Did you know Bumblebee Jasper isn’t actually jasper at all, and contains arsenic?
In this article, we’ll discuss what Bumblebee Jasper really is, and just how dangerous it is (or isn’t) to humans.
Why Is Bumblebee Jasper Toxic? (Or Not?)
What is Bumblebee Jasper?
Bumblebee jasper is a strikingly beautiful material, formed from a mixture of Indonesian volcanic matter and several other substances which make the title of this article (about toxicity) important.
It has come on the scene only recently, and there is a lot of conflicting information out there about it.
While it is known as “jasper,” experienced folks in the rock collecting community know that this is not actually a jasper at all.
And much of the information out there on the interwebs trying to address of the question of toxicity is not actually all that well informed.
Bumblebee jasper is thusly named because it its bright yellow stripes, contrasted with other darker layer stripes, making it look somewhat like a bee.
The yellow in the stripes is caused be the significant presence of sulfur.
We have seen more than one website talk about the sulfur component of Bumblebee Jasper but gloss over the fact that sulfur is not the worst this rock has to offer.
Some folks over at mindat.org analyzed the material and reported back that:
It is not jasper, nor anything related to silica at all; it is limestone, composed mainly of calcite. The coloring matter is realgar…not orpiment, despite what the yellow color might suggest.https://www.mindat.org/mesg-414093.html
If you have never heard of realgar, this is an arsenic sulfide material, also known as “ruby sulphur.” Funny enough, it is used as a tanning agent and in the manufacturing of fireworks.
In the end, a piece of Bumblebee Jasper may have 2x the amount of arsenic in it than it does sulfur.
What Does It Mean To Be Toxic?
To understand the answer to this question, we first have to address what we believe “toxic” means for this article.
We take the position that any material that you ingest, consume, or otherwise take into your body, which causes you serious physical harm or death, is toxic.
Does Bumblebee Jasper Fall Within This Definition of Toxicity?
Not all stones are the same, and not all stones that could be classified in the same family (or look similar) are the same level of safe/dangerous, because the amount of anything particularly harmful can vary dramatically.
One person could handle, sleep with, polish, even lick a stone that is of a particular variety while someone else with another stone supposedly of the same variety could fall ill.
This is why you cannot simply accept anecdotal representations from folks on the internet who will tell you that “this stone which other people claim is toxic didn’t bother me!”
While the toxicity of sulfur is low, it can still cause serious physical injury if it is breathed in or ingested.
Arsenic, on the other hand, is fairly harmful to humans and animals, depending upon how much of it is consumed.
In general, we do whatever we can to avoid arsenic, because it too can cause serious physical injury or death.
But getting back to our definition of toxic…bumblebee jasper contains substances that could cause serious physical injury or death to us humans if we were to take enough of it into our bodies.
So we’d call it toxic.
Is Bumblebee Jasper safe to handle?
Like with most rocks/stones/minerals/gems, you will generally be safe if you avoid allowing any amount of the substance inside your body.
Historically, most people suffered injury, cancer, or death as a result of mining, cutting, or polishing substances like Bumblebee Jasper because of the process involved in those activities.
When you are mining, cutting, and polishing, the worker is generally grinding up pieces of the substance and throwing it into the air, where the unsuspecting worker then inhales it, licks it off something like his lips or skin, or absorbs it through his other mucus membranes.
This is not only the case with Bumblebee Jaspter.
In fact, stones and other materials that are generally considered “safe” to handle and wear can also be harmful to people who mine, cut, and polish up the materials.
In general, it is pretty bad for humans to inhale any kind of dust in any significant amount, and even “safe” dust can cause damage.
Again, the key to staying safe while handling Bumblebee Jasper is avoiding getting any of the arsenic sulfide into your body.
If you are working the stone in any way, wear protective gear, such as eye/nose/mouth/lung protection like goggles and a respirator and then wash up really well afterwards.
Make sure your work space is well-ventilated.
If you are planning on handling the raw material with your bare hands, do so when the stone is completely dry, and then wash your hands afterwards.
Just must remember that even though your skin feels dry, it doesn’t mean that it is.
Our skin cells constantly sweat and secrete oils which can help transfer that arsenic from the stone and then into your body (touching your eyes, eating food, or even via absorption.
What If I Have Been Holding My Bumblebee Jasper With Bare Hands?
The thing about harm from toxicity is that not only do you have to get the toxic chemicals into your body, but you have to get them into your body in a sufficient amount to do damage.
Even if you absorbed some arsenic from holding the stone in the past, the odds are good that you didn’t actually absorb enough from the handling to cause serious harm.
Just take better care in the future.
Is Bumblebee Jasper Safe To Wear?
Yes, it is safe to wear, so long as you take reasonable precautions (meaning don’t consume it or get it into your body in any way).
For the most part, Bumblebee Jasper is only going to be dangerous to you if you manage to get it past the barriers and defenses of your body.
However, just knowing that it contains so much arsenic makes us not want to keep it close to the skin, nor recommend it to anyone else.
We don’t recommend that you handle the stone in its raw form, or anything that has been worked unless it has been sealed.
And when I say “sealed” I mean that a protective coating has been added to the stone to prevent your skin from coming into contact with the actual substance of the stone.
If you are planning on wearing the stone as a pendant or in your jewelry, consider putting a backer on the stone so that it doesn’t sit against the skin.
And if you are looking for a stone that you want to handle unsealed, as people often do when they are using crystals and stones for all of the various reasons people look to stones, crystals, and gems for help, perhaps consider an alternative.
Is Bumblebee Jasper Dyed?
Bumblebee jasper definitely exists naturally. But like many stones sold as beads and cheaply for jewelry, the colors can be manipulated and synthetic.
Is Bumblebee Jasper Rare?
Yes, it is really rare. The main site to mine this stone is practically inside an active volcano in Indonesia.
Bumblebee Jasper is an intriguing and unique material. Yes, you can wear it and handle it, so long as you understand what is in it and what you need to do to protect yourself.
If you would like to know more about it, or more about stones, gems, or minerals, take a look at our collection of articles in the Yes Dirt Knowledge Vault.