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Jasper is the mystical birthstone for the month of October.
A variety of Chalcedony, jasper is an opaque, fine-grained, or dense variety of cryptocrystalline quartz. Geologically the name has long been used for an opaque to slightly translucent, generally red or brown to variably colored, impure chalcedony or microcrystalline chert, usually containing abundant fine inclusions of hematite, iron hydroxides, and other minerals. Its inclusions give it both its opacity and its color. It is typically associated with banded iron formations. Brick-red to brownish-red jasper containing hematite; clay gives rise to a yellow-white or gray, and goethite produces brown or yellow.
Jasper is formed through deposition from low-temperature, silica-rich waters percolating through cracks and fissures in other rocks, incorporating a variety of minerals in the process. It is found worldwide, wherever cryptocrystalline quartz occurs. Beautiful examples of jasperized fossil wood are found in Arizona.
Its name is from the Greek iaspis, which is probably of Semitic origin. Jasper has been used for jewelry and ornamentation since Paleolithic times. Jasper was a popular stone across the ancient world. Its name can be traced through multiple languages, such as the French jaspre meaning ‘spotted or speckled stone’. Some claim the name is Hebrew. Egyptians used jasper as healing amulets. Some medicine men of the First Nation tribes of North America used jasper to attract rain.
The Babylonians believed that jasper influences women's diseases, and was a symbol of childbirth. The 11th century Bishop of Rouen, Marbodius stated that a jasper "placed on the belly of a woman in childbirth relieves her pangs". This comes from a time when all stones were believed to be alive and have sex, jasper being a female stone. In Medieval times these gems were placed between women's legs that were about to give birth since jasper is said to prevent excessive bleeding. For centuries doctors prescribed red powdered jasper to stop wounds from bleeding, because of the red color.
Jasper has a very long history and references to its value can be found in many ancient texts. Between the 4th and 5th millennia, jasper was used to make bow drills and archeological digs at the ancient site of Knossos in Crete prove that it was also used to produce seals as far back as 1800 BC.