Reflecting on Etymology
The term 'carnelian' is widely believed to originate from the Latin word 'Carne,' which translates to 'flesh.' A look at the semi-precious stone displayed above offers a clear understanding of why the ancient Romans opted for this descriptor for this member of the cryptocrystalline agate family.

Carnelian has been revered as a cherished gemstone since the Neolithic period. Evidence of carnelian ornaments and beads can be traced back to the Bronze Age, with discoveries in the Indus Valley, Mesopotamia, and Egypt. Subsequently, the Persians, Greeks, and Romans utilized the stone, particularly for seal engravings. The stone's enduring appeal continued into the Medieval period, where the mystic Hildegard von Bingen extolled its healing virtues. She proposed that the name 'carnelian' was derived from cornel cherries, attributing this to the similarity in color. While Hildegard and others who support the cherry connection are justified within their local contexts, the idea of assigning a globally esteemed stone, treasured since the Neolithic era, a name derived from cornel cherries seems somewhat amusing to me.

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

The Egyptian Book of the Dead signified red as a representation of blood, and therefore, life and vitality. The Isis girdle/knot-amulet, known as Tet (Tyet), was crafted from carnelian and invoked with the phrase: "Oh, blood of Isis." This amulet was buried with the deceased and was typically made from a red semi-precious stone like carnelian or red jasper. In this context, the Tet amulet was symbolic of the blood, power, and strength of the goddess Isis. It was believed to offer protection against all forms of evil and aid the deceased in their journey through the underworld.

Delving Deeper into the Historical Symbolism
As we trace our steps back through history, symbolic interpretation becomes paramount. In a world shaped by magical thinking and analogies, the connections between the hues of carnelian and blood are compelling and intuitive. It wouldn't be surprising if the ancient civilizations of India and Mesopotamia held similar beliefs, or at the very least, were submerged in similar layers of Bronze Age symbolic connotations. However, it was the Romans who coined the term 'carne,' not these ancient cultures.

The Romans built their civilization extensively on the foundation of Greek and Greco-Egyptian cultures. Within this context, it's noteworthy that Isis was the most widely revered Egyptian deity exported to the Greco-Roman world. Consequently, it's not inconceivable that the term 'carne' and the deeper meaning behind it could have been influenced by the cult of Isis, and by extension, the ancient river cultures that preceded them.

Even from a chemical perspective, the association between 'carne' and carnelian holds water. Iron oxides, which impart color to both blood and carnelian in the form of hemoglobin and hematite, draw a clear connection. If we were to apply Occam's razor to the world of etymology, the derivation of carnelian from 'carne' emerges as a plausible choice.

The European localized cherry could have been an apt metaphor for Hildegard von Bingen, but even if it were the true origin of the naming of carnelian, it would carry many neo-colonial implications. A potentially incorrect but more historically symbolic, respectful, and less Eurocentric name might be more appropriate. This isn't an attempt to introduce 'wokeness' into the realm of bead study, but a touch of provocative inspiration from diverse and seemingly unconventional ideologies can sometimes spark enlightening discourse


Exploring Variations in Appearance and Color
Carnelian, however, isn't just confined to the color red. It can be found in a myriad of shades, spanning from yellow to orange to darker shades of red, and even brown. The luster of the stone can vary as well, ranging from a waxy or resinous sheen to a creamy or vitreous gloss. Translucent carnelian is a rarity and is often highly prized for its unique appeal.

The Significance of Indian Carnelian
Carnelian has been sourced from numerous locations worldwide, including Australia, Europe, and America. However, some of the most exquisite carnelian pieces are believed to have originated from India, a claim supported by the stunning beads on display here. India has a long history of shaping carnelian into valued art objects, a tradition that dates back to the Neolithic era. This practice did not diminish with the advent of the Mughals in India.

The Gods
and symbols of ancient Egypt

Thames &
Manfred Lurker

Amulets of
ancient Egypt
Museum Press


Local folklore in Agra suggests that carnelian was the favorite gemstone of the beautiful Queen Mumtaz, the beloved wife of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan. When she passed away, he commissioned the creation of the Taj Mahal as her mausoleum. In the intricate semi-precious stone inlay work found within the inner sanctum of the Taj Mahal, only the finest quality of red carnelian was used.

Carnelian also plays a central role in the
Pietra Dura inlays, found in the white Makrana marble used in the construction of the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort. An example of this artistry can be observed in the Butterfly Pavilion within the Red Fort in New Delhi:, where the vibrant carnelian creates an impactful visual against the stark white marble.


Illustration 1

Understanding Carnelian's Mineralogy
The rich and varied colors that carnelian presents are a result of the incorporation of various iron oxides and/or hydroxides within its structure. These iron compounds, particularly those belonging to the hydroxide group, exist in a multitude of chemical variations. The relationship between oxygen and hydrogen in these compounds lends itself to the broad spectrum of color variations found in carnelian.

Influence of Hematite
Hematite, an oxide of trivalent iron (Fe2O3), is particularly influential in giving the stone its vibrant red color. Observe the color similarity between the hematite-colored bead shown below and the pietre dure inlay mentioned above.


Hematite mineral

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


Decoding Limonite's Role
Limonite, a widely prevalent variation of iron hydroxide in carnelian, takes on the chemical formula FeO(OH)·nH2O. Limonite and other hydrous iron oxides can significantly influence the color spectrum of carnelian. Their presence results in hues that span from yellow and rusty, to distinctively brown. So, the variety of tones that carnelian possesses, ranging from yellowish to deep reddish-brown, can often be attributed to the presence of limonite.



Limonite mineral

A limonite-carnelian bead


Carnelian, in its pure and natural form, can be discovered showcasing a wide array of colors, including yellow, orange, red, and brown. However, in contemporary times, discovering natural deep red or orange carnelian has become somewhat of a rarity. This scarcity is primarily due to the immense popularity these stones have enjoyed since the Neolithic era.

Intense red and orange hues in carnelian are typically associated with hot climate zones. It is in these regions that nature's own heat treatment, occurring over millennia, has gradually transformed the original hydroxy-based colors into a rusty-looking hematite carnelian. This is particularly true for Indian carnelian. Over countless centuries, exposure to the scorching sun slowly facilitated the conversion of iron hydroxide into iron oxide, leading to the highly sought-after red coloration. Thus, it could be said that the Indian carnelian simply 'rusted' over time. Intriguingly, carnelian seems to uniquely possess this quality among the varieties of cryptocrystalline quartz, becoming more vibrant and attractive when subjected to heat.

However, by the late Bronze Age, the escalating demand had started depleting the natural reserves of red carnelian. This led to the development of techniques to artificially heat suitable stones to achieve the desired coloration. In fact, the demand for this captivating blood-colored stone was so high that natural sun-baked carnelian became difficult to acquire, even in its place of origin, India. Consequently, the ingenious inhabitants of the Indus Valley developed the technique of transforming chalcedony into carnelian through heat treatment.

In today's context, when we examine an ancient carnelian bead, it is virtually impossible to ascertain whether the stone has undergone heat treatment or not.

A brief enchantment with Carnelian
Observe the photograph below, a tableau I chanced upon in the Moroccan Sahara, close to Hamid. Here, remnants of Neolithic flint tools are scattered across the hardened crust of the desert. Among them is a seemingly out-of-place stone, a small carnelian piece that appears to be part of the assemblage of flint scrapers. These tools were crafted and used by ancient humans at a time when the Sahara teemed with life, verdant and lush.

Interestingly, this piece of carnelian is strikingly similar to high-quality carnelian pebbles I've seen from
Lothal, India.. This leaves us with a tantalizing question: could there have been an ancient trade network stretching from Africa to India, even during these primitive times? Or was this simply a result of the relentless Saharan heat working its alchemy on the stones?

Click on the picture for a larger version

Carnelian of a deep Red-Orange Translucent and Homogenous color
It's worth noting that there is considerable variation in the quality of carnelian. Stones that are translucent and exhibit a uniform color have been most highly prized since antiquity. The ideal carnelian, be it used for beads or other art forms, should be free of banding and possess a deep, translucent red-orange hue. This characteristic is apparent in the ancient bicone beads from the Indian
Indus Valley, which are showcased below.

The iron oxides responsible for carnelian's coloring can be uniformly distributed, as seen in the Indus Valley beads, or they can manifest in gradients, as shown in the bead pictured above. The iron oxide patterns can also appear as cloud-like patches, or as reddish specks that are referred to as 'blood spots' by Tibetans.

Chung DZI with blood spots

Bead Production in Cambay
Beads are frequent globetrotters, their journey often seeming ceaseless. But every bead has an origin, a place where it was created. A large proportion of ancient carnelian beads discovered worldwide originate from India. Bead making was widespread throughout the continent, with locations of production heavily dependent on the availability of suitable materials. While agate and jasper can be found in many parts of South Asia, the scope, diversity, and abundance of resources in Gujarat is unparalleled. This could explain why Gujarat, particularly an area known as
Cambay, maintains a vibrant bead-making tradition. This locale is where the skills of ancient bead masters have endured through the centuries to the present day.

More accurately, it's the nearby region of Lothal, a Harappan outpost, that has served as a stone-working center since the Indus Valley people began crafting beads from the region's abundant deposits of carnelian, onyx, and agate. Lothal dates back around 4000 years, but the Indus people started bead making and exporting over 5500 years ago!

Carnelian pebbles from an Indus site in Lothal

The Splendid Cambay Carnelian
The carnelian from Gujarat, specifically around Cambay, is renowned for its superb red-orange color, as can be observed even in the small carnelian pebbles from Lothal depicted above. This is primarily attributed to the region's high iron content.

Since the Indus period, individuals equipped with rudimentary tools have been burrowing into the iron-rich Miocene agate formations in the Babaguru formation.

The striking dark red colors are enhanced by drying the stones in the sun, followed by repeated heating. The techniques and tools utilized by Indian artists have changed little since the time of the Indus Valley culture. Their beads are entirely handcrafted, which results in less uniformity in size and shape but infuses each piece with a warmth and beauty distinctive to handcrafted items. Due to their enduring allure, Cambay remains one of the world's largest stone manufacturing locations. The region's primary market has traditionally been Africa.

However, according to my friend and esteemed bead expert,
Sanatan Khavadiya, the deepest red carnelian originated from Aurangabad in Maharashtra! This serves as a gentle reminder of how much we still have to learn about beads and the world at large.


The Global Dissemination of Beads Facilitated by Islam
Starting around AD 1300, the bead-making industry in the Cambay area began to prosper once again. This resurgence was largely due to the artisans who crafted Muslim amulets, prayer strands, and a vast quantity of carnelian beads, primarily for the African and Middle Eastern markets. These goods were transported by Arab traders to East Africa aboard monsoon-propelled dhows, or brought to Mecca and Cairo before reaching West Africa via camel caravans. Consequently, Muslims became significant transporters of beads, primarily due to the religious imperative of Hajj, which mandates every Muslim to make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime, regardless of their global location. Beads, being easy to carry and exchange for provisions, were an ideal commodity for these long, arduous journeys.

Islam, an international religion, served as a significant cultural phenomenon, with Arabic being the lingua franca. At its zenith, Islam brought together people from diverse races and cultures, creating an enormous global melting pot. Once a person converted to Islam, their skin color and native language became irrelevant. Wherever Islam was present, beads followed, and they became as intertwined as the people who wore them.

Prior to the rise of Islam, Buddhism served a similar role, facilitating the spread of beads in contrast to the more feudal and stationary Hindu caste culture.

The Holy Bead Man, Baba Ghor
Around 1500, the bead industry in Cambay witnessed further expansion, reaching unprecedented levels of production. This growth was driven by Muslim settlers, particularly under the leadership of an Ethiopian saint known as Baba Ghor, or the "Holy Bead Man." His arrival initiated a period of mass bead production on a scale that was previously unknown.

Cambay vs. Idar-Oberstein
The Indian bead industry enjoyed a virtual monopoly on carnelian bead production for many centuries. However, this position was challenged in the 19th century when the city of Idar-Oberstein in Germany began to carve carnelian beads and ornaments. Idar-Oberstein was renowned for its gemstone carving and polishing industries, which took advantage of the high-quality agates found in the region.

The skilled craftsmen of Idar-Oberstein were able to create carnelian beads of exceptional quality and intricate design, exceeding what was produced in Cambay. Their superior techniques and the use of water-powered machines for cutting and polishing gave them a competitive edge, allowing them to produce a higher volume of beads more quickly and efficiently.

This competition from Germany was further compounded when Bohemia (now a part of the Czech Republic), known for its glass-making industry, began mass-producing molded glass beads that imitated carnelian. These imitation beads were cheaper to produce and buy, and they soon flooded the African market, which had been a major destination for Cambay's beads.

The Indian bead industry struggled to compete with these new entrants. The superior quality of Idar-Oberstein's beads and the cheaper price of the Bohemian glass imitations significantly impacted the Cambay bead trade, leading to a significant decline in the region's bead-making industry.

The ancient heptagon-shaped carnelian bead shown below exudes a sense of timeless beauty. Its surface, etched by the passage of time, bears the resemblance of a face adorned with a myriad of wrinkles, each one a testament to its ancient origins. Under the surface, the bead reveals a deep, rich red hue characteristic of high-quality carnelian. Over the centuries, a thick layer of calcification has formed on its surface, further attesting to its great age and enduring allure. This layer is hard and resilient, protecting the precious stone beneath while also enhancing its ancient charm. Such relics offer us a tangible connection to the past, providing invaluable insights into the history and culture of the ancient civilizations that crafted and used them.

Although originally from India, these ancient carnelian beads traveled extensively through trade routes, notably reaching Mesopotamia. The circulation of these beads evidences the extensive trade networks and cultural interactions between ancient civilizations.



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.


The hexagonal beads showcased here bear the visible markings of substantial wear and tear, contributing significantly to their surface alterations. Considering their chemical layers and wear-induced polish, they stand as some of the most transformed pieces within my collection. One might question whether the carnelian from which these beads were crafted is softer than the average carnelian, leading to the pronounced changes. However, this seems unlikely. Instead, their current condition can be best attributed to substantial age, combined with extensive use and exposure to natural elements.

The standout deep-red carnelian bead displayed above holds a unique history. Unearthed by a Danish archaeology professor during excavation works, it was found amidst a collection of more primitively shaped stone beads in a Neolithic grave located in the Moroccan Sahara. Given the timeframe of the surrounding settlements — known to have existed during the Saharan wet period, dating from 8000 BC up to 3000 BC — this bead is estimated to be around 5000 years old. As the climate shifted, the Sahara began its transformation into a desert around 3000 BC, prompting the resident hunter-gatherer communities to gradually abandon the region.

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 -




Contact: Gunnar Muhlman -