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An ancient word used to describe red gemstones.

This is not a word you are going to come across too often in the modern gem world, but a short explanation may help when reading older literature, where it is frequently used.

Throughout the past 5000 years, names of gemstones have continually evolved, as better identification has led to a far wider array of different species. It is believed that the initial use of the word Carbuncle was to describe any gemstone that was red.

Over time, the word was further restricted to cabochon cut red gems and later in history it was adopted as the initial name for Ruby. At this time other civilisations were naming Ruby “ratnari”, which is Sanskrit for “king of gems”.

Carbuncles are mentioned in the Bible in Exodus 28:17 and 39:10; Ezekiel 28:13 (which refers to the Carbuncle’s presence in the Garden of Eden) and Isaiah 54:12: “And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones.”

It is quite fortunate that the name is no longer used as it is also, according to the dictionary, the name of a painful circumscribed inflammation, with a tendency to spread somewhat like a boil!

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