Carnelian is a brownish red to orange variety of Chalcedony. It is translucent to opaque and when held against the light, the color variety shows stripes and a cloudy distribution of color.
The more common term, "carnelian" is a 16th-century corruption of the 14th-century word "cornelian" which comes from the Latin word cornum, the cornel cherry,whose translucent red fruits resemble the stone.
Carnelian can be found in many places in the world. The most significant sources include Brazil, Uruguay, India, Madagascar and the United States (New Jersey and Oregon).
The red variety of chalcedony has been known to be used as beads since the Early Neolithic in Bulgaria and the first faceted carnelian beads are described from the Varna Chalcolithic necropolis, dated to the middle of the 5th millennium BC.
Hot wax does not stick to carnelian. For this reason it 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.