When I first came across this material I was absolutely gobsmacked!
Bumblebee Jasper has gained much momentum in the past 5-7 years on the crystal market and for good reason...
If a crystal wholesaler has not yet told you why this stone is so amazing - relax and sit back. Because we are going to do that all for you (no pressure to buy it either!)
Bumblebee Jasper exhibits a wonderful variety of unique patterns with varying colour intensity. Image credit: Priestess Crystals.
What is Bumblebee Jasper? Is Bumblebee Jasper actually a Jasper?
Despite its misleading trade name, Bumblebee Jasper is actually not a Jasper at all!
It is a form of Travertine Calcite that includes a variety of minerals & compounds including volcanic ash, arsenic, sulphur, ilmenite, hematite and a plethora of other metals and mineral compounds.
There are many crystals on the market whose trade names reveal disconcerting information about the true chemical composition of the material itself.
I personally believe that the trade name, Bumblebee Jasper, does not detract from the value of the stone or intend to mislead the discerning consumer; rather it reveals an interesting, colourful insight into the history of this stone and those who interacted with it.
Where is Bumblebee Jasper found?
Bumblebee Jasper is only found exclusively in one location: West Java, Indonesia near an active volcano, Mount Ciremai. This is contrary to other sources such as Mindat.org which state it to have originated from Mount Papandayan. As the published Journal of Gemmology documents Mount Ciremai as the location of its first appearance, we will rely on this confirmed source.
Mount Ciremai, an active volcano in Indonesia where Bumblebee Jasper is found. Image credit: Google Earth Images, Global Volcanism Program | Ciremai (si.edu)
When was Bumblebee Jasper first discovered?
Mining of Bumblebee Jasper commenced in 2003 and was highly prized by the American and greater Western market of crystal collectors. Due to its relative abundance, Bumblebee Jasper was initially mined by machine excavators.
It was first termed, Mustard Jasper due to the early veins of the material yielding a pale yellow colour that resembled mustard. Since then, it has also been marketed as Eclipse Jasper; a term coined in 2008.
The Veins & Colours of Bumblebee Jasper
How can such striking colour and variation exist in one stone? There are several metallic and mineral compounds responsible for this. And different compositions of these compounds have resulted in the creation of new "veins" of material - each with differing colour intensities & patterns.
What is a Vein?
You have probably heard of terms like 8th Vein Ocean Jasper, but what does it mean?
In crystal talk, a vein refers to a layer of crystallised minerals within a rock. There can be many layers of crystallised minerals at different depths within a rock that correspond to the different veins of a crystal. For example, early veins of a crystal are usually found closer to the surface of a rock, while new, more recent veins are located further from the surface as more mining of the crystal material reveals new layers of crystal deeper down in the Earth's crust.
Now that we've cleared that up, more on Bumblebee Jasper!
Older, early veins of Bumblebee Jasper are predominantly grey with sulfur-rich yellow colouration, aptly named Mustard Jasper. More recent excavations of the material revealed Bumblebee Jasper with a greater amount of black material contrasted against vibrant orange-yellow colours. Striking horizontal bands of orange-yellow, black & grey are easily found in the current market.
BBJ with eye-shaped formations are known as botryoidal, orbicular or, more informally, "bulls eye" Bumblebee Jasper. Indonesian locals refer to this material as Bumblebee Eye Jasper. It is a highly prized material by collectors for its unique orbicular patterning which only appeared in a small proportion of mined Bumblebee material to date.
Cross section of Botryoidal "bulls eye" Bumblebee Jasper. Photo credit: Gemmological Association of Great Britain.
Polished Botryoidal Bumblebee Jasper Freeform exhibiting orbicular "eye" patterning. Image credit: Priestess Crystals
The Colours of Bumblebee Jasper
In a study by Fritsch & Ivey (2018), the researchers found that the following compounds were present in each coloured band of Bumblebee Jasper.
Black: manganese rich calcite with framboidal pyrite. Occasionally, golden metallic pyrite flecks are visible in the material.
The Future of Bumblebee Jasper
Through conversing with our contacts in Indonesia, they predict Bumblebee Jasper to be effectively extinct within 2-3 years due to the increased market demand for this material. Hundreds of tonnes of the material have already been mined and retrieval of this stone is now performed through hand digging rather than the machine excavators that mined the bulk of the material 2 decades ago.
Bumblebee Jasper is a wonderful natural resource that serves to generate a positive economy for the locals as well as crystal shop owners, globally. It is a material which should be greatly respected for its unique history, impending scarcity & colourful position in the world of gemmology & the wider crystal community.
Until next time, keep expanding your crystal knowledge & collections ;)
Your Crystal Ibu,
"Bumble Bee Stone: A bright yellow-to-orange and black patterned gem from West Java, Indonesia" (2018), The Journal of Gemmology Volume 36, No.3