Carnelian is a brownish-red mineral which is commonly used as a semi-precious gemstone. Similar to carnelian is sard, which is generally harder and darker (the difference is not rigidly defined, and the two names are often used interchangeably). Both carnelian and sard are varieties of the silica mineral Chalcedony colored by impurities of iron oxide. The color can vary greatly, ranging from pale orange to an intense almost-black coloration. It is most commonly found in Brazil, India, Russia's Siberia, and Germany.


The bow drill was used to drill holes into carnelian in Mehrgarh (today’s Pakistan) between 4th-5th millennium BCE. Carnelian was recovered from Bronze Age Minoan layers at Knossos on Crete in a form that demonstrated its use in decorative arts; this use dates to approximately 1800 BCE. Carnelian was used widely during Roman times to make engraved gems for signet or seal rings for imprinting a seal with wax on correspondence or other important documents. Hot wax does not stick to carnelian. Sard was used for Assyrian cylinder seals, Egyptian and Phoenician scarabs, and early Greek and Etruscan gems. The Hebrew odem (translated sardius), the first stone in the High Priest's breastplate, was a red stone, probably sard but perhaps red jasper.

Because carnelian has been revered for its healing, spiritual and creative qualities, Buddhists in China and India created amulets inlaid with carnelian and other semi-precious stones, ascribing to them powers of protection and utilizing them for many rituals. To this day, Buddhists in China, India and Tibet believe in the protective powers of carnelian and often follow the Egyptian practice of setting the stone with turquoise and lapis lazuli for enhanced power.

Carnelian has been recommended as an aid for anyone having a weak voice or being reluctant to speak. The belief was that carrying or wearing carnelian would give the person courage both to speak boldly and loudly. In fact, Napoleon is recorded to have carried one he found in Egypt and to have had faith in it as a talisman. Perhaps he followed the belief reported by Merrill:

“The wearing of carnelian insured victory in all contests save those of love.”

Here is a photo of a silver earrings with carnelian and white CZ:



Check out more jewelry with carnelian.