have similar crystal forms as well as physical properties, but they contain different chemicals.


Garnets are not only gemstones, they've also been used as abrasives since the Bronze Age. Really!  If you go by any place that sells sand paper or other abrasives, you'll see that garnet is used on products in a wide range of grits. Somehow, it seems sad to think gemstone and see sandpaper, but like other gemstones, garnet occurs in a range of qualities and not all are gemmy.


As gemstones, early in history, they were named "granatum" which meant pomegranate because the color of the stone resembled the color of the pomegranate seeds. 

Sometimes red garnets and other red gemstones, like ruby spinel, are collectively called carbuncles. Early Latin defined carbuncle as a burning coal. In medieval times a carbuncle was a stone with magical properties. It could create light in a dark place. According to Wikipedia, In the French romance of c.1150, a fictionalized Charlemagne finds that his bedchamber in Emperor Hugo's palace has such lighting. However, for people today, a carbuncle is more likely to be know as a cluster of boils in flesh cause by a staph infection. (No, I'm not putting a picture of that kind of carbuncle in my blog!)

File:Grossular garnet from Quebec, collected by Dr John Hunter in the 18th century, Hunterian Museum, Glasgow.jpg
Grossular garnet

In my (limited) experience, any time a cluster of small garnet crystals is found together, it is referred to as grossular. Yet, as you undoubtedly noticed above, it is a specific kind of garnet. It comes in most colors except blue, but is most often green. In fact, it's name is a nod to the gooseberry's in Siberia which are the same color as the grossular garnets that are mined there.Yet, because it can come in many colors, my original understanding of the term may be more accurate than I thought.  Here's a golden specimen of grossular garnets that was collected by Dr. John Hunter in the 18th century.


For lapidary purposes, it helps to know that garnets can range from 6.5 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale.  Because of this, it can be cabbed and faceted. In some circumstances where they are not gemmy enough for jewelry, you can tumble them like I did here!  

This is a bunch of small grape garnets tumbled to help the color come through and put in a wine glass. Now, they are part of one of my rock meal cases as "grape wine".


I am one of those who really enjoy garnet jewelry, especially the reds and red/browns.  There's something both earthy and full of life about them.

This ring goes everywhere and always makes me smile.The warmth of the golden/red color is seriously classy without being too blingy.

And, of course, as a rockhound, I've managed to acquire a piece of rough rock that contains garnets.  It's pretty cool the way there are pockets all through the rock and the perfect garnets are nestled inside.

So, what is your favorite garnet and why? Drop me a note with a picture!

Take time while it's still show season to go out and find some yourself (maybe not as much fun as searching them out in nature, but easier and cleaner!).

To get the latest scheduling for rock shows around the country, go to Rock & Gem's website Here

Until next time, I'm your Lapidary Whisperer,