Black Onyx: Stone of Power

When the name onyx is mentioned, the stone usually refers to a variety of chalcedony composed of white and black bands. Between the two colors, the onyx stone is more often presumed to be black than white. Indeed, the black onyx gemstone is especially sought after, not least because of the metaphysical properties believed the black onyx stone possesses. What is black onyx exactly? And what do people wear black onyx for?

Black Onyx Necklace
Black Onyx Necklace

Black Onyx Properties

What is black onyx? The fact is, not all onyx stones are black. The onyx gemstone is a variety of chalcedony, which falls under the group of minerals called quartz. The name onyx usually refers to chalcedony of alternate bands, usually white and black. Like quartz crystals, onyx is a hard rock, rated in the Mohs scale of hardness at 6 to 7. Agate is also a kind of chalcedony that occurs in different bands of colors, not excluding black and white. How different is onyx from agate?

A beautiful raw onyx with black and white bands
Source: Rob Lavinsky, – CC-BY-SA-3.0

Besides color, the only characteristic that differentiates onyx from agate is the quality of banding. If the stripes in a banded chalcedony are parallel to each other, the stone is called onyx. If the bands are chaotic, the stone is just agate. This differentiation is only artificial, however, and is not thoroughly observed. The fact is, the onyx gemstone is a variety of agate. Agate comes in a great variety of colors, but when agate occurs in black and white bands, the stone may be called onyx. In modern usage, the name onyx itself usually refers to black onyx. The use of this black onyx gemstone is traced far back in history.

Black Onyx History

The name onyx comes from the Greek onux, which means “fingernail” or “claw,” which are resembled by flesh-colored onyx pebbles. At the time, chalcedony stones from shades of white, brown to black were all called onyx.

A traditional Italian ring with an onyx cameo

Onyx has long been used in carving and ornaments, especially cameo jewelry. The onyx stone was also made into bowls and other pieces of pottery. A banded stone, onyx has an early history of being dyed to give it a uniform shade of black. Dyeing is possible, since onyx and other varieties of chalcedony are porous in nature, and therefore keep the dyeing material adhere to itself. To this day, many, if not most, of the black onyx stones in the market are dyed. Onyx may also be heat-treated and polished.

Black Onyx Necklace

Black Onyx Meaning

Like other black stones, the black onyx gemstone is a grounding stone, believed to keep a person firmly grounded to reality, and protecting him from internal imbalances and outward negative energies. Besides balancing excessive passion and excitement, the black onyx stone is also thought to neutralize negative emotions and mental stresses, and stave off external negativity at the same time. Hence, black onyx makes a powerful charm both for self-mastery and self-protection.

Black Onyx As Birthstone

Bestowing courage and power, a black onyx stone is so powerful indeed that the gemstone was assigned by ancient astrologers to the two most ambitious signs of the zodiac.

Leo Charm Necklace: Black Onyx Pendant

Leo. Leo is the zodiac sign with the biggest personality, often too exuberant and bold than necessary. Black onyx works to keep this larger-than-life personality under better self-control, making the Leo person more effective in his creative pursuits. For other birthstones for Leo, see also Leo Birthstones.

Capricorn Charm Necklace: Black Onyx Pendant

Capricorn. Capricorn is another ambitious sign of the zodiac. The black onyx gemstone is believed to empower this industrious zodiac sign as well, by keeping him grounded as he goes about realizing his ambitions. For other birthstones for Capricorn, see also Capricorn Birthstones.

Months. As a month stone, onyx was assigned as traditional birthstone to the month of July in the ancient Hebrew and Italian calendar, while the Old Tibetan calendar designated onyx as the birthstone for December.

Faceted Black Onyx Necklace

Black Onyx Jewelry

Possibly the most remarkable way of making an onyx stone into jewelry is the cameo, where a layer of onyx is carved in a raised design against the color of the second band. Yet this applies to onyx stones of at least two layers of color. On the other hand, an entirely black onyx stone is also made into jewelry, and is no less popular.

Black Onyx Bracelet

Black stones are commonly made into mourning jewelry, since black is the most somber color to wear in a funeral. The black onyx gemstone likewise falls into this category, but in no way limited in use to mourning jewelry. Black onyx is also worn in emo fashion, as well as goth, but is not limited to these dark fashion styles, either. Worn by Leo and Capricorn people as their birthstones, the black onyx stone is the gemstone for people of strong personalities.

Yet, though black onyx gives a person an edgy look, the black onyx gemstone also matches practically every shade of clothing; since black is a neutral color, and looks good beside any hue. Hence, from rings, necklaces, bracelets to earrings, the black onyx gemstone is a famous choice of gemstone for jewelry. At the same time, the black onyx stone may be affordable enough to be cut into beads, and worn lavishly around necks, wrists and even ankles.

Long Black Onyx Necklace

Black Onyx Value

How much is black onyx worth? Like other gemstones, the price of a black onyx gemstone is higher when the onyx stone has been made into jewelry than when bought as loose stones or beads. Black onyx price also goes up with the quality, the same way it varies with the size and cut. Much of the value of black onyx is determined by the craftsmanship of the finished jewelry, as well as the metals and other gemstones that accompany the black onyx stone.

The value of black onyx can indeed be extremely valuable, and may range from as little as $1 dollar a carat to over $500. The black onyx stone is generally more valuable than other varieties of onyx. This is true even with black onyx that has been dyed. Since it has been traditional practice to dye an onyx stone evenly black, this treatment does not bring down the value of a black onyx gemstone significantly. In fact, probably most of the black onyx stones in the jewelry market have been dyed black.

Men’s Black Onyx Necklace

Do you like black onyx?

The black onyx stone is a hard gemstone that is a lustrous black in color. Black onyx is popular among black stones, and is widely worn as jewelry. Do you like the black onyx gemstone? How about black stones in general? See also 19 Types of Black Stones for Jewelry.

Black Onyx Earring
Published December 16, 2013

About the Author

Deomar Pandan is the author of Power Birthstone. He's on the third draft of a high-fantasy novel, Cybelym, and the first of a historical fiction, Gem Faerie. He hopes to release a nonfiction book about diamond soon. Follow him for updates. Or see his jewelry and designs.