Ocean Jasper

Write By: tmmadmin Published In: Mineral Species Created Date: 2014-12-16 Hits: 7383 Comment: 0

10.5" Polished ocean jasper slab, Marovato, Madagascar

Ocean Jasper is a beautiful gem material, identified by a unique pattern of eyes, or "orbs" on a swirling, striped background of vibrant color. It often includes vugs lined with white or green druzy quartz crystals. It is found in only one place in the world: along the rugged northeast coast of Madagascar. According to Mindat.com, the full locality is Marovato, Ambolobozo, Analalava District, Sofia Region, Mahajanga Province, Madagascar.

11.2" Polished ocean jasper slab, Marovato, Madagascar

The material is mined from an ocean front cleft at the base of a cliff that is accessible only by boat, and workable only at low tide. There is no road, so access is only by boat, at low tide.

Mining photos courtesy of The Gem Shop, Inc.

The boat used to retrieve the ocean jasper
shown stranded on the sand at low tide

General view of the mining area with several large boulders

Hand mining for ocean jasper

Using a sledge to break up a boulder

A pile of ocean jasper ready to be sacked and loaded onto the boat

Ocean jasper is distinguished by its unique multiple eye-like spots or circular patterns called orbs (that's where the term orbicular comes from) set in a background matrix in a wide range of color variations. The orbs are found in shades including white, gray, yellow, beige, pink, red, maroon and brown, plus an array of blue and green tones, and even near-black. The orbs can range in diameter from a millimeter to a centimeter or more. The background often shows color zones or vague stripes of contrasting colors. The value of ocean jasper is judged mainly based on the richness and saturation of the colors, and the beauty of the designs and patterns.

10"Polished slab of ocean jasper, Marovato, Madagascar

The term jasper comes from the Greek, iaspis, means "spotted stone." The deposits of ocean jasper in Madagascar are in a mass of rhyolite (or tuff) that was part of a volcanic flow that occurred millions of years ago. Later, the rhyolite was silicified, and as the silica cooled, it precipitated out of the magma as the quartz and feldspar crystallized of needle-like crystals in radial aggregates, thus creating the orbicular (spherical) structures that are the hallmark of ocean jasper.

Ocean jasper is a member of the chalcedony family, and is microcrystalline quartz. It has a hardness of 6.5 to 7 on the Moh's scale. It is an agate by the standard definition (agate being translucent and jasper being opaque). Ocean Jasper is rarely opaque. It was decided to call the material jasper because rhyolitic patterns have been associated with the jasper category in the past and because "jasper" is listed as the mineral resource in the mining claims owned by Madagascar Minerals.

10.1" Polished slab of ocean jasper, Marovato, Madagascar

Ocean jasper is commonly cut into cabachons, tumbled, or sliced and polished to be used as gemstones for jewelry making. Ocean jasper can also be carved, sculpted, or made into polished free forms as an ornamental stone. It is also popular with mineral collectors. It is widely used by people interested in metaphysics and natural healing.

6.3" Polished slab of ocean jasper, Marovato, Madagascar

Ocean Jasper was first written about in 1922, but the location was lost for the next 75 years. All that was known was that it came from somewhere in Madagascar, and that the locality of the quarry had been lost. In the 1950s, a sample specimen was brought to the Museum of Sciences in Paris, France. But with the sample came a mystery: no one knew where the source was, and Madagascar is a very large island (1,000km long and 300km wide). In 1997, Paul Obenich of Madagascar Minerals spent 45 days searching the northwestern coast of Madagascar coast, and finally found the ocean jasper deposit. The main reason the site was lost so many years is that it can only be seen at low tide. It made its debut at the 2000 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, and was an instant sensation.

Obenich reportedly called his material ocean jasper for several reasons. First, because rhyolitic patterns have been previously associated with jasper; second because jasper is the mineral resource named on the mining claims; and third, because of its resemblance to the foam of the ocean surf as it crashes on the shore, as well as its colorful, wavy patterns. All ocean jasper comes from the claim held by Paul Obenich of Madagascar Minerals. The name Ocean Jasper® is a registered trademark of The Gem Shop, Inc.

6" Ocean jasper polished freeform with a vug lined with druzy quartz, Marovato, Madagascar

In 2006, mining ceased, because the mine was depleted. The deposit had been worked 40 meters into the side of the oceanfront cliff, following a tube-like formation which became thinner as it was mined deeper into the face. No new deposits have been located. This means that buyers can expect rising prices and increasing scarcity in the future, as the pipeline dries up.

5" Polished freeform of ocean jasper with a large, crystal-lined vug, Marovato, Madagascar

While the finest orbicular jasper comes from Madagascar, somewhat similar material is found in the United States and in many areas around the world. However, nothing resembling ocean jasper has been found anywhere else. One somewhat similar material is oregonite from Josephine Co., Washington; another is owyhee jasper from the Owyhee Mountains on the Idaho-Oregon border; and poppy jasper with similar characteristics is found on Morgan Hill, Paradise Valley, Santa Clara Co., California. In Nebraska, orbicular jasper is found in altered rhyolite beds noted for producing a variety of jaspers and related agates. In Australia, orbicular jasper is found in Queensland's Mount Isa district. Russian localities for orbicular jasper include the Kizil'skoe in the Southern Urals region and Altaiskii Krai in the Western Siberia region. In the Ukraine, orbicular jasper has been found on the Crimean peninsula.

3" Polished slab of ocean jasper, Marovato, Madagascar

All specimen photos © www.TreasureMountainMining.com

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