Carnelian Seal Ring


My maternal grandmother, a most regal woman, had died at the impressive age of 97.

My mother and I were filtering through her belongings - that disarmingly engaging aspect of the mourning ritual. My grandmother, Eileen Maxwell, was a remarkably strong matriarch, a Christian Scientist, a mother of five who lived a difficult life in Western Queensland with her husband Henry Charles Kempson Maxwell (Hal) on cattle properties from the end of World War 1 until 1951 when they moved to Brisbane. My grandparents were in love. She also looked after herself, she would rest every afternoon and her adoring husband would leap into bed and warm the sheets for her regular arrival at which point he would subtly depart. Much later, she was also responsible for my first inkling of sexuality - she had bought Germaine Greers The Female Eunuch, had read it cover to cover (albeit secreted from prying public eyes by brown paper wrapping) as she sat on buses on her way back and forth to theatre performances and singing lessons. When she had finished it, Eileen handed the still wrapped text to my mother, after having cut her name out of the title page, and, in an urgent, quietened tone, instructed that she and her two daughters read it thoroughly, then added in postscript that she never wanted to see it again. Always seeking the corner treasures, I found a small box of broken trinkets amongst the Readers Digests, furs and silver lame frocks in her apartment. Amongst the morsels were single earrings, almost sets of gold shirt studs and a broken carnelian seal engraved Yours H in a flourishing script. My grandfather had signed his love letters to Eileen with this seal during the war. I decided to transform this forgotten device into an heirloom of some small significance for myself and others - a tracing to the connection between my grandparents. Having almost made it to thirty, I had it in mind to commemorate this surprising event by gifting a ring for my finger of independence. So off I went to Barbie and commissioned something Etruscan and generous - a spin ring, something that would work as a seal if I so desired. My very own jeweller transfigured and repeated the gestures of the remaining rose gold encasing the seal, and completed the ring in time for my birthday. Some time later, I was contemplating the initial H and wished to make it my own - so I settled on Heart, Health and Hope, the letter worn to my skin.

Rhana Devenport

Carnelian is a talisman,

It brings good luck to child and man;

If resting on an onyx ground,

A sacred kiss imprint when found.

It drives away all evil things;

To thee and thine protection brings.

The name of Allah, king of kings,

Will move to love and doughty deed.

From such a gem a woman gains

Sweet hope and comfort in her pains.


Carnelian - '... people are afraid of the envious. They believe that if you envy a person for his health or his wealth or any good thing that he might have, he will lose it in a short time, and it is the devil who incites the envy of some people against others. So it is supposed that by wearing this stone their envy will cease to do you harm.'

George Frederick Kunz,
The Curious Lore of Precious Stones.


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1997-2001 Barbara Heath