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History & Introduction

Carnelian, which is also written as 'cornelian', is a type of chalcedony (part of the quartz family) persisting rich orange-brown colour. The colour is because of the presence of iron oxide, and varies a lot in intensity. Many times it gives a fleshy appearance. The word carnelian comes from the Latin word 'cano', which means 'flesh'. Sometimes it is also known as 'sard', though the term sard is more correctly used to refer to varieties of the stone that are harder and darker in appearance.

Carnelian is well-known due to the diverse cultures since its discovery, and at one point it dealt only with the elite class. Egyptians used it since the ancient times to cast a protective effect above the tombs as well as used it in jewellery, to provide an energy boost during the day. The Romans even used it as a material for making gem jewellery and seals.

The bold energy of the gemstone brings a rush of warmth and joy that lingers, stimulating and empowering. Carnelian is known as a stone of motivation and endurance fostering leadership and developing courage, Carnelians have protected and inspired in history. To gain courage and physical power to show valour in war field in the ancient times the warriors used to wear Carnelian around their neck. In Egypt the master architects wore this to show their rank of builder, and in the middle ages the alchemists used it as a boiling stone to speed up the energy of other Chalcedonies. For the first stone in the breastplate of the High Priest, it indicates the blood of the martyrs, and was once thought useful in case of illness and the Plague prevention.

According to the ancient Egyptians carnelian is like "the setting sun." In its orange hues, they took it with the receptive or passive female energies. Depicting the red, red-orange to reddish brown shades, they are used as the active male energy stone, identified by its glowing vibrant colour.

Recognise - Due to its different colour and hardness carnelian is identified without any efforts. Many times carnelian is often be confused with jasper, which is also a quartz, however jasper comes with opaque clarity, but carnelian almost consist of some degree of translucency when held to the light. Carnelian gemstones are mainly uncoloured. Fire opal and amber many times are confused with carnelian because they share similar colour and lustre, however it is stronger, durability, hardness, which makes it easy to differentiate.

Usages - It is considered to be jewellery gemstone used in a minor way. It is cut, then polished into cabochons, and made into beads for bracelets and necklaces. It is even carved into cameos that are used as pendants. It is helpful for the architects, builders in construction, it stimulates power also stamina in athletes and military personnel, and in salespersons it stimulates motivation. Carnelian possess the property to attract, latest resources and good luck. Carnelian gem is believed to act like a protector against falling stone or accidents with tools. The stone is full of the life force stimulating the metabolism and providing supply of blood to the body.

Availability - Carnelian gemstone is most commonly found in Germany, India, Brazil and Siberia.

Buying Guide

Colour - Carnelian colours is shown from yellowish orange to orange and from deep-red to brownish red. The different colour is because of the presence of iron impurities when it is heated, its colour can be enhanced. Deep-red and reddish-orange colours are tend to be the most in demand. Frequently, carnelian gems shows light and dark colour zones with only one specimen.

Clarity and Lustre - In case of clarity of carnelian stone it ranges from translucent to opaque. When the stone is held in front of light, it shows transparency, frequently that gives a cloudy appearance. Carnelian has an attractive vitreous to wax-like lustre when cut and polished.

Cut and Shape - Carnelian stone is mainly available in cabochon cut. Generally, carnelian is often carved into cameos, sculptures and intaglios. The popular shapes that are used to include round, oval, and cushion-shaped stones, in addition to various kinds of fancy shapes are also available, including hearts and marquise shapes.

Treatment - The gemstone is in fact untreated, however through heating the colour is also heated. The maximum number of carnelian stones that are available are only dyed and heated agate. The dyed carnelian will show a striped pattern when it is compared with light, the untreated carnelian depicts cloudy nature.

Gemmological Characteristics:

Chemical Formula Carnelian: SiO2 - Silicon dioxide
Crystal Structure Cryptocrystalline - microcrystalline aggregate (Trigonal)
Colour Brownish-red, red, orange, yellow-orange
Hardness 6.5 - 7
Refractive Index 1.530 - 1.540
Density 2.60 - 2.64
Cleavage None
Transparency Translucent to opaque
Double Refraction / Birefringence Up to 0.004
shine Waxy - dull
Mineral Class Quartz (Chalcedony)


  • Carnelian Agate - Banded form of Carnelian. It is more correctly classified Carnelian and Agate.
  • Carnelian Onyx - Agate/Carnelian composed of red and white banding lines. Synonym of Sardonic.