Onyx
 
7th Anniversary Gemstone.    The name comes from the Greek word onux, which means fingernail.   According to Roman Mythology, Cupid cut the divine fingernails of Venus with an arrowhead while she was sleeping.   The fates turned the clippings into stone so that no part of the goddess would ever perish.   Black isn't normally the color one associates with fingernails, but in Greek times, almost all colors of chalcedony from fingernail white to dark brown and black were called Onyx.   Later, the Romans narrowed the term to refer to black and dark brown colors only.
 
Even in Roman times, the black color of Onyx was usually enhanced by man.    More than 2000 years ago, Roman historian Pliny described a traditional technique for darkening Onyx that is still in use today.   The Onyx is soaked in sugar water, then placed in strong acid.    After boiling for two hours, the acid eats away the sugar and water, leaving pure black carbon.   Today cobalt dye is also used.
 
Onyx is one of the many varieties of chalcedony, being the same as banded agate except that the alternately colored bands of Onyx are always straight and parallel.   Most common stone colors are black and white or gray, black and red to brownish red, white and red to brownish red, but those banded only with grays or gray and white are more specifically known as Onyx agate.
 
Reddish brown and white colored Onyx is known as Sardonyx.   Sardonyx was highly valued in Rome, especially for seals, because it was said never to stick to the wax.   Roman general, Publius Cornelius Scipio, was known for wearing it a good deal.
 
Durable and easy to care for, Onyx has a hardness of 7 on the Mohs Scale and an enviable toughness even when carved in intricate designs.   The seal rings worn by ancient Romans are still in fine shape today.
 
In jewelry design as in fashion, colors look crisper against a background of black, and black and white always looks right.   For fine jewelry, the black backdrop is often supplied by Onyx, a black chalcedony Quartz with a fine texture.   Some Onyx also displays white bands or ribbons against a black background.    If the layers are even, this type of Onyx can be carved into cameos.
 
Black Onyx shines especially well when used as a backdrop for color play.   Its fine texture also makes it ideal for carving, resulting in it being a favored material for today's lapidaries.   Onyx was often used as the perfect foil for carved rock crystal or the 'drop dead red' of Rubies in art deco designs.  It is also popular in Marcasite jewelry. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
GB Jewelers, Inc.
Under the Clock Tower
675 SE Marlin Avenue, Suite 1  /  PO Box 999
Warrenton, OR 97146
800-869-1481

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