Every year new rock and gem finds are brought to the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show in Arizona. The year 2000 was no exception. I was in Tucson early, packing my truck to go to Quartzsite when Paul Obenich of Madagascar Minerals came by and said, "Gene, look at this new rock."
My friend Owen was with me and he saw the samples also. On the way to Quartzsite I could not get the image of those two rocks out of my mind. I recognized the pattern as similar to that found in a number of silica rich rhyolites. Other rocks of this type have been in the market before, most notably Rainforest Jasper from Australia, Leopard Skin Jasper from Mexico and the famous Poppy Jasper from California. But my brief encounter with this rock led me to believe that it far surpassed the quality of all the others. So much so that I kept asking Owen..."Were those 2 rocks we saw coated with something or were they polished?"
New discoveries brought to market are usually new deposits of an already known material. It is rare indeed that a really new material is found. Ocean Jasper fits the description of a truly new jasper.
The Name: Ocean Jasper®
Paul Obenich and I discussed at length the name for this rock. I came up with about 10 different names and we chose "Ocean Jasper". The material is categorized as an orbicular jasper. The word orbicular refers to the spherical forms found in many rhyolites. All of these rhyolites have been sold or marketed as jasper so there is precedent for these rhyolite patterns being associated with the word "jasper". To the best of my knowledge there has never been a rock referred to as an "orbicular agate".
Ocean Jasper is an agate by the standard definition (agate being translucent and jasper being opaque). Ocean Jasper is rarely opaque. We decided to call the material a jasper because rhyolitic patterns have been associated with the jasper category in the past and because "jasper" is listed as the mineral resource in the mining claims owned by Paul Obenich.
The word "Ocean" comes mainly from the location at the edge of the sea, along the northwest coast of Madagascar where the deposit was found. The forms in the rock itself are also suggestive of the bubbling surf of the sea.The Gem Shop, Inc. has been named exclusive U.S. distributor for rough Ocean Jasper. A full page color ad has been published in the May issue (Annual Buyers\' Directory) of Lapidary Journal with the following copy...
"This new rock has been found along the northwest coast of Madagascar after years of unsuccessful searching. The deposit formed as a rhyolite flow but has been completely silicified. The rhyolitic eyes or orbs come in an astonishing array of colors and color combinations. The background can be white, pink, green, red, or yellow. Botryoidal formations as well as white and deep green druzy are also common.
Small pieces of this jasper have been brought to market over the years but no one could identify the source until Paul Obenich organized a systematic search of the northwest coast of Madagascar. The deposit has been discovered at the edge of the ocean. It can only be seen and collected at low tide. The area has no road so the material must be transported to civilization by boat. This wonderful new lapidary material is available from The Gem Shop, Inc. through Madagascar Minerals [Sogema-Madagascar Minerals]." - Lapidary Journal, Volume 54 Number 2, May 2000, Page 33
In 2006 the last rock from the deposit was mined. The deposit was followed from the beach into the side of the hill for about 40 meters. As the deposit was followed it became a large tube like formation, extending straight into the host rock. The jasper deposit became thinner as work progressed. The mine is now depleted. The search for new deposits is on going but nothing has been found.
The photos show the mining activity on the northwest coast of Madagascar near the village of Marovato, in the district of Ambolobozo.