Onyx Stone: Everything You Need to Know About the Stone of the Mind

Most people think of onyx as a black gemstone. Black is not a color that appeals to everyone, but the mysticism associated with these opaque gemstones is quite influential in the history of the onyx stone. That being said, black is not the only color that onyx comes in, despite being the most popular.

Interestingly, onyx is associated with highly positive energy. It was also a popular gemstone in ancient times and has been found in archeological jewelry. Onyx stones are especially popular for carvings and there are quite a few unique creations that have been made from onyx throughout history. This is only enhanced by the affordability of the gemstone.

Onyx colors vary between black, white, gray, and many more. It scores between 6.5 to 7 for hardness on the Mohs Scale. It belongs to the chalcedony mineral class and symbolizes protection, balance, and groundedness.

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Where Does Onyx Come From?

Onyx stones are found all over, and some colors are indigenous to specific locations. Onyx gemstones are mined in Russia, Madagascar, Brazil, India, South Africa, Australia, Latin America, and parts of the United States.

What Does Onyx Look Like?

Onyx is commonly associated with a black, waxy appearance and the stones can sometimes have parallel colored bands. Although most people might believe that onyx is always black, there are many different colors like pink, brown, orange, green, and even a clear onyx that has white bands.

In fact, naturally occurring solid black onyx is quite rare, so most commercial black onyx is actually another stone with a chalcedony base that has been dyed black. Most commonly, you will find agate or gray onyx that has been dyed black through heat treatment or staining. This has been popular since ancient Egyptian times.

In addition, solid color onyx stones are not as common as some might think. Among the solid color stones, black is the most common variety. Most varieties have a base color and different colored bands, and the combination can be just about anything.

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What is Onyx?

Onyx is a variety of chalcedony which is a silicate mineral. This is the same mineral that makes stalagmites and stalactites in caves. This also forms the parallel bands of colors in onyx. Agate and onyx are actually very similar, with the main difference being that onyx has straight and parallel bands, whereas agate has curved bands.

The Greek word onux means ‘claw’ or ‘fingernail’, which resulted in the name ‘onyx’. The name comes from what the bands look like within the stone when it is cut open. Legends in Ancient Greece say something different though. The goddess Venus had her fingernails cut by an arrow from her son, the god of love, Cupid. These divine fingernails rained down from Mount Olympus into the Indus river, which turned into onyx.

The Different Types and Colors of Onyx

Onyx often has a black base with a white upper layer. You could also see onyx with parallel color bands classified by different base colors.

Chalcedonyx or Banded Onyx

This is a chalcedony stone with bands of onyx. The bands are usually brown, gray, black, or cream-colored.

Carnelian Onyx

Carnelian onyx has an orange or deep red base with light red or white bands. It is one of the most beautiful forms of the onyx gemstone.

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Nicolo Onyx

This onyx stone has an extremely thin layer of white with a black base. The upper layer is almost translucent and can appear light gray or blue against the black base.

Sardonyx

The base for this onyx is brown and the upper layers are yellow or red. It is sometimes referred to as red onyx or Sardian onyx. This is not a rare variety of onyx and is quite easily sourced.

Marco Hazard from Hong Kong, Hong Kong, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Arabic Onyx

Of all black onyx, this is the most common variety. It has a white upper layer and a black base. Geologists like to call it true onyx.

Black Onyx

Black onyx has a pure color and does not contain any other layers or bands. This rarely occurs in nature and most black onyx varieties on sale today are treated gray onyx or other chalcedony stones made to look like black onyx.

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Onyx Meaning and Symbolism 

Onyx helps to provide protection and stability to anyone who wears it. It is a grounding force that provides motivation and drive. Onyx helps to push the wearer toward their dreams. Furthermore, there are onyx healing properties that are used to activate the root chakra to bring focus and stability. Onyx can also increase self-control, lower anxiety, and balance out emotions. An onyx gemstone can help shield a wearer from negative energies and negative feelings. It is also used in feng shui for the same purpose of protection and benefits to your work environment.

History and Mythology of Onyx

Onyx is not a new discovery. It dates back to ancient times and can be found across different cultures and civilizations. Onyx was prevalent in Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and Ancient Rome. Jewelry and amulets were carved from onyx and found centuries later by archeologists. Ancient Romans were also known to manipulate stones to look like other gems.

Furthermore, there are references to onyx made in the Bible and it is believed to have been the eleventh stone in the High Priest’s breastplate. Solomon also went to great lengths to gather onyx to use in his new temple.

The Value of Onyx

The popularity of black onyx has led to a lot of manipulation of gems to look like an onyx gemstone. The more affordable variety sold as black onyx is often chalcedony which has been dyed black. It should thus be noted that these more affordable dyed gems are often of low quality. Untreated stones can be more expensive and are of higher quality. Some varieties of onyx are quite rare or used for specific things. For example, Brazilian green onyx is most often used in home decor along with yellow onyx. Varieties like Mexican onyx or Onyx marble are not actually real onyx gems, but rather a banded variety of quartz. False stones are also common as cheaper gems receive dye treatments to be sold as onyx.

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Onyx Gemstone Uses

We see evidence of onyx used throughout history that persists today. Its use in jewelry is common, but you can also see it faceted into other things. It is a durable stone that can withstand wear and tear so it can even be used in home decor. It is also considered an appropriate gift for the 7th wedding anniversary.

Onyx Gemstone Family 

Onyx belongs to the chalcedony family; specifically, it is a microcrystalline quartz. Other gemstones belonging to this family include carnelian, agate, chrysoprase, bloodstone, aventurine, jasper, and tiger’s eye. While most experts find onyx and agate to be separate stones, others might classify them as subtypes of one another.

Caring for Your Onyx Stone

If you have genuine stones then you should be able to wash them in warm water with a little bit of non-abrasive soap when necessary, and use a soft brush for more frequent cleaning. Generally speaking, onyx is not quite hard enough for everyday wear, but it is sometimes used in jewelry, especially for traditional mourning jewelry in some cultures. You can also find intricate cameos with black and white layers. Onyx cameos can be worn as jewelry or used as display pieces or home decor.

Frequently Asked Questions about Onyx Gemstones

Who can wear an onyx stone?

Onyx stones can be worn by anyone. It can benefit an individual’s grounding and boost mindfulness. It is also strongly associated with the zodiac sign, Leo.

Is onyx an expensive stone?

Compared to other gems, onyx is not particularly expensive. Prices vary between different colors and varieties. Natural black onyx is more expensive than dyed varieties because it is rarer.

What does the onyx stone symbolize?

Onyx symbolizes grounding, stability, and protection while increasing focus and willpower.

What is an onyx stone good for?

Onyx stones can help you strengthen your mind, achieve your goals, and bring focus and motivation.

Are onyx transparent stones?

No, they are opaque.

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