Carnelian Key Facts

  • A reddy brown colour
  • The best carnelian comes from India
  • Widely used in Roman times
  • Most carnelian is found in Brazil and Uruguay

General Information on Carnelian

Carnelian is a translucent reddish brown variety of chalcedony. It is sometimes known as cornelian.

The terms carnelian and sard are often used interchangeably, but they can also be used to describe distinctive subvarieties. The main differences are in colour. Carnelian is lighter with shades ranging from orange to reddish brown. Sard is darker with shades ranging from a deep reddish brown to almost black. Sard is harder and tougher than carnelian. However all these properties vary across a wide spectrum and the boundary between carnelian and sard is inevitably blurred.

Carnelian was widely used during Roman times to make signet or seal rings for imprinting a seal with wax on correspondence, prized because hot wax does not stick to it.

The word carnelian is derived from the Latin 'carnis' meaning flesh in reference to its colour. It was thought to still the blood and calm tempers. Its red shades are due to iron oxide, and can be uniformly coloured or faintly banded.

The best carnelian comes from India where it is placed in the sun to turn any brown hints red. Most of the carnelian found today is stained chalcedony from Brazil and Uruguay.

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