Gemstone: Bumblebee Jasper

Large, rough rocks of bumblebee jasper

Large, rough rocks of bumblebee jasper

I recently attended a rock show out in Issaquah, Washington with my coven-sister W. and her husband.  It was a blast, and I do have to admit to coming home many dollars lighter.  One of the many highlights of the excursion was my introduction to this stone, bumblebee jasper.

Now, this stone comes from the solfataras surrounding Mount Papandayan in Indonesia, a 150 mile drive southeast from Jakarta, and the natives there call it batu badar blerang, which can be roughly translated as ‘coal becoming sulfur.’  It is essentially a sedimentary rock matrix of volcanic ash–deep earth mud with sulfur layers.  It is largely composed of layered gypsum, sulfur, hematite, all glued together with tuff.  Lapidarists suspect that the yellow sulfur layers contain realgar and orpiment, both arsenic sulfides, and therefore take a lot of caution when working with the material.  It is a fairly soft stone–softer than travertine marble–so many also stabilize it with materials and epoxy akin to concrete sealant before working with it.  It has grown in popularity in the west since the mid 1990s when an Indonesian rock dealer first shipped a few samples to rock shows in Arizona under the more whimsical name of “bumblebee jasper.”

The name has stuck, much to the dismay of many rockhounds as it is definitely not a jasper (a cryptocrystalline form of silica with intergrowths of quartz and moganite).  Others call it bumblebee agate, but as agate is a very similar stone to jasper, this really doesn’t solve the nomenclature problem.  Personally, I rather like the poetry behind ‘coal becoming sulfur’, but that is a bit of a mouthful.

A lovely assortment of tumbled bumblebee jasper stones.

A lovely assortment of bumblebee jasper cabochons.

Metaphysically, I think it is fairly safe to say that bumblebee jasper combines the energies of sulfur and hematite.  Melody’s Love is in the Earth notes that both are fairly positive minerals.  Sulfur, in particular “assists one in the removal of negative wilfulness and in the elimination of distracting intellectual thoughts and emotions that could affect the emotional and intellectual bodies” and can therefore ground the reasoning faculties and promote an abundance of energy and flashes of inspiration.  Melody also notes that sulfur “can help to gently ‘melt’ the barriers blocking progress” and that Native Americans had used it to bring together the four directions, Mother Earth, and Father Sky.  Hematite is also mentally-focused and can “help one to ‘sort-out’ things in one’s mind” and help with “mental attunement, memory enhancement, original thinking, technical knowledge, and mental and manual dexterity.”  Yet, while it sharpens the mind, it promotes a calming atmosphere that still encourages one to “reach for the sun” and see that “the only limitations are those self-limiting concepts within the mind.”  As such it helps to transform negativity into the light of love, balance yin-yang energies, and balance the energies between mind, body, and spirit.

Overall, then, it would be safe to assume that bumblebee jasper can help sharpen the intellect by helping to maintain a clear focus without the flotsam and jetsam of constant multi-tasking, by balancing mental energies in proportion with body and spirit, by opening one to inspiration, and by melding our barriers to join with those of greater forces.

Yellow and Black Colors + Sulfur Smell = Danger, Will Robinson!

Yellow and Black Colors + Sulfur Smell = Danger, Will Robinson!

I also think that bumblebee jasper a stone that can’t be used lightly.  I myself am repulsed by it as much as I am drawn to it.  Perhaps that is because the stone itself incorporates a couple major warning signs in western culture:  the combination of bright yellows and black, and the smell of sulfur.  While individually the colors of yellow and black are very positive–yellow being associated with the heat of the sun, the intellect, optimism, and warmth and black being associated with mystery, rest, and refinement–the combination spells out danger.  This is something that even carries out to biology where aposematism, or warning coloration, makes abundant use of yellow and black, particular with stripes.  With just one look, you know that most black-and-yellow creatures are not to be handled lightly.  Evolution has hard-wired us to see these colors and immediately feel wary:  there’s a reason we’ve co-opted these colors for our ‘caution’ signage.  So, too, do we go running when we smell sulfur.  It’s the smell of body odor and infections, rotting meat and eggs, skunks and flatulence.  When we get a whiff of any one of these, we are instantly repelled.  And if you put your nose up to an un-sealed sample of bumblebee jasper, you’re going to get quite the brimstone bouquet.

Because of this, I feel that bumblebee jasper is also a stone of courage and fear.  It draws you in, but puts a healthy, respectful reserve in you.  It can open you up to great adventure and experiences beyond your wildest dreams…but you’ve got to go in with your eyes wide open.

Based both on the properties of sulfur and hematite and the attraction/repulsion factor of the stone itself, I actually think it is a great stone for helping you learn how to safely work within magical space.  You’ve got to have a great mental focus, but one that is in balance with your emotional and spiritual selves, and you’ve got to break down barriers and merge with other energies.  You’ve got to put aside your own mental limitations to reach for the sun.  You’ve got to have courage, but you’ve also got to have respect and caution.  In my opinion, it would be difficult to find a better stone for promoting a good mindset for circle work than bumblebee jasper.

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12 thoughts on “Gemstone: Bumblebee Jasper

  1. This rock is not really a sedimentary rock at all. It is formed around the vents of fumaroles which are precipitating out minerals from volcanic gases.

    This is really just the product of sulfur salts precipitating out from fumaroles.

    The black is manganese, yellow sulphur, orange orpiment and red realgar. There may be some volcanic lithics caught up these mineral assemblages as well.

    They just form from continual precipitation and the mineral layers are basically aggrading layer by layer.

    You are right about the dangers of these colours in nature though. This contains arsenic which is in the form of sulfur salts and can be redissolved very easily.

    If you handle this stuff it needs to be sealed by an epoxy or something first.

    Realgar is also photoreactive and will break down in the sunlight. So if you have white powdered material coming off this stuff after sitting in the sunlight on a shelf for a few months don’t touch it!

  2. Yes. Bumble Bee Jasper is bad Ju-Ju. It also contains lots of lead and murcury. Please people, do not handle this stuff. Bad, bad Ju-Ju.

  3. The only danger is in breathing dust-laden mist when cutting it, and that’s easily dealt with by using a cheapo paper filter mask. (Lapidaries should be using these anyway, regardless of what they’re cutting.) After it’s polished, this mineral is perfectly safe to handle & wear, and there’s no bad ju ju attached to it at all!

  4. Do you recommend sealing it with epoxy? I just made a ring with it as the gemstone. Some other sites recommend sealing it with exoxy because it is a soft stone and because the sulfur, etc? But I also feel like that reduces the stone’s properties.

    • Honestly, I’m not sure. I can only attest to my personal experience I have a lapidary slab of raw bumblebee jasper (like what cabochons are cut from), and I have several pieces of cut, polished, and epoxied bumblebee jasper. The energies are different from each, but not “strong” and “weak.” The raw slab feels a little “dangerous” to me, and I can’t handle it more than a few minutes without feeling repulsed. Sometimes I even feel a little nauseated, but I’m convinced that’s just a psychosomatic reaction and not a true physical reaction. When I handle the epoxied stones, I do continue to feel the “danger,” but it’s shifted a little and sort of becomes that sexy danger. It also allows me to feel the more subtle energies of the stone more fully. So my own preference for metaphysical work is, in fact, the epoxied.

  5. I bought a large, beautiful, cut and polished, piece….It even had three geode areas in it, and all three colors of white, yellow-orange, and black I did not see any red…… I had it wrapped in sterling silver for a necklace piece for a sterling choker…. My question is…….. I wore the piece for over eight hours, and the next day I was experiencing a terrible rash on my chest that itches like crazy, like poison Ivy, but the rash is a very,….. in-descript, tiny bumps, that are very sore to touch…. I have tried all kinds of things to try and dry up the rash. And still no luck…. Any suggestions…????…..

  6. I just bought an absolutely stunning pendant. It is a rather large cab that is set in sterling silver with citrine. I was totally drawn to it because of it’s beauty and it’s feeling of mystery,and it made me quite happy when I picked it up. I’m guess now I’m going to have to ask around to see if it’s safe to wear!

    • I am sure it is safe to wear. Nearly all cabs I have seen have been stabilized with a sealer. And if the back of the piece is solid silver or arranged so that the stone itself doesn’t sit on your skin for awhile, it would be fine for wear regardless.

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