By Sarah Corbett
Carnelian has been greatly prized by many cultures. It has been a very desirable element of jewellery and adornment throughout history.
Each piece of Carnelian is unique. Many cultures have attributed metaphysical properties to pieces of carnelian. It is believed by many that these semi precious stones can enhance life and help to cure many physical, mental or psychological disorders.
Many early adornments made from carnelian originated in India. These adornments were traded around the world to Africa, Asia and Europe.
The art of bead making in India is reputed to have started in Khambat ( Cambay) in the state of Gujerat as early as the third Millennium BC. A nearby ancient town called Lothal was a Harrapan bead producing centre which was founded ca. 2400 – 1700 bc.
The beads of the region were made primarily from stones found along the banks of the Marmada river which is flanked by areas rich with Agate beds.
The Carnelians from Gujerat are rich in Iron, this is the reason that the stones from the area are a rich orange / red colour. These colours are developed by a drying and heating processes.
Visitors to the Taj Mahal can see wonderful examples of carnelians inlaid against white marble. Carnelian was the favourite stone of Queen Mumtaz and her husband Shah Jahan had it used to amazing effect in this building which was constructed to honour her.
Trade to Muslim countries and to Africa flourished between the 13 th and 19th centuries, until lapidary competition from Idar Oberstein and glass bead copies from Czechoslovakia drove the bead industry in Cambay into decline.
Recent cases of Silicosis ( a chronic occupational disease ) have been recently reported in Khambat and linked to the exposure to silica dust.