Definitions

carnelian

carnelian

[kahr-neel-yuhn]
carnelian or cornelian, variety of red chalcedony, used as a gem. It is distinguished from sard by the shade of red, carnelian being bright red and sard brownish. The red coloring is apparently caused by iron oxide.
or cornelian

Translucent, semiprecious variety of the silica mineral chalcedony that owes its red to reddish brown colour to the incorporation of small amounts of iron oxide. A closely related variety of chalcedony, sard, differs only in the shade of red. Carnelian was highly valued and used in rings and signets by the Greeks and Romans, some of whose intaglios have retained their high polish better than those made from harder stones. Carnelian is mined principally in India, Brazil, and Australia. Its physical properties are those of quartz.

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Carnelian, sometimes spelled cornelian, is a red or reddish-brown variant of chalcedony. Similar to carnelian is sard, which is generally harder and darker.

Distinction between carnelian and sard

The words carnelian and sard are often used interchangeably, but they can also be used to describe distinct subvarieties. The purported differences are as follows:

 CarnelianSard
ColourLighter, with shades ranging from orange to reddish-brown.Darker, with shades ranging from a deep reddish-brown to almost black.
HardnessSofterHarder and tougher.
FractureUneven, splintery and conchoidalLike carnelian, but duller and more hackley.

It should be noted that all of these properties vary across a continuum, and so the boundary between carnelian and sard is inevitably blurred.

History

Carnelian was used widely during Roman times 2,000 years before the present era to make signet or seal rings for imprinting a seal with wax on correspondence or other important documents. Hot wax does not stick to Carnelian.

The word carnelian is derived from the Latin word caro, carnis meaning flesh, in reference to the flesh color sometimes exhibited.


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