Carnelian / Sard

Polished carnelian/sard pebbles. Scale is in millimeters.
Category Chalcedony variety
Chemical formula Silica (silicon dioxide, SiO2)
Molar mass 60 g / mol
Color Brownish-red
Crystal system Trigonal
Cleavage Absent
Fracture Uneven, splintery, conchoidal
Mohs scale hardness 6 - 7
Luster Vitreous, dull, greasy, silky
Streak White
Diaphaneity Translucent
Specific gravity 2.59 - 2.61
References [1]

Carnelian (also spelled cornelian) 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.



Carnelian intaglio with a Ptolemaic queen, Hellenistic artwork, Cabinet des Médailles

The bow drill was used to drill holes into carnelian in Mehrgarh between 4th-5th millennium BC.[2] Carnelian was recovered from Bronze Age Minoan layers at Knossos on Crete in a form that demonstrated its use in decorative arts;[3] this use dates to approximately 1800 BC. 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.[4] Sard was used for Assyrian cylinder seals, Egyptian and Phoenician scarabs, and early Greek and Etruscan gems.[5] The Hebrew odem (translated sardius), the first stone in the High Priest's breastplate, was a red stone, probably sard but perhaps red jasper.[5]

Necklace with gold beads and carnelian beads, Cypriot artwork with Mycenaean inspiration, ca. 1400–1200 BC. From Enkomi. British Museum


The word carnelian is derived from the Latin word caro, carnis meaning flesh, in reference to the flesh color sometimes exhibited.[6] According to Pliny the Elder, sard derives its name from the city of Sardis in Lydia, but it more likely comes from the Persian word سرد sered, meaning yellowish-red.[5]

Distinction between carnelian and sard

The names carnelian and sard are often used interchangeably, but they can also be used to describe distinct subvarieties. The general differences are as follows:[5]

  Carnelian Sard
Color Lighter, with shades ranging from orange to reddish-brown. Darker, with shades ranging from a deep reddish-brown to almost black.
Hardness Softer Harder and tougher.
Fracture Uneven, splintery and conchoidal Like carnelian, but duller and more hackly.

All of these properties vary across a continuum, and so the boundary between carnelian and sard is inevitably blurred.

See also


  1. ^ Rudolf Duda and Lubos Rejl: Minerals of the World (Arch Cape Press, 1990)
  2. ^ Kulke, Hermann & Rothermund, Dietmar (2004). A History of India. Routledge. 22. ISBN 0415329205.
  3. ^ C. Michael Hogan, Knossos fieldnotes, Modern Antiquarian (2007)
  4. ^ Section 12 of the translation of Weilue - a 3rd century Chinese text by John Hill under "carnelian" and note 12.12 (17)
  5. ^ a b c d  Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "Sard". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  6. ^  Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "Carnelian". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Carnelian — Car*nel ian, n. [For carnelian; influenced by L. carneus fleshy, of flesh, because of its flesh red color. See {Cornellan}.] (Min.) A variety of chalcedony, of a clear, deep red, flesh red, or reddish white color. It is moderately hard, capable… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Carnelian — ist eine rote Rebsorte . Es handelt sich um eine Neuzüchtung zwischen (Carignan x Cabernet Sauvignon) und Grenache. Die Kreuzung erfolgte im Jahre 1949 durch Harold Olmo an der University of California in Davis. Die Markteinführung der Rebsorte… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • carnelian — (n.) red variety of chalcedony, variant of CORNELIAN (Cf. cornelian), altered by influence of M.L. carneolus because of its flesh color …   Etymology dictionary

  • carnelian — (also cornelian) ► NOUN ▪ a dull red or pink semi precious variety of chalcedony. ORIGIN Old French corneline, the prefix car being suggested by Latin caro flesh …   English terms dictionary

  • carnelian — [kär nēl′yən] n. [altered, after L caro, flesh (because of its color) < CORNELIAN] a red variety of chalcedony, used in jewelry …   English World dictionary

  • carnelian — /kahr neel yeuhn/, n. a red or reddish variety of chalcedony, used in jewelry. Also, cornelian. [1685 95; var. (with a of CARNATION) of cornelian, ME cornel(ine) ( < MF, prob. equiv. to OF cornele cornel cherry + ine INE1) + IAN] * * * or… …   Universalium

  • carnelian — Chalcedony Chal*ced o*ny (k[a^]l*s[e^]d [ o]*n[y^] or k[a^]l s[ e]*d[ o]*n[y^]; 277), n.; pl. {Chalcedonies} ( n[i^]z). [ L. chalcedonius, fr. Gr. CHalkhdw n Chalcedon, a town in Asia Minor, opposite to Byzantium: cf. calc[ e]doine, OE.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Carnelian Bay, California — Carnelian Bay   census designated place   …   Wikipedia

  • Carnelian (disambiguation) — Carnelian is a reddish brown variety of the mineral chalcedony.Carnelian may also refer to: * Carnelian (artist), a Japanese artist * Carnelian beads, a form of jewellery * Carnelian (color), a shade of the color red * Carnelian (grape), a… …   Wikipedia

  • Carnelian beads — (other variants of the name include Cornelian beads, sadoine, Mecca stone, and pigeon’s blood agate) are a gemstone jewelry made of carnelian quartz. The mineral is found worldwide, but India is reputed for developing the best gemstones. The… …   Wikipedia

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