Etymological thoughts
The name carnelian most probably comes from the Latin word Carne, which means flesh. The bead above hints at why the ancient Romans chose this word to describe the color of this semi-precious stone from the cryptocrystalline agate family.
Carnelian has been appreciated as a valuable gem-stone since neolithic times. In the bronze age, we find carnelian ornaments and beads from the Indus Valley, Mesopotamia, and Egypt. Later Persians, Greeks and Romans used the stone, especially for making seal engravings. Later in the medieval period, the mystic Hildegard von Bingen lauded the stone for its healing properties. She claimed the name carnelian to be derived from cornel cherries due to the color similarity. I beg to differ with Hildegard and others who advocate for the cherry connection. They are, of course, right within their own local traditions, but to saddle a stone that has been globally valued since neolithic times with a cornel cherry-derived name is, in my view, almost funny.

In the Egyptian Book of Dead, red symbolized blood and, therefore, life and energy. The Isis girdle/knot-amulet, named Tet (Tyet), was made of carnelian and addressed by the words: Oh blood of Isis

Egyptian carnelian Tet Amulet
New Kingdom Dynasty - XIX-XX,
1307-1070 B.C.

It was placed with the deceased in the tomb and was supposed to be made of a red semi-precious stone in the form of carnelian or red jasper. Here the Tet amulet symbolized the blood, the strength, and power of the goddess Isis and was thought to protect against all evil and help the dead through the underworld.
As we go back in history, symbolic meaning-making takes the lead, and in a reality shaped by analog and magic thinking, the associations from carnelian colors to blood are strong and obvious. I
t is not unlikely that the ancient Indians and Mesopotamians had similar beliefs or, at least, were living in the same bronze-age layers of symbolic meaning-making. However, these ancient cultures did not invent the word 'carne'. This the Romans did. The Roman civilization was, however, to a large extend based on the Greek and Greaco-Egyptian cultures. In this context, it is interesting to notice that Isis was the most popular Egyptian 'export'-god in the Greaco-Roman world. Therefore it is not unlikely that not the word 'carne' but the meaning behind it was taken from the Isis-cult and in a broader perspective from the ancient lucky latitude river-cultures that came before them.
Even seen from a chemical viewpoint, the carne/carnelian connection gives sense; Iron oxides give colors to both blood and carnelian in the form of hemoglobin and hematite. When
Ocram's razor cuts through the world of etymology, carnelian, as derived from 'carne', comes out as my choice. A basically only European localizeable cherry was for sure a fitting name to use for Hildegard von Bingen, but would, even if it was the true origin of the naming of carnelian, have so many neocolonial connotations, that a false but a more historically, symbolically respectful and less eurocentric name would be more fitting. I am here not trying to bring woke into the world of beads, but it cannot harm with a little provocative inspiration now and then, even from strange and alien ideologies.

Appearance and color

However, carnelian is not only red. It can be observed in all graduations, from yellow to orange to darker reddish, even brown. The luster can be from waxy, resinous, creamy to vitreous. Translucency is rare and most valued. 

The Indian carnelian
Carnelian has been sourced from many different localities all over the globe such as Australia, Europe and America. However, some of the finest carnelian came from India. I hope the beads displayed here will bear witness to this claim.

The Gods
and symbols of ancient Egypt

Thames &
Manfred Lurker

Amulets of
ancient Egypt
Museum Press


India has since neolithic times used and shaped carnelian into treasured art objects. This tradition did not die out when the Mughals came to India. According to local folklore in Agra, Carnelian was the favorite stone of the beautiful Indian queen Mumtaz. She was the beloved wife of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan. When she died, he had the Taj Mahal made as a mausoleum for her. In the semi-precious stone inlay work in the inner sanctum of the Taj Mahal, only the highest quality of red carnelian was used. In the Taj Mahal and also the Red Fort, carnelian is a central stone in the Pietre Dure inlays in the white Makrana marble, as you can observe in this example from the Butterfly Pavilion in the Red Fort in New Delhi:


Illustration 1

Carnelian's characteristic colors are due to the presence of various iron oxides and/or hydroxides.
The iron compounds, especially in the hydroxide group, are found in many chemical variations defined by the relation between oxygen and hydrogen, which accounts for the wide-spread color-variations within the family of carnelian.
The oxide of trivalent iron, Fe 2 O 3, also named hematite, colors the stone red, as shown below. Note the color similarity to the pietre dure inlay above and the hematite colored bead below.

Hematite mineral

A hematite-carnelian beauty
Read more about this unique bead here.


My experience has led me to conclude that the true deep red and translucent carnelians primarily originate from ancient north-west India's Indus sites. The specimen you can see above is such an Indian carnelian at its finest.
The hydroxide of iron, Fe (OH) 3, can be found in many chemical variations in which a variation called limonite, FeO (OH) nH2O, is the most common in carnelian. Hydrous iron oxides are responsible for more yellow, rusty, or directly brown colors.


Limonite mineral

A limonite-carnelian bead


Carnelian can be found in nature in its pure colored yellow, orange, red and brown forms. Today, however, it isn't easy to find natural deep red or orange carnelian. These stones were too popular since neolithic times.

Strong red and/or orange carnelian colors seems to be present in hot climate zones. In hot climates, the original hydroxy-based colors have been altered into more rusty looking hematite carnelian by nature's own heat treatment through ages. When it comes to India's carnelians, the sun's burning heat, to which the rough stones were exposed, slowly converted the iron hydroxide into iron oxide and thus contributed to the coveted red color. So one could say that the Indian carnelian simply rusted in time. It seems that especially carnelian, unlike other varieties of cryptocrystalline quartz, become more beautiful and colorful when exposed to heat.
As the growing demand depleted the resources of natural red carnelian already in the late bronze age, techniques to artificially heat suitable stones developed. So much was the ancient demand for this blood-colored stone that it was difficult to get enough natural sun-colored carnelian, even in its motherland, India. Hence the entrepreneurial Indus Valley people invented the art of transforming Chalcedony into carnelian via heat treatment.
Looking today at an ancient carnelian bead, it is impossible, at least for me, to verify if the stone has been heat-treated or not.

A little Carnelian fairy tale
Below is a photo I took in Moroccan Sahara, near Hamid. It shows Neolithic flint-tool remnants lying on the hard crust of the desert. Note the small carnelian stone there too. It was with no doubt a part of the collection of stone scrapers, which had been crafted and used by humans in a time when Sahara was green. For me, this piece looked similar to high-quality carnelian pebble from Lothal in India. Has there already at that early stage been an exchange of goods between Africa and India, or was it a coincidence made by Saharan heat?

Click on the picture for a larger version

Carnelian with deep red-orange translucent and homogenous color
There are significant differences in the quality of carnelian.
Translucent and color-uniform carnelian seems to have been the most evaluated since ancient times. Ideally, carnelian, whether used for beads or other forms of art, should be without banding and with a uniform deep translucent red-orange color. This feature seems to be the case with the ancient bicone Indus valley beads displayed further down.
The iron oxides can be distributed uniformly, as you can observe in the Indus Valley beads below or in graduations, as you can observe in the bead above. The iron oxide patterns can even be seen as cloudy patches or as reddish dots, called blood spots by the Tibetans.

Chung DZI with blood spots

Beads are great travelers, often with a never-ending destination. However, they all have a home, a place of origin. Most of the ancient carnelian beads found around the globe have originated from India. Bead making was common throughout the continent. It mainly depended on where the materials were available. Although agate and jasper can be found in many parts of South Asia, the extent, diversity, and sheer richness of Gujarat sources are unparalleled. That could be why Gujarat, in particular, a place called Cambay still today, has an alive bead-making tradition where the skils of the ancient bead masters has continued up til present.
Cambay, or more accurate, the nearby Lothal, a Harrapan outpost, has been a stone-working center since the Indus Valley people started, out of the region's rich deposits, to make beads of carnelian, onyx, and agate. Lothal is around 4000 years old, but the Indus people began bead making and exporting more than 5500 years ago! 

Carnelian pebbles from an Indus site in Lothal

The marvelous Cambey carnelian
The high iron content of the carnelian from Gujarat and especially the area around Cambey accounts for its superb red-orange color, as you can observe even in the small carnelian pebbles from Lothal shown above.
Since the Indus period, people with simple tools  have been digging tunnels into the Miocene high iron saturate agate formations in the Babaguru formation.
The dark red colors are amplified by drying the stones in the sun and then repeatedly heating them. The techniques and tools used by the Indian artists have only changed a little since the days of the Indus Valley culture. Their beads are all hand-made and, therefore, less uniform in size and shape. The Cambay carnelian beads have the warmth and beauty that come from being handcrafted. Because of their enduring appeal, Cambay is still one of the largest stone manufacturing places in the world.
Africa was the major consumer of the regionís output.

However, according to my friend and top bead expert Sanatan Khavadiya, the carnelian with the deepest red color came from Aurangabad in Maharastra! This is just to remind us of how little we still know about beads and things in general.

The global spread of beads due to Islam
From AD 1300, the industry began to re-flourish in the Cambay area, as artisans produced Muslim amulets, prayer strands, and great quantities of carnelian beads for the African and middle eastern market. Arab traders ferried these goods to East Africa in monsoon-driven dhows or carried them to Mecca and Cairo and thence into West Africa via camel caravans. In this way, Muslims became to a great extent the transporters of beads, mainly due to the implicit religious demand, Haji, to travel to Mecca at least once in a lifetime, no matter where on the globe you as a Moslem were settled. Beads were easy to carry and easy to sell in exchange for provision on the long strenuous journeys. Islam was an international religious and, therefore, also cultural phenomenon with Arabic as the lingua franca. Islam was at its height, bringing people from all races and cultures together in a tremendous global melting pot. As long as you had converted, it did not matter what color your skin had or what language you spoke. Where Islam was, beads followed, and they got mixed up the same way as the people who wore them. Before Islam, Buddhism was doing the same thing in opposition to the more  feudal and non-travelling Hindu caste culture.
The holy Bead Man, Baba Ghor
Around 1500, Cambey further expanded and became a colossal bead industry, when Muslim settlers led by the Ethiopian Saint Baba Ghor, which means Holy Bead-Man, started to mass-produce beads on an up till then unknown scale.

Cambey versus Idar Oberstein
This bead production was unchallenged for hundreds of years. However 19th century brought competition, first of all from carnelian beads and ornaments carved in the city, Idar-Oberstein, in Germany. Shortly after, molded glass imitations made in Bohemia were flooding Africa. The Indian bead industry could not deliver beads in the Idar Oberstein quality, and hence the Cambay bead trade declined to a great extent. 

The bead displayed below is
a heptagon shaped carnelian Bead. It is radiating age like a face full of wrinkles. The bead has been 'etched' by thousands of years of sleep. A closer examination discloses the highest quality of deep red carnelian. The calcified layer was very hard and thick.



CARN  1 - 15,5 * 10 mm

Here I made a cardinal sin by removing most of the calcified layers.
By doing so, the inner translucent color-quality of the carnelian stone is able
to come out. I consider this one of the most beautiful carnelian stones in
my collection. After this radical cleaning, the bead shines
with a bright red color even in an ordinary light setting.


This thickness of the layer could  be due to special concentrated chemicals in the ground it was lying in. It could also be burial-bead calcification, where a bead becomes calcified by being close to a decomposed body.
The hexagonal beads displayed here are among the most surface-altered beads in my collection when taking both chemical layers and polish by wear into consideration. Could it be that the carnelian they were made of is softer than the average carnelian? I don't think so. Considerable age, wear and tear is the best explanation for their current shape.
5000 years of Saharan sleep
The unique deep red carnelian bead displayed above was found by a Danish archeology professor during his excavations. It was placed among far more primitive-shaped stone beads in a Neolithic grave in Moroccan Sahara. This bead must be around 5000 years old, because the many settlements are from the Saharan wet period. They are dating from 8000 BC. up to 3000 BC. From then onwards, Sahara transformed into a dessert, and the hunter gatherers began to abandon the area.
GO2 more Mesopotamian style carnelian beads


Displayed below, you will find carnelian beads with a more orange color. The colors and translucency of these beads are perfectly homogeneous.

It is here important to mention that most beads only will reveal
their full potential when magnified through a macro lens and
illumined with the right kind of light.

An ancient bead will never show its full luster, colors and
patterns without a magnifying lens and the right light settings.
This is especially true for small beads and beads that
display various degrees of translucency.

Translucent beads have by nature a 'hidden' world
inside the stone material of the bead itself, that only
can be fully exposed through extra light sources.

The inner translucency of a bead will only reveal a
minimum of its beauty in an ordinary
light set and setting.

Same bead  as above

I have in the exhibition below tried to make a compromise
between the inner and outer life of the beads.

In this way of capturing the beads, imperfections
will be largely exaggerated, as when compared to how the
bead will look in your hand.

I know this will scare away the eastern collector going
for impossible perfection. However, a western conditioned
mind seems to have a liking for 'broken beauty'.

As a western collector of ancient beads, I share that liking.

Also, bear in mind that the beads appear relatively bigger on this display.

You can always ask for a more 'realistic' photo taken from my iPhone.

24,5 * 8,5 mm

Displayed above you can observe the radical difference
the light setting is for photographing translucent 
carnelian beads. In the right light the high quality carnelian
beads will reveal a deep red color, not visible in ordinary
daylight. Hence most of the beads bead displayed below
are much more orange and/or red-colored than what meets
the daylight eye.


Displayed below, you will find carnelian beads with a more orange color. The colors and translucency of these beads are perfectly homogeneous.

The design of this bead is not particular exiting.
It is the carnelian material itself that takes the price!

Below you can see a more yellowish, golden variation of translucent carnelian.



Displayed below you can see wonderful fiery translucent multicolored colored red-yellow-orange carnelian beads. Such color-variations are a result of various blends of iron oxides and hydroxides.  


Small top quality carnelian beads
The small ancient beads displayed below are naturally marked by time. However, the quality of the carnelian with its deep uniform transparent orange-red color is still second to none. Such ideal carnelian is mostly found in smaller pieces. 



However, in rare cases, we can find larger beads with a unique homogeneous deep red luster, as seen in the, by now famous specimen below


The beads displayed below are typical for the Harappan Indus Civilization, with their special bicone-shaped design and large, hourglass shaped holes. The Indians call this shape the dholak design named after their ancient double drum.

You can see this type of beads displayed in the National Museum in New Delhi or in the British Museum. Below we can observe the same beads found in both an Egyptian and Mesopotamian grave. One can clearly see the Harappan origin of these beads.


Egyptian neclace - Walters Art Museum

Mesopotamian neclace from Ur -
British Museeum

The biconical carnelian Indus beads displayed here have been photographed in such a way that their inherent red color is revealed. Seen from a distance in normal day-light, they would have a color closer to the ones from the Egyptian necklace above.


   CARN-INDUS 1  - 8,8  * 7,5  mm



   CARN-INDUS 2  - 8 * 8 mm



 CARN-INDUS 3 - 9,8 * 8,1 mm



   CARN-INDUS 4  - 11 * 8 mm



  CARN-INDUS  5 - 12,1 * 8,5 mm


   CARN-INDUS 6  - 10 * 7 ,5 mm



   CARN-INDUS 7  - 14,2 * 7,5-9 mm




CARN-INDUS  8 -  8 * 7,4 mm



CARN-INDUS  9  - 10,1 * 7,1 mm



CARN-INDUS  10 - 8,5 * 7,5 mm



 CARN-INDUS  11 - 8,6 * 7 mm



 CARN-INDUS 12  - 9,9 * 7,1



CARN-INDUS  13 -  9,6 * 7 mm



   CARN-INDUS  14  - 9 * 7 mm



   CARN-INDUS 15  - 10 * 7,1-5 mm



CARN-INDUS  16 - 10,7 * 6,1 mm



   CARN-INDUS 17  - 11 * 5,5 mm



CARN-INDUS 18 - 8,9 * 6,9 mm



CARN-INDUS  19 -  8,7 * 7,5  mm



   CARN-INDUS  20 - 10 * 8,1 mm



   CARN-INDUS  21 - 10,2 * 8,5 * 8 mm


CARN-INDUS 22  - 9,5 * 7 mm



CARN-INDUS  23 - 10 * 7,1-5 mm 



CARN-INDUS 24  - 18 * 12 mm



   CARN-INDUS  25 - 9,9 * 7,1 mm



   CARN-INDUS  27  - 16 * 11 mm



   CARN-INDUS  28 - 11 * 8 mm


   CARN-INDUS 29  - 11,2 * 7,9 mm


   CARN-INDUS  30 - 13,9 * 8,9 mm


   CARN-INDUS 31  - 12,1 * 10 mm


   CARN-INDUS 32  - 12,8 * 8 mm


   CARN-INDUS  33 - 10 * 9 mm


   CARN-INDUS  34 - 11 * 7,7 mm


   CARN-INDUS 35 - 10 * 9 mm


   CARN-INDUS  36 - 9,5 * 7,9 mm


   CARN-INDUS 37  - 8,5 * 8 mm


   CARN-INDUS  38 - 9,9 * 8,8 mm


   CARN-INDUS  39 - 8,2 * 7 mm


   CARN-INDUS 40 - 9,2 * 7,5 mm


   CARN-INDUS  41 - 9,6 * 8,9 mm


   CARN-INDUS  42 - 8,5 * 8,1 mm


   CARN-INDUS 43 - 9,5 * 8,1 mm


   CARN-INDUS 44  - 9,2 * 9 mm


   CARN-INDUS 45  - 10 * 6,8 mm


   CARN-INDUS 46 - 10 * 7,9 mm


   CARN-INDUS 47 - 9,1 * 8,5 mm


   CARN-INDUS 48 - 8,5 * 8 mm


   CARN-INDUS 49  - 9,2 * 7,1-3 mm


   CARN-INDUS 50 - 11,5 *  mm


   CARN-INDUS  51 - 9 * 6,1 mm


   CARN-INDUS 52 - 8,1 * 8 mm



   CARN-INDUS  53 - 8 * 7 mm


Please note the change in proportionality in the section to come. The beads above are not as big as they could seem in comparison to the following display.


CARN-INDUS  - LOT 54 - bead to the right: 10,7 * 5 mm



CARN-INDUS   - LOT -55 - bead in the middle: 9,5 * 5,2 mm



CARN-INDUS   -  LOT - 56 - lowest bead: 11,2 * 4 mm



CARN-INDUS  -  LOT - 57 - lowest bead: 12,7 * 3 mm



CARN-INDUS  -  LOT - 58 - Cornerless cubes - lowest left: 11,5 * 10 * 7 mm



CARN-INDUS   -  LOT -59 - lowest left 7 * 6 * 4 mm



CARN  -  LOT - 2 - lowest bead: 16,5 * 6,5 * 4 mm



CARN  3 - 18 * 11,8 * 7,2 mm



CARN 4 - 18,5 * 11 * 7 mm



CARN 5 - 13,5 * 6 mm



CARN  6 - 16,2 * 8 * 6,5 mm



CARN  7 - 15,5 * 7 * 6,5 mm



CARN  8 - 16 * 7,5 mm



CARN 9  - 26,3 * 11 mn






CARN  10 - 11,5 * 9 mm



CARN  11 - 15 * 7 mm



CARN  INDUS LOT 60 - largest: 13 * 5 mm



CARN  LOT 12 - Yellow down left: 6 * 4,2 mm



CARN INDUS LOT61  - 8,5 * 4,8 mm



CARN INDUS LOT  62 - standing left: 9,9 * 4 mm



CARN  INDUS LOT 63 - down right: 7 * 4 mm



CARN LOT 13 - upper: 7 * 4,5 mm



CARN LOT 14  - average 5 mm
Relatively larger than shown in proportion



CARN INDUS LOT  64 - down right: 10,5 * 7,5 mm



CARN  INDUS 65 -  9 mm



CARN  INDUS 66 - 15,5 * 8,2 mm



CARN INDUS 67 - 15 * 5,5 mm



CARN  INDUS 68 - 7,5 * 5,5 mm



CARN  INDUS 69 - 13,5 * 9,5 mm



CARN INDUS 70  -  11 * 7 mm



CARN  INDUS 71- 12 * 11 * 8 mm



CARN  INDUS 72 - 10-11 * 8,5 mm



CARN INDUS 73 - 6,8 mm



CARN INDUS 74 - 9 * 8 mm



CARN  15 - 11,5/12  mm



CARN  16 - 8 * 4,5 mm



CARN  INDUS 75 - 15,2 * 11/9,5 mm



CARN  INDUS 76 - 13,5 * 8 * 7,5 mm



CARN  INDUS 77 -  11,2 * 10 * 9 mm



CARN  17 - 14,1 * 6,9 mm



CARN  INDUS 78 - 15,2 * 6,2 mm



CARN INDUS 79 - 32,2 * 7 mm



CARN INDUS 80 - 49 * 6 mm
Relatively longer than shown in proportion



CARN INDUS 81 - 42,8 * 5,8 mm
Relatively longer than shown in proportion


CARN  INDUS LOT 82 - Lowest: 29 * 5 mm



CARN INDUS  83 - 13,3 * 7 * 3,2 mm



CARN 18 - 51 * 13 mm
Relatively larger than shown in proportion


The octagon shaped bead above and the family o similar designed beads here could easily be confused with antique beads from Idar-Oberstein. However these designs have been around since the Indus-period.
However, as displayed above the drill technique for making the hole is ancient, in this case more than 1500 years.

CARN 19 - 41 * 10,2  mm
Relatively larger than shown in proportion



CARN INDUS 84 - 21,6 * 8,1 mm



CARN  INDUS 85 - 24 * 7,2 mm


Displayed above: A hexagon Indus bead


CARN INDUS 86 - 22,1 * 6,5 mm



CARN INDUS 87 - 20 * 6 mm



CARN  INDUS 88- 23,5 * 7 mm



CARN  INDUS 89 - 16 * 7,1 mm



CARN INDUS 90 - 17,5 * 6,5 mm



CARN INDUS 91 - 14,5 * 6,2 mm



CARN  INDUS 92 - 12,1 * 6,5 mm



CARN  INDUS 93 - 10,1 * 6,6 mm



CARN INDUS 94 - 16.9 * 5,6 mm



CARN  INDUS 95 - 17,1 * 6,8 mm



CARN INDUS 96 - 18,5 * 6,5 mm



CARN  INDUS 97 - 15,1 * 6 mm



CARN  INDUS 98 - 14,5 * 6 mm



CARN INDUS 99 - 13 * 6,1 mm



CARN INDUS 100 - 11,8 * 6,9 mm



CARN  INDUS 101- 14 * 5,9 mm




CARN INDUS 102 - 13,5 * 5,9 mm



CARN INDUS 103 - 18,5 * 6,5 mm



CARN  INDUS 104- 11,5 * 5,8 mm



Please note the change in proportionality in the section to come.

Ball shaped carnelian beads

CARN  - LOT 20 - Upper left: 17 * 13,5 mm



CARN  - LOT 21 - Left:  15 * 14,8 mm



CARN  - LOT 22  - Upper Left: 17 * 14,8 mm



CARN  -  LOT 23  - Left: 15 * 13,6 mm



CARN  - LOT 24  - Upper left: 10,5 * 9,1 mm



CARN  - LOT 25  - 7-8 mm



CARN  - LOT 26  - Lower left: 10 mm



CARN  - LOT 27  -  Lower right: 11-10 mm



CARN  - LOT 28  - Left: 12 mm



CARN  - LOT 29  - Left: 14-13 mm



CARN  - LOT 30 - Lower left: 12,5-11,5 mm



CARN  - LOT 31 - Low left 9,5-8 mm



CARN  - LOT 32  - 8 mm



CARN  - LOT 33 - Lower left: 12-11 mm


CARN  - LOT 34 - Lower left: 14 mm


CARN  - LOT 35 - Lower left: 14-13 mm



CARN 36 - 17 mm



CARN  37 - 19-18 mm



CARN  38 - 18 - 17,5 mm



CARN  39 - 12-11,5 mm



CARN 40 - 15 mm



CARN  41 - 17 mm



CARN  42 - 12 mm



CARN 43 - 18 * 16 mm



CARN 44 - 17 mm



CARN 45  - 12-11,5 mm




CARN  - LOT 46  - Low: 13 mm



CARN  - LOT 47

Various other shapes

CARN  48 - 24 * 23 * 7,2 mm



CARN  49 - 27 * 23,5 * 9 mm


Two amulets. The above from India. Below from Sahara.

CARN  50 - 28,5 * 12 * 12 mm



CARN 51 - 33 * 9,5 mm



CARN  52 - 20 * 6 mm



CARN  INDUS 105 - 14 * 9 * 5,5 mm




CARN  53 - 22,5 * 14,2 * 7,9 mm



CARN  -  LOT INDUS 106 - Disk shaped - lowest bead: 12,5 * 4,9 mm



CARN  INDUS 107 - 11 * 10 mm



CARN  -  LOT INDUS 108 -  lowest bead: 15 * 11,3®* 5 mm



CARN  INDUS 108 - 16 * 9,5 * 5 mm



CARN  INDUS 109 - 15 * 9 mm



CARN  INDUS 110- 14 * 11 * 8 mm



CARN INDUS 111 - 15 * 12,5 * 5,5 mm






The huge non-transparent bead below was sourced in Punjab, India. As one can observe on the sharp edges of the hole, this super-large and heavy carnelian bead has never been used, or at least not much. It looks new. However, the discoloring made by calcium in the earth reveals that this bead actually is ancient. I have found exactly similar beads in Africa. In the section with African Fulani Beads, you can observe these beads.



CARN  54 - 60 * 31 * 28 mm
This bead does have banding. So one could also call it a red agate bead.
However this is a distinction without a much difference,
as both are red-orange cryptocrystaline quartz.


This bead is an example of the huge bead trade from India to Africa going on since ancient times.

Fulani bead sourced from Africa



CARN  55 -




CARN 56 -



CARN 57 - 18 * 13 mm - SOLD
Moroccan Sahara



After this find, I went to Morocco and found a few similar beads in Marrakech. I was extremely lucky to purchase some on the internet too.
Indus beads made for export
According to the bead expert Malik Hakila, the facetted carnelian beads above and below display the typical carnelian orange-red shine that in ancient times only carnelian from the area around Cambey in India had. However, we don't find facetted carnelians beads in the Indus Civilization. As we can observe through bead history, every geographical area in every historical time had its own favorite beads with certain patterns, shape, material, and color. The Indus people did not seem to like facetted beads, but the Mesopotamians did.


Accordingly, my best guess is that this wonderful polygon highest quality carnelian disk bead and the ones you see below were made as long back as by Indus people for the export to the Mesopotamian Proto Elamite elite in the Early Bronze Age. According to science, the trade between the advanced urban civilizations of Mesopotamia and the Indus began around 2600 BC. For this facetted Indus carnelian bead to end up in a Neolithic grave in Moroccan Sahara, we must at least extend this relation back to 3000 BC and maybe even further! Some historians relate the earliest Proto Elamite script with the Indian Dravidian language, which points at the existence of an Elamo-Dravidian culture stretching all the way from the Gulf to India. Seen in the light of the Elamo-Dravidian connection, bead-making and exporting relations between the two areas might very well open up for the possibility of an Indus bead ending up in a Saharan Neolithic grave.
The Proto Elamites had trading relations with Neolithic cultures as far as northwest
Africa. For the Neolithic people in west Sahara the Proto Elamites were the closest 'higher' trading civilization at the time of the decline of water in the area. So this super ancient bead most probably ended up here due to the exchange of goods with contemporary but more far more advanced cultures further east.
Remnants from several Neolithic settlements can be found in the Moroccan Sahara. For sure, these Neolithic cultures did not have the technology to fabricate polished polygonal-shaped beads. As you can see here, Neolithic beads from West Sahara have a far more 'primitive' design equivalent to their technological level in general.



Neolithic Crystal beads from West Sahara - 12 * 5 mm

From India to Nigeria
Beads are indeed great travelers, and their journey is often proportional with their age. The beautiful and large heptagon bead displayed below was a part of an ornament from the Kings of Benin, Nigeria, 1000 to 1300 A.D. It might have been ancient way before it reached the African mainland. Note the extremely high quality in the carnelian material itself. It is rare to find such a large bead with this ideal deep orange-red translucent and perfect uniform Cambey color. It does not look so old as the other beads, and this bead shape was produced for thousands of years after the Indus period. However the carnelian itself points to the same period as its more torn and worn brothers.


CARN  58 - 22,5 * 12, 5 mm    
Heptagon carnelian bead

In the Danish National Museum in Copenhagen, there is said to be an exactly similar bead to the one displayed above, woven into the dress of a chieftain from Papa New Guinea! This particular bead has never been in the possession of Europeans. Most probably it went eastwards from India via Chinese sea trading routes to Papua New Guinea.

Displayed below is a ancient pentagon-shaped carnelian bead sourced from the Harappan Indus culture in Pakistan. As mentioned, it is rare to find this type of bead in the Indus area.


CARN 59 - 17,5 * 13 mm
Pentagon bead

I love that the bead displayed above has become softly rounded through contact with countless generations of human skin. Again we find the highest quality of carnelian. The discoloring of the bead has been made by earth and time.
The ancient signature
Why love beads that show extreme wear and tear? Because they have wrinkles like a face of an old wise man. Because they are imperfect. Perfection has no spiritual life. Young people are seldom spiritual. Spirit grows with age in both beads and humans. These worn-out beads are perfectly imperfect. Time has put its mark on them like the softly rounded stones on the beach.





CARN 60 - 18,2 * 11 mm



CARN 61 - 23-22 * 11,1 mm



CARN  62 - 18 * 12,5 mm



CARN 63  -  25-24 * 12 mm



CARN 64 - 15,9 * 9,3 mm



CARN  65 - 13,5-13  * 7,5 mm



CARN  66 - 20-19,5 * 12,1 mm

I do not have many beads in my collection that has been so much polished by wearing as the beads displayed here. These beads must be super ancient. Carnelian has a hardness on the Mohr scale between 6,5 to 7. Imagine how much time in contact with human skin it need to make beads like the ones you see here!


CARN  67 - 18 * 10,2 mm



CARN  68 - 19,5-18,5 * 13 mm



CARN  69 -  18 * 15 mm



CARN  70 - 15 * 12 mm



CARN 70  -  16 * 13 mm



CARN 72 - 17 * 11 mm



CARN  73 -  16 * 13 mm



CARN  74 - 21-18,5 * 10 mm



CARN 75 - 16,5 * 13 mm



CARN 76 - 18 * 10,1 mm



CARN  77 -  19-17 * 14 mm



CARN 78 - 12,5 * 12 mm



CARN  79 - 15 * 10 mm



CARN 80  - 14,5 * 9,5 mm



CARN  81 -  17-16 * 11,9 mm



CARN  82 - 16-15 * 8,5 mm



CARN  83 - 12,5 * 10 mm



CARN  84 - 17-16 * 10,9 mm



CARN LOT 85 -  left Middle: 12,8 * 8 mm


CARN  86 -  16 * 12 mm



CARN  87 -  20-19 * 11 mm -
Moroccan Sahara

This magick bead has been
polished almost round by time


of these beads were sourced from Moroccan Sahara. It shows, what cannot surprise: that the earliest higher civilizations had trading contact with the hunter-gatherer civilizations which surrounded them. As you can observe on the page Neolithic beads, most of the beads displayed here are more crudely made. Only more 'advanced' societies could make beads like the fine polished and facetted beads displayed above. Many of them exhibit the highest quality of carnelian.

However, we must also take into the equation that many of these bead shapes were so popular that they were copied and produced in Africa almost up to up to our time. Patina, wear and tear and the size and design of holes are therefore most important in the time-lining of them.


From ancient production to Baba Ghors mass-production
Beads like those displayed above were produced for export by the Indus people from more than 5000 years ago. You can compare the Indus beads OIV 9 and 10 above with the beads below to see the similarity in design.

Several of the beads displayed below are most likely to be 'only' around 500 years old. They are from the heydays of Baba Ghor, whom I mentioned in the beginning. The Baba Ghor beads are, what is easy to observe, made out of carnelian stones of a far lesser quality than the much older Indus beads above. Baba Ghors export beads are not rare and not as old as the above high-quality Indus carnelian beads. The holes are smaller. The craftmanship is primitive but powerful like an African tribal mask. These beads are still available for collectors, but for how long?

Is the baba Ghor story a myth?
However, when I look at these beads, they do not seem to be 'only' 500 years old. They look ancient to me. I recently talked to an Indian bead expert, who told me that according to his view, the Baba Ghor story was a myth. He told me that there since ancient times had been a huge amount of ancient beads scattered around n the area. As an example he mentioned an area in Gujarat called Ghansor, or Naga Baba Ghansor. In this area, like many other similar people had for generations collected beads from Indus sites and sold to especially the Moslem faqirs. Beads like the ones below were then not produced 500 years back but collected from sites since the last 500 years. I tend to believe this explanation more than the official Baba Ghor myth.

 CARN 88 - 24 * 23 * 8 mm

 CARN 89 - 24 * 20 * 8 mm

 Click on pictures for larger image



 CARN 90 - 22 * 20 * 7 mm - SOLD

 CARN 91 - 33 * 29 * 8 mm



 CARN 92 - 26 * 23 * 10 mm

 CARN 93 - 29 * 26 * 7 mm



 CARN 94 - 22 * 21 * 8 mm

CARN 95 -  25 * 20 * 8,5 mm



 CARN 96 - 15 * 12 * 5 mm

 CARN 97 - 18 * 13 * 5 mm



 CARN 98 - 39 * 16 mm

 CARN 99 - 39 * 13 * 9 mm

Some of the beads above and below are thousands of years old. Others are from the times of Baba Ghor. in the 15. Century. Again others are trade beads from Idar Oberstein in the 18. Century:

How to tell the difference?  Often wear and tear is the only indicator of age because the designs of these beads are ancient. They can be traced back to Indus Culture. A comparison between the bead designs below with the bead shown in this Harappan link will further substantiate this claim. It is unlikely that Baba Ghor and his followers invented any new bead designs. Most probably, they did as Muslim conquerors were best at all the new territories they came to: sampling information and skills from the already existing cultures. The production in Idar Obersten again copied the Ghor beads to ensure a steady demand from Africa. In this way, the Germans made copies of Indus valley beads.


 CARN 100 - 23 * 12  mm

 CARN 101 - 22 * 12  mm




 CARN 102 - 22 * 10  mm



 CARN 103 - 25 * 13  mm

 CARN 104 - 24 * 12  mm

Baba Ghor beads?
How much wear and tear will carnelian beads have after 500 years? My guess is that the beads above are older than the Cambey Ghor period. The 6 beads below are in my opinion more in sync with not thousands, but hundreds of years of human time ravage.


 CARN 105 - 24 * 10  mm

 CARN 106 - 19 * 8  mm



CARN 107 -  25 * 11  mm

 CARN 108 - 30 * 13  mm



 CARN 109 - 23 * 10  mm

 CARN 110 - 30 * 9  mm




Sard is like carnelian a variety of chalcedony. It is however harder with 7 on the Mohr scale, whereas carnelian centers around 6,5. Sard is as you can see below brownish yellow in color.

Click on picture for larger version

30 * 30 * 11 mm

CARN - 111
Translucent sard bead from India. The shine in this bead is very special.
Unfortunately the photo is not able to reflect it.


CARN 112 -




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