When we think ‘black onyx’, the image of a lacquered, lake-still stone carves itself in our minds. It is usually the case that onyx refers to a variety of white and black banded chalcedony. Between the two colors, people prefer the black onyx.

Rarity might shape the general opinion. Other trendsetters that place black onyx center stage are the metaphysical properties and Feng Shui credentials the stone it’s said to exhibit.

Black Onyx – The Nail Lacquer of a Greek Goddess

The Physical Birth of a Stone

Black Onyx black onyx

Onyx is a variety of the microcrystalline quartz called chalcedony. Like all quartz stones, onyx is a hard rock. On the Mohs scale, it measures a hardness of 6 to 7.

Onyx also comes in a range of colors. Onyx is often compared to agate. That is because the two stones share more genetic similarities than differences; they’re like distant third-grade cousins.

Shaped by parallel bands of chalcedony, the onyx consists of stripes of alternating colors. Agate is also a variety of the same mother crystal, only the pattern of its bands waxes chaotic or curved.

Where do these bands come from? They are the result of fine materials, or silica deposits such as quartz and moganite interspersing in the making of the onyx stone.

The color palette ranges from red, orange, brown, and all the hues in between. However, the market has long been contaminated with artificially treated onyx stones. Truth is, natural black onyx is as rare as diamonds.

The Manicure of a Love Goddess – The Mythical Birth of a Gemstone

The entomology of the word ‘onyx’ reveals the mythical inception of the stone. In Greek, ‘onyx’ translates to ‘fingernail’ or ‘claw’.

Once upon a time, the Greek poets sing, the goddess Venus was sleeping by the shores of the Indus River. Cupid, mischievous to his angelic feathers, wanted to surprise his mistress with a manicure. He aimed one of his enchanted arrows to her hands and took a shot.

Her nails fell and sank into the waters of the sacred river. There, at the bottom, the pairings of nails grew roots until men fished them out as onyx stones.

How the Ancients Used Black Onyx

Gemma Augustea black onyx


No wonder onyx carved a reputation as a protective stone. Venus, the goddess of love, embodies the very principle of motherly vigilance.

The warriors of ancient times would engrave the image of the God Mars or the hero Hercules when facing battle.

In ritualistic ceremonies and during labor, Persians would place the black onyx on the stomach of a pregnant woman to reduce the pain and protect her and the baby against the evil eye.

Onyx handles decorated gold items, and the stone was used in Roman seals by men and carved into cameo brooches for women.

Natural or Artificial Black Onyx?

Necklace of Black Onyx black onyx

The Egyptians stained onyx to improve its color. However, once onyx grew in popularity, the world became aflood with cheap imitations.

Chalcedony and agate were the prime material to create artificial onyx varieties from. Since black onyx is so rare, whatever fell in the hands of merchants and the average consumer must have been, in most cases, an agate in disguise.

Pliny the Elder, the Roman natural philosopher, was well aware of the dyeing techniques used by his contemporaries and described them in detail.

For example, soaking agate in sugar, then boiling it in sulfuric acid to carbonize the sugar was one way to fake a black onyx.

Nowadays, the same methods are still employed to treat an onyx to an artificially created black color. In addition to dye treatments, nitric acid has been used to erase undesirable colors.

Another word of warning! Agate is not the only stone to pose as black onyx. For example, calcite – the stuff of cave stalactites and stalagmites – has been going around in carved jewelry under the fake label of ‘black onyx’.

The choice of calcite as faux black onyx makes sense, at least from an economic standpoint. This carbonate material is banded, much softer and moldable than onyx, and comes in large, inexpensive supply.

How to Wear Black Onyx

Black Onyx Bracelet black onyx

Black onyx stones can breathe both elegance and mystery into an attire. Since black is a neutral color, any background look or shade of color matches with the stone’s.

It is only natural then that the black onyx is a sought-after gemstone. From necklaces, earrings, bracelets to black onyx engagement rings, from gothic trends to a night at the opera, a piece of jewelry carrying an onyx stone cannot go amiss.

One of the oldest and popular methods of incorporating the black onyx into jewelry is the cameo. Renaissance and Roman cameos, as we’ve mentioned earlier, engraved onyx layers against the color of a second band.

Nowadays, most modern cameos are carved into layered agates.

Metaphysical Properties

Being the bearer of harmony in relationships and the provider of authority, courage, and confidence, the gemstone attracts much attention.

Ancient astrologists assigned it to two of the most daring signs of the zodiac – Leo and Capricorn.

Indian gemologists recommend the gemstone in facilitating human interaction and mutual understanding. And while onyx celebrates the 7th year of a marriage, black onyx is the anniversary gemstone for the 10th year of marriage.

Black Onyx in Feng Shui

‘When we throw out the physical clutter, we clear our minds’, says one of the main tenets of this ancient Chinese philosophy.

Be careful where you place the things that populate your universe because they might influence your state of mind.

Feng Shui has a word to say about colors as well. It associates black with wisdom, cooperation, social skills, adaptability. Black encompasses all the colors of the spectrum.

In Feng Shui, black determines the tides of your economic success. And black stones especially, including onyx, should attract Wall Street victories with magnetic force.

‘You don’t have to believe in Feng Shui for it to work. I just know it brings me money.’, says business guru Donald Trump.

According to the Chinese directives, he must be using a black onyx as a paperweight to keep his wallet change and important political discourses from flying away off his desk.

What Is the Value of a Black Onyx Nowadays?

Rosary of Black Onyx

Depending on quality, size, craftsmanship, and accompanying gemstones, black onyx can vary in price from as little as $1 to over $500 per carat.

Dyeing black onyx stones has become such a standard practice and displays such ancient roots it almost carries the value of a tradition to be preserved.

If you consider investing in a purchase, don’t waver. Remember what the grounding black onyx teaches us. Determination and steadfastness are the pillars upon which we can build our happiness.

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