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Gemspedia >> Gems >> Introduction to Gemstones >> Carnelian



Mentioned in the Bible

Major Sources

Brazil, India, Madagascar Sri Lanka & Uruguay

Colors Found

Orange to red


Chalcedony Quartz: SiO2



Refractive Index

1.54–1.55; Uniaxial (+)

Specific Gravity


Crystal System

Trigonal (aggregate)


May be enhanced


Also known as sadoine or Mecca Stone and sometimes spelled cornelian, the name is derived from the Latin world for flesh, carne, due to its orangey red color.

Legends and lore

Carnelian has been an important gem in nearly every great civilization. From the royalty of Ur (the Mesopotamian capital of pre-biblical times), to Napoleon (he returned from his Egyptian campaign with a huge octagonal carnelian) and Tibetan Buddhists, carnelian has been revered for its healing, spiritual and creative qualities.


A gem of great religious significance, carnelian was used by the Egyptian goddess Isis to protect the dead on their journey through the afterlife. 
Carnelian is mentioned in the Bible as being one of the “stones of fire” (Ezekiel 28:13–16) given to Moses for the breastplate of Aaron (Exodus 28:15–30) and is also one of the twelve gemstones set in the foundations of the city walls of Jerusalem (Revelations 21:19). It is the symbol of the Apostle Philip.


Popular in ancient Greece and Rome for intaglio (a gem carved in negative relief) signet rings, the Romans symbolically associated dark colored carnelian with men and light colored carnelian with women.


Muhammad’s seal was an engraved carnelian set in a silver ring.


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 gem with turquoise and lapis lazuli for enhanced power.


Just the facts

Carnelian is a translucent orange to red variety of chalcedony. Uniformly colored cryptocrystalline quartz, its red tints are caused by traces of iron oxide.


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