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: Carnelian Info

Carnelian Gemstone Information

About Carnelian - Introduction

Carnelian belongs to the quartz group of minerals, the second most abundant mineral group on earth. Although all quartz gemstones share the same chemical composition of silicon dioxide, they are classified into two distinct branches based on crystal formation: Macrocrystalline quartz and cryptocrystalline quartz. Carnelian belongs to the cryptocrystalline branch of quartz. Cryptocrystalline, also referred to as chalcedony quartz, includes a variety of other gemstones including agate, onyx and jasper. Carnelian is classified by its distinct color and is defined as a red-orange to brownish-red variety of chalcedony quartz. Carnelian obtains its color through iron impurities that form within colorless quartz crystal.

Carnelian, also referred to as 'cornelian', was thought to have been named after the color of the cornel cherry. Carnelian may often be confused with 'sard', a darker, brownish variety of chalcedony quartz. Since there is no clear distinction between sard and carnelian, many specimens may be correctly identified as both. Carnelian is also one of the many gemstones classified as 'carbuncle'. Carbuncle is a term that was originally used to refer only to red garnet cabochons, but nowadays, the name can be used in reference to any red cabochon cut gemstone. Recently, natural carnelian has become extremely rare and in order to keep up with demand, many carnelian stones are actually agate stones that have been dyed and or heated to obtain their carnelian-like colors.

Carnelian History
Carnelian is one of the oldest known gemstones, with written records dating back over 4000 years. It was highly prized and worn by many of the world's noble people throughout ancient times. Carnelian holds a very special place in the Christian religion. According to holy scriptures, carnelian was one of the twelve gemstones worn on the breastplate of Aaron, the first high priest of the Israelites and a prophet. Carnelian also played significant roles in ancient Greek, Roman and Babylonian cultures. In fact, it was popularly worn in amulets and talismans, and commonly used for the making of insignia rings and seals.

Carnelian Gemstones
Carnelian
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Identifying Carnelian Back to Top

Carnelian is easily identified by its distinct orange to brown-red color, and its superior quartz hardness. Carnelian may often be confused with jasper, another type of quartz, but jasper occurs with opaque clarity, whereas carnelian almost always has some degree of translucency when held to the light. Jasper gemstones also tend to exhibit multicolor, splotched patterns, while carnelian gemstones are unicolored. Fire opal and amber may also be confused with carnelian as they share similar color and luster, but carnelian has superior hardness and durability, making it quite easy to distinguish.

Carnelian Origin and Gemstone Sources Back to Top

Carnelian can be found in many places in the world. The most significant sources include Brazil, Uruguay, India, Madagascar and the United States (New Jersey and Oregon). Most carnelian gemstones available today are sourced from India and South America.

Buying Carnelian and Determining Carnelian Gemstone Value Back to Top

Carnelian Color

Carnelian colors can range from yellowish orange to orange and from deep-red to brownish-red. Its distinctive color is owed to iron impurities and if heated, its color can be enhanced. Deep-red and reddish-orange colors are considered most desirable. Carnelian often exhibits light and dark color zones within a single specimen.

Carnelian Clarity and Luster

Carnelian ranges in clarity from translucent to opaque. When held against the light, carnelian stones can exhibit an unevenly distributed transparency, often appearing cloudy. Carnelian has an attractive vitreous to wax-like luster when cut and polished.

Carnelian Cut and Shape

Carnelian is almost always cut en cabochon. Carnelian is often carved for cameos, sculptures and intaglios. The most popular shapes include round, oval, and cushion-shaped stones, but there are also many fancy shapes available, including hearts and marquise shapes.

Carnelian Treatment

Carnelian is typically untreated, but it can be color-enhanced through heating. Most carnelian stones available today are dyed and heated agate. Carnelian that has been dyed will show a striped pattern when held against the light, while untreated carnelian will appear cloudy.

Carnelian Gemological Properties: Back to Top
Chemical Formula: Carnelian: SiO2 - Silicon dioxide
Crystal Structure: Cryptocrystalline - microcrystalline aggregate (Trigonal)
Color: Brownish-red, red, orange, yellow-orange
Hardness: 6.5 - 7 on the Mohs scale
Refractive Index: 1.530 - 1.540
Density: 2.60 - 2.64
Cleavage: None
Transparency: Translucent to opaque
Double Refraction / Birefringence: Up to 0.004
Luster: Waxy - dull
Cleavage None

Please refer to our Gemstone Glossary for details of gemology-related terms.

Carnelian: Varieties or Similar Gemstones: Back to Top
Natural Fire Agate
Natural Fire Agate

Carnelian is a variety of cryptocrystalline quartz and there are many related and similar gemstones available. Most varieties of quartz are classified by optical properties such as color, but others may earn trade names after mining origins or regional localities. Most locality-based trade names are used only used by gemstone sellers and collectors.

Other types of gemstones that may be confused with carnelian include amber, fire opal and red garnet.

Most Popular Gemstones Related to Carnelian:

Rose quartz, chalcedony, aventurine, agate, banded agate, rutile quartz, amethyst, ametrine, citrine, jasper, bloodstone, golden quartz and onyx are the most popular related gemstones.

Lesser-Known Gemstones Related to Carnelian:

Sardonyx, sard, mystic quartz, strawberry quartz, rock crystal quartz, blue quartz, hawk's eye, prasiolite, chrysocolla chalcedony (gem silica), dendritic agate, moss agate, star quartz, cat's eye quartz, fire agate, agate geode, chrysoprase and brecciated agate are the rarer and lesser-known related gemstones.

Carnelian Gemstone Mythology, Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers Back to Top

Carnelian is believed to bring good luck to its wearer. According to Muslim legend, Mohammed once wore a ring set with a carnelian seal, which was known to bring him good luck. In Europe, Napoleon also had a carnelian seal that he often wore as a lucky watch charm. Carnelian is known to protect its wearer from bad energy, as well as poverty. It can also boost one's sense of humor and help calm one's temper.

Physically, carnelian can help with digestive problems and reduce pain associated with the abdomen. It is actually believed to be extremely helpful and beneficial for childbirth. Carnelian can also help heal open sores and alleviate symptoms of rheumatism and other kidney disorders. It is said that carnelian can cleanse and purify blood, thus giving its owner more physical energy. Carnelian is associated with the element of fire and is a stone of Taurus. It can also greatly benefit those who fall under the zodiac signs of Aries, Gemini and Virgo. Carnelian is excellent for the navel chakra and it has a projective energy that balances all forces.

Disclaimer: Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers and Properties are not to be taken as confirmed advice. Traditional, Ceremonial and Mythological Gemstone Lore is collected from various resources and is not the sole opinion of SETT Co., Ltd. This information is not to replace the advice of your doctor. Should you have any medical conditions, please see a licensed medical practitioner. GemSelect does not guarantee any claims or statements of healing or astrological birthstone powers and cannot be held liable under any circumstances.
Carnelian Gemstone and Jewelry Design Ideas Back to Top

Carnelian is ideal for any type of jewelry design imaginable, due to the fact that it has excellent hardness and durability. Carnelian gemstones can be worn as pendants, bracelets, necklaces and everyday gemstone rings. Carnelian stones are also very affordable and large sized stones can be acquired for very reasonable prices, making them a favorite for many jewelers and jewelry lovers. With many varying shades available, carnelian stones are very popular for both men and women. For men, carnelian is an excellent gemstone for cabochon ring designs and for women, carnelian stones are very popular for smaller earrings and other fashion jewelry accessories. Carnelian is also very popular for the making of carnelian gemstone rings, religious jewelry and religious ornaments, especially among Christians.

Note: Buy colored gemstones by size and not by carat weight. Colored stones vary in size-to-weight ratio. Some stones are larger and others are smaller than diamond by weight in comparison.

Carnelian Gemstone and Jewelry Care and Cleaning Back to Top

How to clean your gemstonesCarnelian does not require much when it comes to care and maintenance. It is considered quite hard and durable, however, one should still be very careful when wearing and mixing carnelian gemstones with other harder gem types, such as topaz and sapphire, because harder materials can easily scratch carnelian. Carnelian gemstones can be easily cleaned using warm soapy water and a soft cloth or brush. Be sure to rinse well to remove any remaining soapy residue.

As with most gemstones, avoid the use of harsh household chemicals as they can permanently damage the color of your stones. You should also avoid prolonged exposure to extreme heat, as heat can damage or alter the color of your gemstones. Although carnelian is very durable, it is still recommended that you always remove any jewelry prior to playing sports, exercising or performing any household chores. When storing carnelian gemstones and jewelry, always store them separately from other gemstones and wrap them in a soft cloth or place them inside a fabric-lined box.

  • First Published: August-27-2013
  • Last Updated: September-15-2017
  • © 2005-2017 GemSelect.com all rights reserved.
    Reproduction (text or graphics) without the express written consent of GemSelect.com (SETT Company Ltd.) is strictly prohibited.
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