Carnelian is a semi-precious gemstone most often used for tumbled stones and jewelry.
Sometimes it can be found for household decorations as sculptures and art pieces.
It has a characteristic reddish hue, often with beautiful cream-colored banding that has made it a very desirable stone throughout history.
However, it can easily be confused with other stones, so here are some simple ways to ensure that what you have is genuine.
How To Tell If Carnelian Is Fake (Explained)
Carnelian is a type of banded chalcedony with inclusions of agate.
Its chemical composition is mostly silica.
It ranges in color from reddish-orange to brown due to iron oxide inclusions, with white banding similar to agate.
It was first found on the Greek island Crete during the Bronze Age and is thought to have been named after the Kornel cherry, due to its similar coloring.
The ancient Romans believed carnelian to be a stone of courage, while ancient Egyptians used carnelian to signify social status and help the mummified dead ascend into the afterlife.
How to Identify Carnelian
Carnelian is an abundantly found stone, and very popularly used for jewelry.
Here are some tips to ensure that any carnelian you come to possess isn’t fake.
What color is it?
Carnelian’s characteristic red coloring shouldn’t be difficult to spot.
Keep in mind that it ranges on a spectrum from orange to brown, but it should always have a reddish tint.
The color is strong and vibrant, which is part of its appeal.
Is it banded?
The banding is a little trickier to identify because no two stones have the same banding.
Some stones have more banding and others have less; some don’t seem to have any at all.
However, the banding should be of a cream color.
In tumbled stones, they often look like feather whisps.
This is easiest to see in tumbled and polished carnelian.
What is the luster?
“Luster” refers to how light is reflected off a stone.
Carnelian has a luster that is more waxy, giving off a duller shine.
If you compare it to a stone with a higher luster, such as quartz, you can see the difference in reflectiveness; quartz will reflect much more light, while carnelian will appear more lackluster.
However, it makes up for the lack of sparkle with its vibrant red color.
What is the hardness?
The MOHS hardness scale is used to find the hardness of a stone.
It is a scale of one through ten, with one being the softest and ten being the hardest.
Carnelian is a seven on the hardness scale, making it a relatively hard stone.
Luckily, it is quite simple to test a stone’s hardness.
A substance higher up on the scale will be able to scratch a substance lower on the scale, but something lower on the scale cannot scratch something higher up.
Since glass is about a six on the hardness scale, try scratching it with carnelian.
If this is successful, you’ll know that carnelian is higher up on the MOHS scale.
To be even more accurate, you can try scratching the carnelian with something higher up on the MOHS scale, such as a drillbit.
If the carnelian passes both tests, chances are that it’s genuine.
What is its transparency?
Carnelian is a rather transparent stone, so it is easy to hold it up to a light to check for this feature.
The light should easily be able to pass through the stone, similar to quartz.
Sometimes carnelian is less transparent in the center, but light should at least be able to pass through the edges.
Keep in mind that there are a few stones that look like carnelian.
Be careful not to confuse carnelian with other red, banded stones.
Sardonyx is probably the most commonly confused stone, for it comes in a comparable range of colors and it has similar banding.
However, the banding on sardonyx is usually black, where, in carnelian, it is generally white.
There are two other stones that can be easily confused with carnelian, partially because they are also types of chalcedony: agate and red jasper.
While their color schemes and banding can look nearly identical, agate does not have the transparency of carnelian.
Rather, it is more translucent, meaning that, while light can still shine through it a little, it is more opaque than carnelian.
Red jasper can be distinguished because it is an opaque stone.
Be wary of dyed carnelian
Carnelian is one of the most common victims of dying, meaning that you have to keep a keen eye out for falsified coloring.
In order to create a brighter and more attractive color, some vendors will put their stones through a dying treatment.
Since carnelian is rather porous, it takes well to dyes because it absorbs the forged color relatively easily.
You can tell if carnelian has been dyed because it usually loses its banding, since the dye makes the entire stone uniform in color.
Also, dyed stones can sometimes be easy to tell apart from genuine stones because the color is too bright and fake-looking.
So, be on the lookout for fraudulent stones.
Caring for your carnelian
Since it is a hard stone, caring for tumbled and polished carnelian doesn’t take too much work.
It can be cleaned simply with water and a soft washcloth.
But, be sure to dry it off as soon as possible, so the water doesn’t enter the pores.
The best way to protect your stone is to make sure that it is coated in polish.
Remember to keep it away from other softer stones so that the carnelian doesn’t scratch them, especially if it is being kept in a jewelry box.
Its characteristic, vibrant hue is unique and special.
Make sure to use these tips to ensure that your carnelian is genuine.
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