Red Agate vs Carnelian: Is There a Difference?

This is often a complicated question that pops up in the rock community:  What’s the difference between agate and carnelian?

In theory, these are two different types of stones apparently, but they do share some similarities.  Both are varieties of chalcedony, which is part of the quartz family.  They also have clarity that gives them a bright appearance.  The same can be said about the colors, as they both can come in various shades that look similar to each other such as yellow and red, to name a few.  However, there are differences, too, mainly if you believe in the metaphysical aspects.

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Before you read this guide, however, let it be known that assuming the stone has not been dyed, then the traditional name used to describe a red to reddish brown agate stone is often referred to as carnelian.  Technically, the two are the same in a way, but I want to point out the differences that you may hear about.  It’s a great debate, but this guide should hopefully provide some clarity.

What is carnelian?

Carnelian is a type of chalcedony, which is part of the quartz family.  Mostly, it comes in a bright orange/red color, which is due to the hematite dispersed during the stone’s formation.  As volcanic magma cooled, gases expanded, then cooling to harden the rock in the areas.  The fractures then allowed the rock to cool, which eventually allowed the gasses within the stone to escape.  However, these voids and fractures that were left behind will allow the fluids inside, referred to as siliceous fluids, to harden at a lower temperature, forming the red color you see.  The depth of the color will greatly vary on the amount of iron oxide or other elements found during the formation process.

Historically, the stone was used for centuries, even being used during the Egyptian times when they placed it on mummies.  Egyptians believed it would make their sun god happy.  It’s also said to be a holy stone among the Muslims as it’s commonly used as a seal, engraved into jewelry.  Those who wore it said their dreams would come true.

One of the main reasons it’s so popular in the crystal community is partially due to the metaphysical properties, aside from the looks.  Carnelian is said to be known for promoting your creativity as well as encouraging you to take action to make your dreams come true.  Put simply, it will help you step outside of your comfort zone and encourage you to build confidence and courage to do whatever it is you want out of life.

What is agate?

Agate, like carnelian, is also a type of chalcedony and can be red in color, however, Red Agate will often be much deeper in color.  It will also have bands when examined closely. Keep in mind, however, that some red agate is often dyed.  If it’s a bright red, similar to that of the American flag, it’s safe to say it’s dyed.  Some collectors may disagree, but if you have “carnelian” with bands, it can be called red agate, but it’s still said to be carnelian if that makes sense.

Agate was formed by the deposition of silica from the groundwater inside of these cavities and is a combination of minerals that consist of chalcedony, cryptocrystalline silica, and microgranular quartz.  All three are responsible for the shinier appearance.  Like carnelian, it’s formed in the pockets as lava cools, eventually displaying all sorts of colors such as green, blue, black and white, to name a few.

By the early 1900s, agate was slowly being found and mined in Brazil, Uruguay and parts of the United States such as Montana, Oregon and Washington.

As for its metaphysical properties, it’s said to be more of a protective stone, often carried around by those who want to feel stability.  It’s also a great stone to consider if you’re looking to work on your relationships or loving yourself.  Some people see agate as a way of looking at themselves in the mirror, seeing what they have to work on in life.

Agate vs Carnelian Differences

Color – Color-wise, carnelian will be much brighter and will almost have a red-orange vibrant-like color, whereas agate will be deeper in color with red being more prominent.   Carnelian can also come in other colors such as yellow, orange or reddish-brown, sometimes with white spots.  Agate will often have a white to gray banding formation. When chalcedony is red in color, it will be referred to as carnelian.  When it’s banded, it’s referred to as agate mostly, but remember, a natural red agate is still referred to as carnelian by some.  In both agate and carnelian, the red color will come from the small amounts of iron oxide during the crystals’ formation.  Carnelian will be a uniform color and you will see no lines or patterns.  No lines means carnelian.  Again, this is a debate but I wanted to showcase the differences I researched.

Patterns – Pattern-wise, this is the most distinctive difference because agate will have transparent to semi-transparent patterned bands, whereas carnelian, again, will be more of a solid, uniformed color with slightly veined appearances.  This will be clearer in color.  Banded forms of chalcedony will be an agate stone.  This is the biggest difference between the two.

Metaphysical – If we’re talking about metaphysical properties, there are some differences here.  Carnelian, as mentioned, is said to be a stone that gives you motivation and gives you that energy to make your dreams come true.  It’s also said to help you overcome any fears you may have.  Agate, on the other hand, can be more of a calming stone, which is said to help alleviate stress in life.  It’s more of a stabilizing stone, which can help your emotional well being.

Chakras – For chakras, carnelian will help enhance the sacral chakra as it’s believed to help balance your life and energies.  As for agate, it’s said to enhance the root chakra.  This stone may be able to help improve your relationships as well as keep your “roots” strong.

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Agate vs Carnelian Similarities

As mentioned, both are part of the quartz family and will often have similar colors, mainly red and orange.  Both share the same hardness on the Mohs scale (7) and will have a waxy and dull luster with a smooth surface.  They are both part of the same species, chalcedony.

Both will grow in the same environment, and when mined, they are commonly found in sedimentary rocks and crystal veins.

Spiritually, both of these crystals are related to the fire element, which is said to help transpire your creative side.  These stones are often referred to as a protective stone, too, as they are said to help shield you from negative thoughts and energies.

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About Me

Hi! I'm Lauren, and I run Moonlight Gems AZ. I'm an avid crystal collector and would love to share my expertise with you.