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What is Carnelian?

Carnelian is the orange-y red variety of chalcedony (polycrystalline quartz). It is translucent to opaque and has been a popular material for small carvings and engraved seals since ancient times. Carnelian was one of the first gems to be treated, being heated to intensify its colour at least 4,000 years ago. Much material is chalcedony that has been stained or heat treated.


Like most gems used in antiquity, carnelian was thought to have special powers such as preserving harmony. Carnelian is sometimes referred to as cornelian from British English. Interestingly the name was derived from Latin for cornel-berry which can be bright red, whilst carnelian seems to originate from a mistaken idea that the name originated from the Latin 'carnis' for flesh.

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