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Carnelian

In modern times, the highest value is placed on transparent gem crystals, which can be faceted to create brilliant gemstones. But in the ancient world, gems were worn as much for their power as their beauty.

That power could be enhanced through the power of words and images: gems engraved with a name, image, or phrase were considered to have a stronger influence as talismans.

That made chalcedony, the beautifully colored translucent quartz that could be precisely carved into seals and amulets, the rock star of the ancient world.

Different varieties of chalcedony, including carnelian, agate, and sard, were popular for rings and pendants because they made beautiful carving material.

But perhaps the most beautiful color was the orange-red colors known as carnelian, the zodiac gem for the sign of Virgo. Adding rich color to beads, inlay, seals, amulets, and cabochons, carnelian was one of the most popular gems of ancient times.

Mummies in ancient Egypt often wore necklaces with carved carnelian figures of the Gods, no doubt considered powerful amulets to protect the wearer during the journey to the spirit world.

One reason that carnelian has long been held in high esteem is that the prophet Mohammed wore, on the little finger of his right hand, a carnelian seal set in a silver ring.

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Carnelian