Bumblebee Jasper from Java Indonesia
Bumblebee Jasper Coloured by Sulphur
Bumblebee jasper is a relatively rare stone from west Java in Indonesia. Although widely reported to come from Mount Papandayan, this location has just been used as a landmark close to where the stone is found.
This location initially confused geologists because it's extremely rare to find limestone inside or close to a volcano. Scientific analysis confirmed bumblebee jasper is limestone composed primarily of calcite.
The name 'jasper' is misleading because the stone is not jasper at all. Jasper is associated with quartz and there's no quartz in bumblebee jasper. It's also sometimes referred to as an agate which is also incorrect. From a geological perspective agate is similar to jasper.
Many colourful stones used for decorative purposes are given trade names. Jasper is always popular because it's a material people are familiar with. In many cases it causes no end of confusion when geologists try to identify what the material is.
The yellow and orange colour comes from an arsenic sulphide called realgar. It was originally believed to come from another arsenic sulphide called orpiment. Orpiment and realgar form in the same geological environments and share similar physical properties.
The black markings are believed to be from manganese oxides.
Testing has shown bumblebee jasper is high in sulphur and arsenic. Minerals with toxic elements are completely safe to handle especially once polished. The danger comes from inhaling the dust or microscopic fibres. Cutting and polishing these materials must be done with extreme caution and appropriate breathing protection must be used.
Unknown to many, malachite is a toxic mineral because it's an ore of copper.
Bumblebee jasper is known locally as batu badar belerang. This roughly translates to 'coal becoming sulphur'. It was named bumblebee jasper by an American rock and mineral enthusiast who found it whilst working in Indonesia.
Due to the stone's popularity huge amounts have now been mined. As a result there's very little fine grade material left.
The bumblebee jasper stone in our article is courtesy of Amir Akhavan. The image is clickable and redirects to the original full size photo.