how to tell if carnelian is real

Carnelian is a popular gemstone because of its attractiveness and adaptability, but learning how to tell if carnelian is real can be a bit tricky.

Carnelian is a stone of motivation and self-assurance, so you can use it to break through creative hurdles or simply feel better about yourself.

But, you experience those benefits only if you know it is authentic. So, how to tell if your carnelian is real?w

You can check the authenticity of the carnelian in many ways, including how much light passes through it, which should not be much if it is original.

Getting Familiar with the Real Carnelian

Carnelian is a transparent gemstone belonging to the Chalcedony family of silica minerals. The iron oxide content is responsible for the reddish-brown hues.

different kinds of gemstones

There are many other gemstones in this Chalcedony family, including:

  • Onyx
  • Bloodstone
  • Aventurine
  • Chrysoprase
  • Tiger’s eye
  • Jasper
  • Agate
  • Sard

It is worth mentioning the browner of Chalcedony gemstones, Sard, shares many characteristics with carnelian.

Although the terms are commonly used interchangeably, carnelian really leans more toward the red end of the color spectrum, while sard leans more toward the brown end.

Fact: Besides offering physical benefits, carnelian is supposed to attract love in love and is considered beneficial for your relationships. 

The Color Variations of Real Carnelian

Carnelian comes in different color variants, including:

  • Red
  • Brown
  • Pink
  • Orange
color variation of carmelian gemstone

The mineral content determines the range of colors from very light to very vivid. The dark rust tones of carnelian are primarily due to iron oxide.

Carnelians can have their colors enhanced through heat treatment. Its color changes when heated because the iron oxidizes. In fact, it can darken in color just by being exposed to the sun.    

An Important Consideration

Since carnelians are not particularly rare, they are among the most reasonably priced gems you may find.

Carnelians with more vibrant red-orange tones will likely sell for more as compared to their brown counterparts.

In general, the larger the gem, the more it is worth.   

Carnelian Characteristics

Mineral familyChalcedony
ColorsOrange, red, amber
Hardness scale6.5-7
Zodiac signVirgo
SymbolismCourage, creativity, motivation
characteristics of carnelian gemstone

The Enigmatic Carnelian

Carnelian’s remarkable effects in harmonizing your chakras, in addition to its rich but earthy tones, make it a fantastic addition to any crystal collection.

The myths and stories told about the carnelian only contribute to its allure. As legend shows, Napolean Bonaparte acquired a carnelian seal stone in Egypt and guarded it closely.

Carnelian has always been considered a lucky stone, so no wonder its owners keep it with utmost care. 

Carnelian’s Symbolism

Carnelian represents originality, bravery, courage, and drive. The ancients relied on them as lucky charms and amulets.

It is said that carrying a carnelian can help you develop your psychic abilities and expand your awareness of the spiritual world.

carnelian bracelet as lucky charm

Carnelians with an orange tint were revered in ancient Egypt because they were thought to have mystical significance to the goddess Isis.

Similarly, Redder gemstones are associated with a stronger masculine energy that is utilized to heighten feelings of love and ardor. 

But you will experience all these spiritual and physical benefits if you get your hands on real carnelian.

Fact: Orange carnelian gemstones connect to the sacral chakra and help boost your sexual and creative energies. 

How to Tell If Carnelian Is Real or Not?

Carnelian, a type of natural stone, has a rich history and extensive metaphysical significance.

Multiple distinguishing optical and physical characteristics help verify the gemstone’s authenticity.

telling if a carnelian is real or not

To confirm its authenticity, you have to test it against many different standards. For instance:

  • Hardness
  • Spread of Color
  • Light Absorbency
  • Acetone Test
  • Inclusions and Crystallization

Really, learning how to tell if carnelian crystal is real can take some time, but it is worth the effort considering the physical and spiritual benefits this gemstone offers. 

Check the Hardness

Carnelian is a variety of cryptocrystalline quartz, with a hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale, which indicates that it is sufficiently intricate and resistant to scratching.

different variety of carnelian gemstone

You can give it the first basic test by scratching it with a knife or other sharp item. If the knife leaves a mark on the stone when scratched, it is most likely not real.

Similarly, you can determine the stone’s hardness by scratching it against a pane of glass.

The glass can be easily scratched by a genuine Carnelian stone. Artificial stones like plastic and colored glass, on the other hand, won’t.

Fact: The red-colored authentic carnelian gemstone is associated with the base chakra and is supposed to help relieve anxieties related to your personal and professional life. 

Check the Spread of Color

Carnelian is a type of chalcedony that is often orange-red, deep red, or a brownish hue and can be transparent or opaque.

The inclusion of iron oxide gives it its distinctive hue.

a piece of carnelian gemstone

Because it includes finely dispersed iron compounds oxidized by heat, almost all chalcedony can be colored orange by exposure to heat.

The problem is that it is difficult to tell the difference between a naturally occurring silicate and one that has been heated and advertised as Carnelian. 

It is not uncommon for agates to be heated or dyed and then passed off as carnelian. 

How to Tell the Difference?

The primary distinction between a heat-treated or dyed Agate and a natural Carnelian is that the carnelian always forms with an even dispersion of color throughout the stone.

On the other hand, if it forms with bands of color grouped in vertical stripes, concentrically, or as hazy formations, it is most likely fake. 

Light Absorbency

You can also judge the authenticity of the carnelian by closely examining it under the light.

You can use different light sources, like a flashlight, or just check it in direct sunlight.

carnelian gemstone close up look with light

If your stone is an agate, after the light travels through it, you will notice a fibrous texture that is not typical of real Carnelian.

Keep in mind that you can find some varieties of carnelian that are more transparent, although the fibrous structure is not typical.

The fiber structures will be visible in the lower levels, but the top layers of even the finest fakes will maintain their original hue. 

Trying the Flashlight

A great way to check how your carnelian reacts under light is to use a flashlight.

flashlight testing

Just hold your stone and lit it from behind using a flashlight. Closely look for the fibers.

If it is an agate, you will notice:

  • Structures similar to the spider web.
  • Light lines running toward the center.
  • Fine lines moving perpendicularly toward the ends of the stone.
  • Better clarity of structure on the sides.

If it is a real carnelian, you will always notice an even color distribution through the entire stone, and that too without any fibrous structure

Check with Acetone

If you think your stone has been colored, you can check for it using acetone.

Since the presence of iron impurities causes Carnelian’s orange hue, the color of a genuine Carnelian can be traced back to the stone’s chemical makeup. 

acetone testing
  • Simply take some acetone.
  • Apply it to a cotton pad.
  • And rub it on your stone for a couple of minutes.

If you notice any orange color rubbed on your cotton pad, it confirms that your carnelian is certainly not real. 

Check for Inclusions

When one mineral crystallizes around another, the two get entombed together, creating what is known as an inclusion.

Inclusions, whether visible to the human eye or under magnification, provide important clues regarding a stone’s creation and provenance.

For instance, turning the stone in your palm will help you make a decision. See if it reveals any tiny air bubbles.

These bubbles are characteristic of colored glass crystals used to synthetically mimic Carnelian.

If it is real carnelian, you will notice that:

  • It does not come with material inclusions, at least there won’t be any visible on its surface.
  • It does not show banding, which usually happens when you have an agate.
  • It will not have any bulbous formation or streaks of color.

If you do not notice any of these signs, know that the stone you have is not genuine.

Fact: You have to wear a carnelian every day to see its beneficial effects, but it is okay to carry it with you in some way if you do not like to wear jewelry. 


Learning how to tell if carnelian is real can be a time-consuming process, but you should be ready to put in the effort because it pays you in the end.

All the physical and spiritual benefits that carnelian promises depend only on its authenticity. If it is not real, it will do nothing.

Therefore, you should take your time and check your carnelian from different angles to ensure that you get what you pay for.