Gem Profile- Onyx
by Judy Ellis
Onyx comes from the Greek word for nail. Nail? Yes! While many of us think of the color black when onyx comes up, onyx is a variety of chalcedony that can be banded like agate, or have white, black, or even green and other colors present! And onyx is named not for its black characteristics, but for the white onyx that looks like a white fingernail! In fact, the Ancient Roman legend is that when Venus was having a manicure, her fingernail clippings fell into the river, sank, and became onyx stones.
Green Onyx Pendant in 14kt gold filled wire by Joan Madouse - featuring a faceted green onyx from India
Judy Ellis's Gem Profile- Onyx - , General Education, , Green Onyx pendant
Onyx is made of quartz and moganite, a member of the silica oxide chalcedony family, and onyx's color simply comes from the minerals it's surrounded by. Sardonyx is a variety in which the stone features red-colored bands, rather than white or black. The red banding is sard, which we discussed along with Carnelian. Onyx does bear resemblance to agate, but it is typically more opaque than translucent agate.


You can clearly see the white and black onyx in this pillar, which is actually formed alongside quartz crystals! (photo credit: Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com - CC-BY-SA-3.0 via wikipedia)
Judy Ellis's Gem Profile- Onyx - , General Education, , Agate Quartz
While black onyx does exist in nature, it is much more rare than sardonyx, colored onyx, and agates. In fact, black onyx has been imitated since the 1st century AD, with Romans soaking or boiling chalcedony or agate stones in sugar solutions, then treating the stones with acids to blacken the sugars absorbed into the top layers of the stones. This technique is still used today, as well as dyes. However, this means that if you come across black onyx that has white bands or stripes, it's most likely completely natural!


This Onyx Wire Pendant by Ruth Soucek shows the white banding characteristic of onyx!
Judy Ellis's Gem Profile- Onyx - , General Education, , Onyx wire pendant
Onyx was valued in ancient Israelite history, as it is mentioned along with other stones and gold in the Bible in Genesis, Exodus, 1 Chronicles, Job, and Ezekiel.

Many ancients used onyx since ancient times in carvings and in jewelry: onyx is commonly found as the background in old cameos. Also, onyx enjoyed celebrity status along with jet in the mourning period of the Victoria, following the death of Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, in 1861. The Queen's mourning was so severe it lasted until her death in 1901. Edward VII, her successor, and his wife Queen Alexandra, were absolutely beloved by jewelers and fashion designers when they came to the throne and returned color and sparkle to jewelry and clothing: while onyx is beautiful, can you imagine black mourning garb being the monarch-supported celebrity trend for 40 years!


A masculine Black Onyx ring in silver wire by Frances (Fenya) Lediaev
Judy Ellis's Gem Profile- Onyx - , General Education, , Black Onyx ring
In modern times, onyx has been found in Scotland, Canada, the US, Madagascar, India, Germany, Czech Republic, Russia, China, and Brazil.

Astrologically speaking, onyx, specifically black onyx, is the birthstone for Leo. Metaphysically, onyx is said to encourage one to take responsibility for self-improvement, as well as self-mastery; it's associated with determination as well as protection.


Black onyx wire pendant created by Frances (Fenya) Lediaev
Judy Ellis's Gem Profile- Onyx - , General Education, , Black onyx pendant
Resources & Recommended Reading

Onyx on MinDat.org
Onyx in the King James Bible
Onyx on Wikipedia

Materials

Wire
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Black Onyx Cabochons
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Matte Onyx Cabochons
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Black Onyx Beads
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Matte Onyx Beads
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13 Piece Black Onyx Collar Set - Pack of 1 Set
A2-129
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $3.57
  • Gold Club Price: $2.68
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Matte Onyx 10mm Round Beads - 8 Inch Strand
A1-282
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $8.07
  • Gold Club Price: $6.05
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Matte Onyx 10x14mm Oval Cabochon - Pack of 2
E8-20B
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $5.33
  • Gold Club Price: $4.00
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Onyx 10x14mm Oval Cabochon - Pack of 2
E8-19B
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $5.33
  • Gold Club Price: $4.00
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Onyx 12mm Square Beads - 8 Inch Strand
A1-318
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $8.47
  • Gold Club Price: $6.35
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Sardonyx 18x25mm Oval Cabochon
E8-29D
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $3.67
  • Gold Club Price: $2.75
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Sardonyx 8mm Round Beads - 8 Inch Strand
A1-434
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $9.47
  • Gold Club Price: $7.10
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Tools

WireJewelry - Ultimate Wire-Pliers Jewelry Pliers with Case, Set of 5
G15-20
  • G15-20
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $170.72
  • Gold Club Price: $128.04
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Bench Tools
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  • Category: General Education
  • Technique(s): General Education