Gem Profile- Carnelian
by Judy Ellis
Carnelian

Carnelian is the rusty, red-orange translucent form of chalcedony. Sard is practically a synonym for carnelian, since there aren't hard and fast rules about calling a stone one or the other. However, sard pieces would generally be duller, darker (almost black) and harder than carnelian. Still, carnelian ranks a 7 on Mohs Scale and is a good stone for nearly every type of jewelry because of its durability. It is comparatively lightweight. Many members of the quartz/chalcedony family were used in ancient times, and carnelian is no exception: in Rome, it was used widely for stamping seals in wax, since wax does not stick to this stone.
Those of us familiar with etymology might think that carnelian comes from the Latin caro, carnis for flesh (think carnivore) - and the stone being a similar color to raw meat. But the true derivation actually comes from cornum, Latin for a cornel cherry (Europe: European Cornel; North America: Cornelian Cherry), which has translucent red fruit resembling carnelian. So when you see this stone labeled cornelian, that is actually the original, correct spelling. But after hundreds of years of carnelian, most of us are just used to calling it by that name.


Carol Roskey used 24- and 14-gauge wire to create this carnelian bead bracelet
Judy Ellis's Gem Profile- Carnelian - , General Education, , Carnelian Bracelet
Sard likely comes from the Persian word sered, meaning yellow-ish red, although Pliny the Elder thought it might come from the city of Sardis. Carnelian is mostly found in India, Russia, South Africa, Madagascar, Australia, Brazil, and the US.


Joan Madouse wrapped this freeform carnelian stone into a pendant with gold craft wire.
Judy Ellis's Gem Profile- Carnelian - , General Education, , Carnelian Pendant
Carnelian can be sold naturally. However, most carnelian and carnelian-like agates are heat-treated to have a more vibrant orange-red color. Heating can activate the iron deposits in the stone and produce a richer color. Also, if you leave carnelian out in the sun, its color can change or become darker. True carnelian's color is typically cloudy-looking, rather than solid or flat. The red color in carnelian comes from hematite, or iron oxide.


Janet wire wrapped this carnelian stone, as well as the chainmaille bracelet, for a special friend.
Judy Ellis's Gem Profile- Carnelian - , General Education, , Carnelian Bracelet
Carnelian can be confused with shell. Really? Yes - in cameos. Stone cameos that are carved from a carnelian background and a white agate or onyx foreground can look very similar to traditional shell cameos. To tell them apart, you can use one of 2 tests on the back of the cameo that won't show. First, shell is very soft, only about 3-4 on Mohs' Scale, and Carnelian is a 7. So a bit of steel (4), glass (4-5.5), or a knife blade (5.5) would scratch the shell, but not the carnelian. The second test you can do is to take a drop of hydrochloric acid and apply it to a discrete part of the cameo. A shell would bubble and fizz in that spot, while a carnelian stone wouldn't react at all.


Jamie Frandsen wrapped this carnelian cabochon with copper wire into a pendant.
Judy Ellis's Gem Profile- Carnelian - , General Education, , Carnelian and copper pendant
To care for carnelian, keep it safe from heat and chemicals; it's safe to clean carnelian in warm, soapy water with a soft brush.


Debbie Ellis wire wrapped this carnelian bracelet with several sizes of beads.
Judy Ellis's Gem Profile- Carnelian - , General Education, , Carnelian bead bracelet
Metaphysically, some associate carnelian with Mars and the Zodiac signs of Aries, Taurus, Leo, Virgo, and Capricorn, and is an alternative birthstone to Ruby for July. Carnelian is associated with fertility, family, and passion.


Resources & Recommended Reading

Carnelian - Wikipedia
Carnelian - Geology.com
Chalcedony - GemSociety.org

Materials

Wire
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Carnelian Cabochons
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Matte Carnelian Cabochons
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Carnelian Beads
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Carnelian Matte Beads
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18x13mm 3 Graces Cameo on Carnelian Background - Pack of 4
B5-99
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $2.17
  • Gold Club Price: $1.63
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40x30mm Danielle Ivory on Carnelian Cameo - Pack of 1
B5-53
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $1.97
  • Gold Club Price: $1.48
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Carnelian 10mm Round Beads - 8 Inch Strand
A1-753
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $7.95
  • Gold Club Price: $5.96
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Carnelian 10x14mm Oval Cabochon - Pack of 2
E8-33B
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $4.57
  • Gold Club Price: $3.43
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Carnelian 18x25mm Rectangle Cabochon
E8-33Q
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $3.33
  • Gold Club Price: $2.50
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Matte Carnelian 10x20mm Double Drilled Beads - 8 Inch Strand
A1-269
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $14.97
  • Gold Club Price: $11.23
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Matte Carnelian 12mm Coin Beads - 8 Inch Strand
A1-271
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $7.97
  • Gold Club Price: $5.98
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Tools

WireJewelry - Ultimate Wire-Pliers Jewelry Pliers with Case, Set of 5
G15-20
  • G15-20
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  • Price: $170.72
  • Gold Club Price: $128.04
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Bench Tools
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  • Category: General Education
  • Technique(s): General Education