By Reviewed By Thomas Dahlberg

Carnelian Gemstone Information

Carnelian Gemstones
Natural Carnelian Gemstones


This lucky orange gemstone has been associated with kings and other royalty since the dawn of civilization and was commonly used as seals and amulets in ancient kingdoms. The Prophet Muhammad had an inscribed carnelian signet ring which he used as a seal for important documents and it is widely worn by Muslims to this day.

Carnelian is the translucent orange form of chalcedony quartz although the colors range from brown to red and usually appears more opaque than translucent.

It has been used by just about every civilization since the ancient Sumerians and Egyptians and is revered more for its spiritual power and significance than its rarity.

Carnelian Colors

Carnelian Gemstone Colors
Carnelian Color Range

Iron impurities give this quartz its orange coloring and it ranges all the way from light golden yellows to almost red hues. As it gets closer to brown it can be referred to as Sard and if there is a mix of orange, red and brown within the same gemstone we might call it jasper.

Sard, Agate, Jasper and Carnelian are all members of the Chalcedony Quartz family.

They all share some color similarities but generally Carnelian (sometimes called Cornelian) is the evenly colored orange version with a golden yellow to reddish brown range.

Carnelian is a very reasonably priced gemstone and they are all similar in price no matter the color but the brighter red colors followed by reddish orange are the most sought after so will be valued just a little higher than the paler colors.

Colors can be enhanced by heat treatment or by dyeing other forms of chalcedony quartz so check wherever you may be buying your carnelian. Rest assured if any of our carnelian gemstones have been treated we will pass that information onto you.

Carnelian Species

Carnelian belongs to the Chalcedony group of gemstones, which encompasses Agate, Jasper, Onyx, Bloodstone, and others. These gemstones are all types of quartz and are primarily distinguished by their color, stripes, or patterns. Carnelian specifically represents the orange to red to brown spectrum within this group and typically exhibits a uniform hue, although there may be instances of striping or variations in shade on a single stone.

Carnelian is sometimes called Cornelian (as it was known in the middle-ages) and the browner variety can be called Sard.

On occasions Carnelian can be blended in with other minerals in the same stone. If Carnelian and Agate appear together it can be termed Agate, Carnelian or Carnelian Agate! Carnelian Onyx is a banded mix of red and white Agate and Carnelian.

Carnelian Clarity

Gemstone Clarity

Gemstones usually fall into one of three categories of clarity with variations within that category. Opaque gemstones do not allow any light to pass through even if you hold it up to a light source. Translucent gemstones allow some light to shine through but you cannot clearly see through the gemstone.

Transparent Gemstones allow light to pass through uninhibited so you can look through them and see objects or read words on the other side. Carnelian differs from many of its cousins in the chalcedony family in that it is technically translucent, you cannot really see through a carnelian but if you hold it up you can see the light coming through especially round the edges.

What is the spiritual meaning of Carnelian?

A poem by Goethe, Germany's greatest writer and scientist.

Carnelian is a talisman.
It brings good luck to child and man;
It drives away all evil things,
To thee and thine protection brings.
From such a gem a woman gains
Sweet hope and comfort in her pains

As one of the most antiquated processed gemstones in human history, Carnelian has an illustrious spiritual connection to us all. The Sumerian Queen Pu Abi of Mesopotamia was buried in a robe of gold, lapis lazuli and carnelian. Egyptian Mummies were adorned with carnelian, representing the strength of Horus, the Sun God and are mentioned several times in the bible as gemstones of Aaron’s breastplate and the Twelve Tribes of Israel. It is also the traditional gemstone of the zodiac sign, Virgo, and in some parts of the world it is a birthstone for the month of July.

Carnelian was used in the past to protect the dead as they journeyed into the afterlife and they are a wonderful gemstone to help you accept the natural circle of life and the loss of loved ones. This can be losing someone in the form of death or perhaps your children moving out of the house or a close friend leaving the city for pastures new.

It is also an energizing gemstone, boosting your enthusiasm and bringing positivity and optimism to any plans you may have. It will encourage you to stop hesitating and get on with achieving your dreams and ambitions. If used as a mediation or manifestation aid it can help create a desired new situation especially with relationships or change of lifestyle.

Carnelian and the Chakras

Chakras are the energy centers in your body also known as Qi or Prana. There are seven Chakras throughout the body each influencing a particular physical, emotional or mental state and each has an associated color. The seven chakras are as follows, Crown linked with the color purple, Third Eye (indigo), Throat (blue), Heart (green), Solar Plexus (yellow), Sacral (orange) and Root (red). Depending on which color is most dominant in your gemstone will determine which chakra it will have most influence on.

Chakra meditation

The usually orange gemstone, carnelian has a special connection to the Sacral Chakra, located just below the navel. This Chakra is particularly concerned with emotions, relationships, sexuality and creativity. If you are feeling too dependent on a person or a substance, feeling too emotional or have either an obsession with sexual desire or a total lack of desire then Carnelian may help.

Carnelian a bit redder in color can move down to affect the Base Chakra which deals with more basic requirements to life, food, sleep, shelter, survival. If you have any feelings of anxiety about employment or your home this gemstone could be the answer.

Health Benefits of Carnelian

Age old tradition holds that Carnelian is of benefit to all matters to do with blood; blood pressure, heart related issues, blocked arteries, anemia and clotting problems to name but a few. Improved blood flow to vital organs is another benefit that will improve overall health.

Carnelian is also linked to the centre of your body so both male and female reproductive organ performance is improved, including frigidity and impotence as well as menstrual and labor pain. One tip is to put a carnelian gemstone in the mouth during labor to ease the discomfort but for goodness sake don’t swallow it or bite down on it! And tell the midwife first.

Lower back pain, arthritis, rheumatism, increased metabolic rate, improved kidney function, aching bones and joints are helped by this excellent crystal.

If you participate in the ancient practice of Yoga for its marvelous physical and mental benefits then take some carnelian next time you go to class or place it next to your mat at home. The motivation and inspiration given to you by this gemstone will keep you going and going.

We are often asked how to use gemstones for spiritual or health benefits and while we are certainly not experts in this field we have gained some experience and knowledge. Of course wearing the gemstone as a piece of jewelry is the easiest way for the crystal to influence your body.

Alternatively they can be placed in your purse or pocket and used as a touchstone throughout the day. Hold crystals or place them in your lap while meditating. Easiest of all, just lay down with crystals on your body, lined up with the chakra points if possible.

Carnelian is especially recommended for putting in the bath, a gemstone or two in the warm water will get those creative juices flowing. As a gemstone of sensuality and sexuality keeping some Carnelian around the bedroom is a great idea for boosting romance.

Carnelian attracts good fortune and prosperity so keeping a gemstone or two around the office is a perfect way to get business moving in the right direction or wear to meetings or proposals to increase your chances of the best deal possible.

Carnelian should be cleansed every week to keep it at its maximum potential. You can do this by running the stone under tepid water and drying it in the sun for about an hour. It has been said that Carnelian is a self-cleansing crystal however our spiritual gemstone advisors say that this is not certain so cleanse to be on the safe side as it will do no harm to run it under some water.

Carnelian Price

Carnelian gemstones may be very attractive but are not particularly rare so they are very affordable. The bright reddish orange colors attain the better prices and of course the bigger and cleaner the gemstone the more valuable it will be. India has a reputation for brightly colored carnelian so they command a higher price and Madagascar also produces fine quality examples.

How much does it cost?

Carnelian Price List


Weight range

Price range / USD


1ct +

$3 - 25/ct


1ct +

$2 - 15/ct

On occasion, simple white or pale colored chalcedony (a mineral in the same family as Carnelian) can be dyed orange to resemble good quality Carnelian gemstones and light colored Carnelian can be heat treated to enhance the color to a deeper orange.

More intricate carving can increase the price of this gemstone. As the ancients observed, carnelian is a durable gemstone which can take a knock or two with ease but it can be carved into a variety of shapes. Cabochon or dome shapes are very popular but it can also be faceted very nicely and of course, amulets, intaglios and cameos were often made from Carnelian gemstone in days past.

Carnelian Discovery

As we have said earlier, Carnelian gemstones have been sought after and revered since the earliest of man’s civilizations. The earliest sources of Carnelian are a bit of a mystery but the wadis (dried riverbeds) of Yemen, the streams of Sardinia and Stela Ridge in the Nubian Desert in Egypt are probable sites for Carnelian mining in the ancient world. Gujarat in India has been a point of supply for carnelian for over 5000 years and probably supplied the Egyptian, Greek and Roman Empires with gemstones.

The name Carnelian has its roots in the Latin ‘carnis’ meaning flesh. Either the gemstone itself resembled flesh or it looked like the flesh of a fruit called cornel which also got its name from ‘carnis’! It shares its fleshy origins with words such as chili con carne, carnival and carnage.

Where is Carnelian found?

The Globe

India has been a source of carnelian gemstones for 1000s of years and still produces high quality carnelians to this day. Brazil and Uruguay produce much of the world’s supply and Madagascar, the island off southern Africa, also generates some quality gemstones. Other mines can be found in Australia, China, Russia, many parts of the USA and Western Europe.

How is Carnelian formed?

Carnelian is formed within ancient volcanic lava or igneous rocks. Hot molten rock, known as magma, rises to the surface crust of the earth and begins to cool. As the soft, warm molten rock cools and hardens, gas bubbles form as well as cracks and cavities where magma flows overlapped or cooled at different rates. The magma hardens into rock and the gasses escape leaving little pockets of space. Into these pockets fluids such as silica, rich in dissolved quartz molecules, flowed and settled.

Rock Cycle

Over time these fluids form crystals which are influenced by changes in pressure, temperature and other mineral impurities which can enter the cavity. In the case of Carnelian the impurity usually consists of minute elements of iron which gives it its special rusty color.

When the Carnelian quartz has fully formed it is generally harder than the surrounding rock. Wind, rain and ice slowly erodes away everything but the hard gemstone material. These Carnelian then get washed away by streams and creeks and sit on river beds waiting to be collected by alluvial miners millions of years later. Not all Carnelian are mined this way, some are found by digging shafts deep into the ground or the mountainside until seams of carnelian are found and chipped away.

Can Carnelian be treated?

After more than 5000 years of mining in Gujurat, India, the locals there have learnt a thing or two about the treatment of Carnelian. One of their most famous treatments is to lay out the mined gemstones in the sun for months which turns them from brown to deep red.

Another traditional treatment was to put freshly mined rough stones into clay pots and then cover the pots in dried goat dung and burn all night. This would result in fine dark reddish orange gemstones.

Over the centuries Carnelian gemstones and their cousins in the Chalcedony family, Agates, Onyx, Jasper and so on, have often undergone a variety of coloring treatments or dyeing. Plain colored Chalcedony can be turned into the classic rusty red color of Carnelian while Carnelian itself is often treated with honey and water and kept warm for weeks on end to become black onyx!

Another way to turn an agate red was to first boil light colored gemstones in a strong bicarbonate solution. Meanwhile iron nails were soaked in nitric acid until they had dissolved, then the boiled agate was soaked in the iron nitrate solution for a month before being slowly heated and slowly cooled to produce red agate or carnelian.

These are all traditional treatments and modern versions exist today to achieve similar results. Bear in mind that all these processes use natural chalcedony quartz which is a family of very similar mineral quartzes. If any gemstones sold by GemSelect receive any such treatment we will always disclose this information.

What Jewelry is Carnelian suitable for?

Carnelian gemstones are rated about 7 on the Mohs hardness scale meaning they are durable enough to be used in almost any type of jewelry you choose. They were one of the first objects to be carved and drilled into beads over 8000 years ago so you would be following a long line of tradition to use this gemstone in some form of jewelry. Signet rings were worn by kings and dignitaries, including the Prophet Muhammad, and still make a perfect ring for men today.

Read our detailed article on the Mohs hardness scale here

Usually Carnelian is shaped into ovals or dome shaped cabochons but can also be faceted, carved into fancy shapes or left free form to help create fascinating one-off jewelry pieces. They are quite affordable so you can let your imagination run wild with these gorgeous vibrant rusty orange gemstones.

Did you know? Interesting facts about Carnelian

The Taj Mahal is decorated with Carnelian
The Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan in remembrance of his beloved wife, Mumtaz. This iconic monument to love is decorated by thousands of carnelian gemstones imported from Saudi Arabia.
A good luck charm to ward off natural disasters
In ancient kingdoms prone to earthquakes such as Greece, Persia and Babylonia, Carnelian was used as a talisman for protection. An ancient saying went:
‘No one who wore Carnelian was ever found beneath a broken house or fallen wall’.
Carnelian is the national stone of both Norway and Sweden.
Non-stick surface
Ancient Roman officials used carnelian gemstone rings as seals for important documents because the wax did not stick to the smooth surface of the gemstone.
Guarding Good King Wenceslas
The chapel of St Wenceslas in Prague houses the remains of the revered saint and is decorated with more than 1300 Bohemian gemstones including many Carnelians.
Don’t stop believing
Napoleon Bonaparte found a Carnelian Amulet whilst on campaign in Egypt and carried it for the rest of his life believing it to be good luck. It was passed onto his nephew, Napoleon III, who also wore it and survived numerous assassination attempts. It was passed on again to his son but this Napoleon did not believe in such superstitions and only wore it sporadically. When he was killed by Zulus in Africa the amulet was not found on his body and has not been seen since.
In Ancient Egypt, the architects who designed the pyramids, the sphinx and other marvels still standing to this day wore Carnelian to show their profession and rank.
Traditionally, Carnelian was heated in piles of dried camel or goat dung to get the best coloring!
It is not a modern birthstone but is associated with the zodiac sign, Virgo.
Wear it on your ring finger.
Carnelian has a special place in Islam, it is believed that if you wear a ring with this gemstone on the ring finger your prayers will be a hundred times more effective.
Carnelian is the traditional gemstone gift for the 17th wedding anniversary
A gift from the Gods
People in the Dark and Middle ages would occasionally come across Carnelian gemstones carved and cut into intricate designs. This ability and knowledge had been lost over time so these gemstones were thought to be natural and gifts of the gods.

How to care for Carnelian

Carnelian is a type of quartz and is thought of as a hard and durable gemstone. Carnelian can be cleaned very easily using warm soapy water and a soft brush. Be sure to not use any other objects that are harder than Carnelian for scrubbing or cleaning.

As with most gemstones, you should not use any household chemicals when caring for or cleaning your Carnelian gemstone or gemstone jewelry pieces. Carnelian should not be exposed to prolonged periods of heat as it may cause permanent damage to the gemstone.

When storing carnelian, it should be stored inside a fabric-lined box or wrapped in a soft cloth. Carnelian should be kept away from other gemstones and jewelry to ensure unnecessary damage or scratching from other harder gemstones or your carnelian scratching your other gemstones.

How can you tell a real Carnelian?

Is this gem real?

Obviously buying gemstones from a reputable dealer is the best approach but this is not always possible when you are out searching for a great gemstone or a bargain!

Carnelian is not a very expensive gemstone so it is hardly worth the expense of an appraisal so a few handy tips in identifying a carnelian would be useful.

First of all, carnelian is a strong durable gemstone rated about 7 on the Mohs hardness scale so it will not scratch easily with a knife or a nail. It will also scratch a piece of common glass so that could be a quick test.

Color can be a clue, if the carnelian is a bright solid red or unnatural looking color then it is unlikely to be a completely natural gemstone. Carnelian has virtually the same physical make up as jasper, agate, sard, onyx and many more gemstones from the chalcedony family. These can be dyed or heat treated to enhance the coloring or pattern or stripes and if the result is a deep orange color then it will likely be called Carnelian. In carnelian there are often slight changes in color across the gemstone and it may have inclusions or cloudy patches within the stone.

Carnelian are a translucent gemstone, that means some light will shine through so hold it up to the light and check that light is able to pass through the gem, at least at the edges, if not then it is an opaque gemstone, therefore not a carnelian.

If you are able to hold the carnelian then it should feel quite substantial, carnelian is a quartz and quite dense so should feel heavy. It is also a slow conductor of heat so will not warm up quickly in your hand but remain quite cool.

This is not a complete guide on how to spot a fake gemstone but I hope it helps.

At GemSelect, we stand by our gemstones as being as we describe them, any treatments are disclosed and our return policy means you can feel quite assured when ordering from us.

What is so special about Carnelian?

Carnelian is an archaic gemstone, used by man since the dawn of time, from Bronze Age, and possibly Stone Age, tribe people to Ancient Greeks, Persians and Egyptians, by owning one you are continuing this line of history.

Visit any museum which has artifacts from the ancient world and you are sure to see some carnelian, perhaps a beaded necklace, a lucky amulet or decorating the timeworn crown of a king. The deep rusty orange colored gemstones worn smooth by countless touches seem to glow as if alive.

Even though this gemstone seems so exotic and unusual it is very affordable and appeals to jewelry lovers and collectors alike and its reputation as a stone of health and protection is unparalleled.

Can Carnelian change color?

Can this gem change color?

Some gemstones show a distinct or dramatic change in color under different light sources. Look at a garnet under electric or artificial light and it could look red, take it outside into the sunlight and all of a sudden it is green! This remarkable effect only occurs in a few gemstones, Alexandrite, Garnet and some Sapphires being the most well known but does NOT occur in carnelian.

To see our stock of color-change gemstones, please click here

Carnelian - Gemological Properties

Chemical Formula:

Carnelian: SiO2 - Silicon dioxide

Crystal Structure:

Cryptocrystalline - microcrystalline aggregate (Trigonal)


Brownish-red, red, orange, yellow-orange


6.5 - 7 on the Mohs scale

Refractive Index:

1.530 - 1.540


2.60 - 2.64




Translucent to opaque

Double Refraction or Birefringence:

Up to 0.004


Waxy - dull



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