Carnelian is a reddish brown to orange gemstone frequently used in jewelry such as beaded necklaces, engraved brooches, and rings. The distinctive reddish color of the stone is quite elegant, especially when the stone is used in larger settings which showcase the delicate color variations and striations found in individual specimens. Large carnelian beads are often strung into chunky necklaces for a striking appearance. Today, it is primarily mined in India, Brazil, and Australia, and it was widely used throughout the Ancient world as well.
The name “carnelian” is derived from the Latin word for horn, which probably refers to the milky, flesh like color that some carnelians have. In Ancient Greece and Rome, carnelians were used to make signet rings, which have endured through the ages to show archaeologists small snapshots of daily life in the Ancient world. Carnelian was also used in North Africa and India, and appears today in both of these areas in religious and decorative artwork.
Carnelian is a type of chalcedony, a milky quartz that comes in a wide range of colors. Carnelian gets its color from iron oxide, and another stone, sard, also has a dark brown to reddish color. Technically, the two stones have the same chemical composition, since both are made from Si02, or silica, with trace amounts of iron oxide, or Fe2O3. The difference between the two is subtle: some gemologists do not distinguish between carnelian and sard, and also lump jasper, a much darker form of chalcedony, in with the two.
The cut most commonly used for carnelians is a cabochon, which is a rounded and polished cut without facets. Facets do not tend to emphasize the natural beauty of carnelian, while the rounded shape of a cabochon brings out the glow and elegance of the stone. Some antique brooches were made from single cabochons of carved carnelian, bringing out the variations in the stone.
Carnelian is a fairly sturdy stone, and can be worn every day, as long as it is in a secure setting. You should avoid exposing it to excessive sunlight, because the stone can redden in sunlight. Try to avoid heat and chemicals while wearing carnelian, and if the stone does become dirty, wash it in a mild soap and water solution, and dry it immediately. Be aware that cracking the stone against a hard surface can cause it to chip, so try to avoid wearing carnelian in active situations.