Onyx is a member of the Agate group of Chalcedony, which is part of the family of Quartz. Onyx differs from other Agates in that its lines of colour banding (normally black and white) are straighter. When Onyx is pure black it is referred to as Black Onyx and owes its distinctive colour to an ancient dyeing process. Because Onyx is 100% opaque it has an excellent lustre. In its natural form, this gemstone is available in a variety of colours: white and red bands – Carnelian Onyx, and Sardonyx which is the reddish brown coloured member of the Agate family. It usually has varying coloured layers and a vitreous to waxy lustre.
Onyx can be found in Brazil, India, Madagascar, Uruguay and USA.
Traditional legends, gemstone folklore and healing properties of Onyx
The name Onyx comes from the Greek word “onux”, meaning fingernail, as it comes in a variety of colours, from “fingernail” white, to black. Legends say that while the Goddess Venus was sleeping, Cupid cut her fingernails with an enchanted arrow and the cut fingernails left on the floor turned into Onyx. The ancient Greeks and Romans used it and many believed that wearing an Onyx stone strengthened the heart and kidneys, reduced stress, improved eyesight and aided sleep. The Persians and Indians thought that Onyx possessed magical powers and could protect from the “evil eye”. In the UK, Onyx became very popular during the Victorian era as Queen Victoria made black jewellery fashionable, as she only wore black for 40 years after the death of her husband. It was also a good substitute for the more expensive jet. In the 1920s it was widely used in art deco jewellery designs.
Onyx is believed to eliminate negative thinking and sharpen the wits, instinct, intuition and is said to help to change one’s habits.
Onyx is the birthstone for Leo (July) – shared with ruby and carnelian, and the gemstone for the seventh year wedding anniversary.