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Onyx Jewelry

What is an Onyx?

The umbrella family name is chalcedony quartz which is a silicon dioxide. Then it is broken down by color. The black stones, which may or may not have bands of white, are commonly what you think of when you think of onyx . But, there is another kind called sardonyx which is brown or reddish-brown with bands. A third type is called carnelian onyx which starts with a red base. This is why the more common stone is referred to as black onyx.

The stones are formed when gas pockets form in lava and then dry that way. The crystal forms inside the cavity much like an amethyst, which is also quartz. When you slice open the rock, the crystal is revealed and removed for polishing or carving.

There are many layers to these gemstones with the black ones having bands of white running throughout. The bands always run parallel to each other. Because of these multiple layers, the onyx is a popular medium for carving statues and cameos. For jewelry, the stone is cut and then polished to a fine even shine. The resulting smooth stone is like staring into still black waters.

Though it was extremely valuable to the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians, black onyx jewelry is quite common and less valuable today. That does not make it any less popular, just easier to find and more affordable. They are placed in all types of settings, gold and silver, and are frequently used as accents to other gemstones. The black makes an elegant canvas for colored stones.

Where Does Onyx Come From?

There are deposits of onyx all over the world, but the primary source for jewelry grade stones is probably Brazil. Other significant deposits are in India, Madagascar and even parts of California and Arizona.

Special Significance of Onyx

Sardonyx is the secondary birthstone for August. black onyx is the mystical birthstone for December and it is the birthstone for the Zodiac sign Leo. Like months and Zodiac signs, anniversaries are assigned gemstones to celebrate the milestone. A pair of black onyx earrings with diamonds would make a memorable gift for a 7th or 10th wedding anniversary.

Often, men will only wear a wedding ring and a watch for jewelry. But, this gemstone is so bold that it is a popular stone in men's jewelry. A black onyx ring in a strong setting makes a great anniversary or birthstone gift for a man and he just might wear it. But as masculine as this stone can be, it is also sophisticated and elegant. So, an onyx necklace for her is appropriate as well.

History, Mythology and Mysticism of Onyx

"Onyx" is Greek for "nail" or "claw." There is a valid explanation for this unusual correlation. According to Greek mythology, Eros, aka Cupid, snuck up on Venus, his mother, while she was asleep. He thought it would be funny to cut her fingernails. So, he used the head of his arrow to cut them and then tossed them about on the ground. The gods believed that no part of a god should ever die so they turned the bits of nail clippings into stones and called them onyx.

Ancient Greek and Roman soldiers carried or wore carved onyx talismans in the form of one god or another. They believed they would be protected by the powers of the god they were emulating. Heightened awareness and intuition are supposed to occur when wearing the black gemstone. If you are depressed or sad, it is said to promote happiness and good feelings. Wearing an onyx necklace may or may not ward off the doldrums, but it can't hurt to try.

This mysterious black gem has many mystical properties attached to it. Like it absorbs all light waves, it is also supposed to absorb negative energy as a protection to the wearer. Not only is it supposed to fend off negativity, wearing a black onyx ring may prompt you to drop some of your bad habits. This gemstone is also supposed to aid in all the major functions of the body including the nervous and cardiovascular systems.

How to Care for Your Onyx

Black onyx jewelry is somewhat delicate with a 6.5 ranking on the Mohs scale of hardness. It has a tendency to scratch and chip easily so wear your onyx ring with care. For cleaning, a soak in warm soapy water is sufficient. Never put these gemstones in an ultrasonic cleaner and store them separate from other jewelry to prevent scratching.

Onyx Stone Treatments

The deeper the black color, the more desirable the stone. So, many of the onyx jewelry you see in stores has likely been dyed or heat-treated to bring out a richer color. Chalcedony quartz easily absorbs the dye and gives an even color to the stone. This practice is very common and accepted in the jewelry industry. It does not depreciate the value of the stone.

This dark and mysterious stone makes an elegant accessory to any outfit. Men and women alike can make a bold statement with black onyx jewelry.