Owyhee Jasper

Owyhee Jasper or Owyhee Picture Jasper (pronounced Oh-WAH-hee) is popular among lapidary artists and rockhounds. These beautiful gems are used for designer cabochons because they’re known for their incredible depictions of desert and mountain scenery. They have very little pitting and take a high polish which makes them great for jewelry.

Jasper is a member of the Chalcedony family and has a hardness level of about 7 on Moh’s hardness scale. Owyhee Jasper’s patterns are much less regular and defined compared to Agate. Another primary difference between Jasper and Agate is that Jasper is typically opaque, while Agates are generally translucent or at least contain translucent bands.


Owyhee Jasper specimens



FAQ About Owyhee Jasper

Owyhee Jasper is well known for its variety of colors and is the “King of Picture Jaspers”. If you’re wondering where it got its name then look no further than the Owyhee Mountains and Owyhee River.

This incredible material can be found under several trade names, including Owyhee Jasper Agate, Owyhee Picture Jasper, Owyhee Junction Jasper, and Owyhee Picture Rock.

Most rockhounds and lapidary artists will be surprised to know, Owyhee Jasper is technically petrified mud.

This variety of Jasper depicts desert scenes, winding roads, high mountain ranges, meadows, and even the sea.


Owyhee Mountains


Owyhee Jasper Location

Many people hear “Owyhee” and assume the stone must come from somewhere like Hawaii, but that isn’t the case. However, Owyhee Mountain was named for the natives of Hawaii. You see, three Hawaiian trappers helped explore the Snake River in the 1800s and sadly went missing in the mountains around 1819 and that is where the Owyhee Mountains and river got their names.

Owyhee Picture Jasper hails from the rugged Owyhee Mountain area that’s located on the IdahoOregon border, just south of Homedale, Idaho. We know that Owyhee Jasper is incredibly popular for their beautiful depictions of desert and mountain scenery. However, there are currently six different varieties that fall under the Owyhee Jasper title.

It’s said that Owyhee Jasper was found in the late 1960s by Ralph Fulson and Bruce Markus while following a herd of wild Mustangs in their Volkswagon. They spotted the beautiful rocks and decided to collect a few hundred pounds. They were so amazed with the material they came back and made a claim.


Owyhee Jasper Cabochons


Owyhee Jasper Cabochon

When Owyhee Jasper is cut en cabochon, it displays a domed top with a flat bottom. Natural inclusions and markings are common, and the stones are usually opaque. A smart lapidary artist will take their time outlining the best scenery on display in the Owyhee Jasper slab. They must ensure they present the best natural features of the stone possible.

Owyhee Jasper, like any other gemstone, can come in various shapes and sizes, making them excellent for handmade jewelry designs and decorative displays. You can find rounds, hearts, ovals, squares, and marquise cuts.

You’ll notice that Owyhee Jasper takes a high polish with no pitting or hazing. I highly recommend you handle this material in person to appreciate the colors, patterns, and overall presence of the cabochon or slab.


Owyhee Flower Jasper

The first hard Owyhee Jaspers to come out of the Owyhee mountains were noted for their bold and colorful abstract patterns. The patterns seemed to fit perfectly with the popular Art Deco designs during the Roaring 20s.

Later, scenic landscapes and floral picture patterns with blue skies were found in deeper layers and the miners who found them put all of their focus on extracting those. We can see why!  Some of the specimens are nature’s own artwork.

Some of the stones feature beautiful golden dendritic flowers or cat-tals. These dendrites resemble trees, shrubs, and other plants set against a pale, bluish-gray background.


Owyhee Jasper For Sale

Owyhee Jasper can be purchased at trade shows through individual sellers. If you’re not able to make it to a trade show or your local rock and mineral show doesn’t have dealers with Owyhee Jasper inventory then your next best location will be Instagram.

Nikki has some amazing Owyhee Jasper for sale and don’t forget to look at this local lapidary artist, AlpenGlow Jewelry (Scott and Leanne). Scott is a great artist and creates some amazing cabochons with the Owyhee Jasper material.

Prices will vary based on the size, shape, cut, and seller. You can find small cabochons ranging between $20 to $30. Larger, more detailed pieces can fetch much higher prices.

Jerred Morris
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2 Responses

  1. I am contacting because I believe I have found a rare form of Jasper. It has all the qualities of an Owyhee Jasper. It is very hard to cut and once cabbed it Is a translucent material. It by all rights appears to be Jasper but defies all rules of Jasper. The color play through shows greens and reds. I have dropped a claim on this new material, and would very much like to determine what exactly it is I can’t get a definitive answer from the rock stores or our local geologist. Any suggestions

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