Often known for it's red-brown color, the alternative birthstone of July is the beautiful carnelian. Carnelian is a zodiac birthstone for the signs of Leo and Virgo and has been said to promote inner vitality and joy. The carnelian is a commonly available microcrystalline quartz. It is considered a chalcedony, made up of silicon dioxide colored by different levels of iron impurities which makes them come in many warm colors ranging from a pale orange to a dark brown. Often, the stones have been heat treated to make their color more intense.
This stone got its name from the Latin word cornum meaning claw or beak. The cornel cherry, found in Central Asia, is a fruit of similar coloring to the carnelian and has the same name root. It has a hardness of 6-7 on the Mohs scale of hardness, similar to the chrysoprase. The best quality carnelians can be found in India, Brazil and Uruguay. Below is a close-up of interesting grain found in carnelian.
Like many other gemstones, carnelian has been known to have healing properties. Ancient Egyptians used to wear it close to their bodies to silence negative feelings such as hatred and jealousy. In the Egyptian Book of the Dead it says to place the stone in tombs as "magic armor" for life after death, a belief that was shared by several cultures. Carnelian has also been said to purify your blood, help with back pain and to increase creativity.