Cornelians are a variety of Chalcedony, and are found of a bright red, yellow, and white colour, in varying tones, and frequently with two or all the colours combined in one stone. On exposure to the Sun the colour becomes brighter and deeper, although artificial light and heat fail to produce the same effect. This stone is capable of taking a very high polish, and for this reason and for its hardness Pliny extols it above all other stones when used as a seal. The best specimens come from India; but Cornelians are also found in New Zealand, and in various parts of Europe. The range of its popularity extended throughout the Old and the New Worlds, and it was extensively used by the Egyptians who devote a chapter of their Book of the Dead to the Cornelian Buckle of Isis, which is described in the chapters on Egyptian Talismans; and is also frequently found in necklaces and hair ornaments.
In Arabia and throughout Turkey Cornelians are considered to be the best of all stones for talismanic purposes, and it is a curious fact that in certain districts of Europe under Turkish rule, it was common for Moslems to take their stones to the Christian priest whose blessing was considered to add greatly to their efficacy. The deep red stones were the ones most prized, and they were frequently to be seen engraved with verses from the Koran; of these, there are several examples in the British Museum in the galleries devoted to comparative religions.
The Rev. C. W. King, in his work on Antique Gems, describes a Cornelian picked up by Napoleon Buonaparte during the campaign in Egypt, and which he wore on his watch-chain as a seal, always carrying it about with him. It is octagonal in shape, and has an inscription in Arabic, as follows:
"The slave Abraham relying upon the merciful (God)" engraved upon it. Amongst Oriental nations the Cornelian was believed to protect from witchcraft, and, by warding off the glance of the envious, to avert the Evil Eye; it also preserved its wearers from ill-health, and particularly from the plague, a belief also shared by the Hebrews.
Marbodus, writing in the eleventh century, declares that if worn on the neck or finger it has a soothing effect, cooling the blood and "stilling angry passions," preserving concord and driving away evil thoughts; whilst Camillus Leonardus adds to its virtues the powers of preservation from lightning and tempest, from vice and enchantment, blood-posioning and fever, and that it was good for the staunching of bleeding. Marcellus Empiricus calls it the "Scythian Jaspis" in his prescription for the making of an Amulet against Pleurisy.
In Spain it was specially worn to give courage and fluency of speech, and to strengthen the voice; and in China it was highly prized as being beneficial to the stomach, which is frequently weak in the Virgo type.
White Cornelians were very popular with the ladies of Ancient Greece, who wore them as hair ornaments, frequently elaborately carved, and as Talismans against Rheumatism and Neuralgia.
In Volume II of Isis Unveiled, Madame Blavatsky mentions a Cornelian possessed by a Shaman, a native of Tartary, who was acting as her guide whilst travelling. By the aid of this stone the Shaman's astral body was not only able to travel wherever Madame Blavatsky's thought directed, but was able to bring the astral form of a Roumanian lady to her presence; also to bring to their rescue in the desert a party from the Khutchi of Lhassa.