Jasper is an opaque variety of chalcedony and quartz that is known for its most excellent wearability. It comes in a range of colors, such as brown, gray, black, and white, and is often spotted or striped. Its earthy tones have a grounding quality that appeases the restless soul.
DID YOU KNOW?
In Latin, jaspidem means “spotted, speckled stone.” It has reached the English language through the Old French word jaspre.
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Jasper is sourced in India, Russia, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Egypt, Madagascar, Australia, Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay, and the United States.
DID YOU KNOW?
Agrippa, the 15th-century German alchemist who had a weak spot for magic, wrote that this gemstone could be used against fluxes of blood and offensive imaginations.
In Mesopotamia, jasper was associated with the heavens and believed to drive away evil spirits. Ancient Egyptians employed the dark red stone, quarried in the mountains of the Eastern Desert, for jewelry and amulets. Ancient Romans turned to it to make seal rings and intaglios, and Ancient Greeks for so-called scaraboids. Jasper was carved into snuff bottles in 19th-century China, and into cameos in Russia during the same era. It is generally used for necklaces and bracelets, and in a highly polished form for vases, too.
THE ISLAMIC TRADITION
In Treatises on How To Recognise Gems, the 11th-century scientist al-Biruni wrote that the Greek physician Galen confirmed that jasper helps against stomach aches, and that it was hung around the neck for this very reason. In Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, jasper inlay traditionally decorated marble walls. The stone was also carved into sealstones. Once crushed, jasper can easily be used to add brown hues to Islamic illumination.
The architects of the Great Mosque of Córdoba, which dates back to 785 CE, incorporated a forest of 856 columns of jasper and other materials such as onyx, marble, and granite into the courtyard. They were recreated out of remnants of the Roman temple and other buildings that had occupied the location before.
It is believed that over 1000 elephants were employed to transport building materials for the Taj Mahal from all over India and Asia—including jasper from Punjab. In 1632 CE, the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan commissioned it to house the tomb of his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal. A total of twenty-eight types of precious and semi-precious stones were inlaid into white marble. The Persian calligrapher Abdul Haq created the calligraphy of the mausoleum’s main gate in jasper and dark marble, which reads “O Soul, thou art at rest. Return to the Lord at peace with Him, and He at peace with you.” in thuluth script, in addition to references from the Holy Qur’an. Flowers, vines, and fruits adorn the lower walls of the tomb itself. Its white marble is so polished that it emphasizes the details found in the yellow marble, jasper, and jade inlay stones.