Carnelian beads

Color-chart people say carnelian is a reddish-brown somewhere between cardinal and cerise. OK, if you say so.

Painters in oil say carnelian is a perfect shade as a skin tone in painting handsome Mesoamerican natives.

Jewelry makers and rock hounds say carnelian is a form of quartz, found worldwide, soft and easy to carve. Crafts makers say it’s onyx, which isn’t true but does help sell a few more of their carved carnelian bookends, ash trays and other trinkets to tourists. We say that carnelian is a beautiful color in Guatemalan weavings and gardens, on Guatemalan hillsides and roadsides, worth your searching out and including on your palette.

We’ve a plant on our patio with finger-sized flowers the locals call camarónes, shrimp. They’re right with the description, as it does look like something from the sea. The plant comes in two shades, yellow-gold and carnelian—a carnelian as rich as a plateful of shrimp grilled with butter and garlic, which for dinner is a delicious way to enjoy carnelian.

Ancient Mediterranean civilizations carved carnelian stone into signet rings, broaches and other decorations. So did ancient Maya, and their descendants still fashion carnelian jewelry, often set in gold that complements the reddish-brown stone. Careful—it’s a soft stone, remember. But watch in Guatemalan shops for attractive carnelian set in gold cuff links, hangings and other attractive jewelry at attractive prices.

Stick around as the “winter” rains fall these July afternoons, wait a bit for sunshine to reappear as the skies begin to darken for the night, and many evenings the sunset will be glorious carnelian for a few moments as the sun dunks down behind the volcanoes and into the Pacific. That’s another marvelous way to enjoy carnelian.

July’s traditional birthstone is ruby, a gem that’s more expensive than most of us can consider buying. No surprise that the modern birthstone list has carnelian down for this month. It’s an elegant shade to be watched for all around this colorful country.

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