Carnelian is a variety of chalcedony which is a species within the mineral family of quartz. Chalcedony is cryptocrystalline meaning it’s comprised of tiny interlocking crystals instead of growing as one large crystal like quartz’s amethyst or citrine.
It’s a translucent gem that is yellowish-orange to brownish-red in color. This red pigmentation is due to iron oxide. The most desirable carnelian colors are red to reddish-orange. Brown toned specimens are often called sard.
The best known sources of carnelian are from India, Brazil, Madagascar, Russia, Indonesia, and Australia.
A Brief History
Carnelian dates back to neolithic times where it was fashioned as decorative beads. It’s bold glowing orangey hue is eye-catching and decorates impressive monuments such as the Egyptian pyramids and the Taj Mahal.
In the Islamic religion carnelian worn as a ring serves as a talisman that amplifies the power of prayer.
These cultures clearly viewed carnelian as a protective stone. When Napoleon Bonaparte campaigned in Egypt against the Ottoman empire, he discovered a carnelian amulet and adopted the Egyptian belief of it’s safeguarding power. It passed on to his nephew, Napoleon III, who also believed in it’s protective powers since he thwarted several assassination attempts. It passed on again to Napoléon, prince imperial, who did not believe in the amulet's power and died at the hands of the Zulu tribe of Africa. The amulet was never seen again and its mystique lost to history.
In Jewelry & Care
Since carnelian is cryptocrystalline in nature, it is an incredibly durable gem. It is most often cut as a tablet or as a cabochon, and sometimes, translucent rough will be faceted. Carnelian is often found as a carved intaglio that was used as a signet for important documents.
Carnelian is the traditional gift for the 17th wedding anniversary.
Carnelian can be washed with warm soapy water and a soft bristled brush. When being stored, it should always be wrapped to ensure it will not be scratched by harder stones like diamond and ruby. As always, avoid harsh chemicals when wearing any kind of jewelry.