The Art Medium Jasper

A form of chalcedony, jasper is an opaque mineral of virtually any color.  Jasper is often observed with patterns that occur during the mineral’s formation.  Certain forms of jasper such as the pale green variety have been popular since the ancient period; the Minoans on Crete favored green jasper for their seals, but green jasper was also popular among the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, and Hebrews of antiquity. Hailed as a significant gemstone among the ancients, it was also used to produce objects larger than jewelry such as vases and other vessels. 

Jasper is frequently found banded and in multiple colors.  Mineral oxides or organic material give jasper its patterns or colors.  Sometimes jasper might be confused with agate, but as it is opaque, a trained eye can usually tell the difference.  Jasper is most commonly found in red, orange, brown, green, and even blue.  It’s uncommon to find jasper evenly colored so examples that are tend to boast more value; on the other hand, some types of jasper like heliotrope (typically considered jasper because of its opaqueness) is quite sought after as are other special types of this mineral.

There are many types of jasper, but some of the more popular ones include picture jasper, agate jasper, ribbon jasper, ocean jasper, leopard jasper, Egyptian jasper, Russian jasper, and basanite.  As a member of the larger quartz family, jasper is not rare and is found in nearly every region of the earth.  As a hard substance that scores a 7 on the Mohs scale of hardness, it’s easy to see why it has remained in favor as an art medium even today.

The colors and patterns of jasper have been celebrated among artists and artisans for centuries.  Jewelry and ornaments range from beads, seal rings, pendants, and charms to name a few.  Jasper has also been popular at times for intaglio carving.  Many historic peoples believed in the intrinsic mystical properties of gems and minerals and jasper was no exception; some types of jasper were said to have the power to ward off snake and spider bites.  Jasper has also been associated with protection and restoration of inner balance; people wore jasper amulets or other types of jasper jewelry for these properties.

Aside from jewelry, jasper was used by artisans to create adornment for precious items like altars or fine furnishings.  Snuff boxes, baskets, and various implements have also been fashioned from jasper in various cultures; many of the best examples are collected by museums throughout the world.  Today, jasper is an important jewel craft medium.  Cabochons of various types of jasper are easily procured to feature in earrings, pendants, bracelets, and more.  Jasper is still sometimes carved for use in jewelry.  As a beautiful mineral that has many uses, jasper continues as a popularly featured artistic material.