Black Onyx

Black Onyx: History, Meaning, Value, Uses, Where to Buy

Latest posts by Lauren Vigdor (see all)

Much like everyone should have a smart black suit or a little black dress, everyone should have a piece of black onyx jewelry. The striking stone makes a bold statement that can accompany all sorts of styles. Once thought of as an evil stone that drew harmful energy, black onyx has since been used across cultures to absorb negativity and provide balance. Its affordability, glossy sheen, and go-with-everything color also make it a stunning choice for jewelry! Let’s take a deeper dive into black onyx and discover the wonders of this mysterious stone. 

Bottom Line Up Front

Black Onyx is a gorgeous and mysterious gemstone, but it’s often misunderstood. Originally thought to bring bad luck and sleepless nights, the stone has evolved to represent protection and ward off negative energy. It’s a popular stone for jewelry due to its striking color, durability, and ability to be carved and cut to suit many styles. If you’re looking for black onyx jewelry, I recommend checking out the selection at Angara for their wide variety of quality pieces. 

What is Black Onyx?

Black Onyx

Onyx is a variety of chalcedony, which is a microcrystalline quartz — a stone made up of many fine quartz crystals rather than one large one. Onyx is differentiated from other types of chalcedony, such as agate, jasper, and bloodstone, by its color and parallel bands. 

While most black onyx is black with white bands, some contain bands in brown, tan, gray, or different shades of black. It is also possible, but rare, to find naturally occurring solid black onyx. However, most of the solid black onyx that is sold today is made from heat-treated gray onyx or dyed agate.

Other types of onyx are defined by their colors, such as sardonyx, which displays red and brown bands, or carnelian onyx, which is red with white bands. 

Onyx Properties

Onyx belongs to the quartz stone family, along with amethyst and citrine. It has a hardness of between 6 and 7 on the Mohs hardness scale and no cleavage, which makes it strong and durable enough to be used in jewelry. It’s often polished for a soft, satiny finish. It’s much more opaque and less lustrous and sparkly than a black diamond, exhibiting more of a gloss than a shine.  

Most of the black onyx seen in jewelry is a solid, uniform shade of black, and unless you have definitive proof otherwise, you should assume that it is dyed. Because onyx is porous, it is very easy to dye, and the practice has been performed since at least ancient Egyptian times. 

Where is Black Onyx Found?

Black onyx can be found all over the world, from Yemen to Uruguay to Germany and Pakistan. Much of the onyx mined for jewelry comes from the United States, India, and Brazil. 

This video shows footage from one of the largest Onyx mines in Pakistan.

Black Onyx Meaning and Symbolism

The Greek word onyx means the nail of a claw or finger, and the Greek legend is that one day while Venus was asleep, Cupid cut her fingernails. They fell to the ground, but because no part of a god can die, they became known as onyx.

While some people throughout history used black onyx to represent mourning, bad luck, and bad dreams due to its dark color, it’s actually more commonly thought to ward off negativity and protect the wearer from evil. Black onyx is thought to represent strength, power, and balance. It’s also the stone associated with the tenth wedding anniversary. 

Black Onyx in History and Culture

Black onyx has been used for jewelry, decor, and even housewares for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians would dye onyx for use in jewelry, and many cultures, such as the Ancient Romans, would carve elaborate scenes into the stones’ surfaces.

Carved Jewelry

Black onyx has traditionally been used in jewelry, especially carved pieces such as cameos. The parallel layers of black onyx allow artisans to carve through the thin white layer of the stone, revealing the black layer underneath. 

There are many famous onyx cameo carvings, such as the Gemma Augustea, which was produced by ancient Romans sometime between the years of 9 and 12 AD.

Feng Shui

In Feng Shui practices, black onyx is thought to bring balance, grounding, and protection. Black onyx placed in the center of your home will ground and align the space, and black onyx placed at the door will protect you and your home from unwanted and harmful energy.

It is also thought that onyx used as a paperweight, especially for bills or financial documents, will help bring grounding and stability to your life and finances. 

Black onyx is also thought to help balance the yin and yang. 

Birthstone for July and December

According to the ancient Italian and Hebrew calendar, onyx is the birthstone of July. The ancient Tibetan calendar assigned onyx to December as a birthstone. Old astrologers thought the stones would give people power and courage, so they assigned onyx to Leo and Capricorn, which were thought to be the two most ambitious signs according to the Zodiac. 

Black Onyx Prices – Is Onyx Expensive?

Black onyx is a relatively affordable gemstone. Like most gems, the size and quality of the stone will have a huge effect on its cost, and stones can range from $1 to $500 per carat. However, black onyx is the most expensive variety of onyx. 

Most of the expense of black onyx jewelry will come from the style and craftsmanship of the jewelry itself. Complicated cuts and custom settings will increase the price of a piece. 

Black Onyx Value – How Much is Black Onyx Worth?

Unfortunately, there isn’t much resale value in black onyx gemstones or jewelry. If you choose to sell your black onyx piece, most of its value will lie in the style and setting of the jewelry itself. The good news is, while treated or dyed onyx is worth less than natural onyx, the difference in value isn’t significant. As long as your onyx is real and not a simulate (see more about that below), whether it’s been treated won’t have a major effect on the price. 

How Can I Tell if My Black Onyx is Real?

Onyx ring

Unless you know for sure and have a certificate explicitly stating that your black onyx is natural, you should assume that any black onyx in your jewelry has been dyed. Luckily, dyed black onyx is so common that it’s not worth significantly less than natural black onyx.

If you suspect that your black stone may be something other than onyx, there are a few things you can look for. It also helps to remember that of all the naturally-occurring black gemstones, only black onyx will have the white bands.  

  • Black glass or cubic zirconia is often sold as “black onyx,” but it will be shiny rather than glossy. Glass, in particular, is also much less durable than onyx and is more likely to break or scratch. 
  • Calcite is often sold as “onyx marble,” “Mexican onyx,” or “limestone onyx.” Be wary whenever you see any of these terms because the piece is most likely not true onyx. Calcite has perfect cleavage and a low hardness, making it much less durable and more prone to breakage than onyx. 
  • Obsidian is another black gemstone made from natural volcanic glass. You can distinguish it from black onyx by its translucency and the natural parallel lines and ridges in the stone. 
  • Jet is another black stone commonly used in jewelry. It is significantly lighter than onyx to the point where it is sometimes mistaken for plastic!
  • Black spinels are often labeled onyx for the name recognition, even though they’re a more expensive and durable stone. 
  • Black Tourmaline has small pits in its surface, even when polished. Onyx will always be smooth. 

If you’re ever in doubt, it may be worth it to take your black stone to a gemologist who can perform more scientific tests to identify the stone. 

Black Onyx Cuts

Black onyx can be faceted, carved, or cut en cabochon. The gemstone is hard enough to be cut into all of the popular shapes used in jewelry, such as round, cushion, and marquise. Because the stone is much more opaque than a diamond, and it exhibits a glossiness rather than shine or brilliance, complicated radiant and brilliant cuts are not necessary. 

When combined with a halo of diamonds, black onyx can be an amazing center stone that provides gorgeous contrast and adds to the value of the jewelry. Black onyx on its own can be an incredibly stunning stone choice for those who love something a bit out of the ordinary.

How to Wear Black Onyx

Although it may be particularly popular among goths and mourners, anyone can wear black onyx. The glossy stone looks gorgeous with a variety of styles. I like to think of it as the little black dress of gemstones — there’s practically no situation in which it wouldn’t be appropriate. It’s a great choice for anyone looking to add some power or grounding to their wardrobe. 

One of the best features of black onyx is that the affordability of onyx stones means that it can be turned into small beads for necklaces and bracelets or used as large stones in rings.

Where to Buy Black Onyx Jewelry

Black Onyx may not be the most common gem, but there are a variety of good online retailers with collections worth considering. All of the following shops are affordable, reputable, and have excellent customer service. 

Angara

Angara has a larger selection of black onyx jewelry than many of their competitors. They offer rings, earrings, pendants, and bracelets, and prices range from around $100 to $4,000. 

Vintage Style Solitaire Ring

I think this vintage style cushion cut ring would make a gorgeous black onyx engagement ring. The bezel setting and vintage-inspired scrollwork really enhance the mystique of the stone. 

Teardrop Pendant with Diamond

Teardrop Pendant with Diamond

This classic pendant is perfect for any occasion. I love how the diamond’s sparkle enhances the rich depth of the teardrop-shaped black onyx. 

Hexagon Bamboo Earrings

Hexagon Bamboo Earrings

I love the shape of these black onyx hexagons! They give these earrings such a cool and modern aesthetic. The go-with-anything black stones mean you can dress these earrings up or down. 

Ross and Simmons

Ross and Simmons has a huge selection of black onyx jewelry in a ton of unique styles. They’re definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re looking for something bold or unconventional. Prices range from below $100 to in the tens of thousands. 

Black Onyx Cat Medallion

Ok, so this one’s a little bit wild, but I couldn’t resist. This necklace is truly fierce. I love that the cat overlay is reminiscent of a traditional onyx cameo carving. 

Black Onyx Diamond Halo Ring

Black Onyx Diamond Halo Ring

This ring would make a gorgeous non-traditional engagement ring. I love that the diamond halo really enhances the color of the onyx center stone. 

Onyx and Sterling Silver Drop Earrings

Onyx and Sterling Silver Drop Earrings

These earrings are so elegant! I love the contrast of the silver overlay against the satiny onyx. These will definitely make a statement.

Blue Nile

Blue Nile doesn’t offer as many options for black onyx jewelry as some of their competitors, but they have a curated selection of classic pieces that you can mix and match. They range from under $200 to around $750. 

Cushion Cut Cocktail Ring

Cushion Cut Cocktail Ring

I love the large-faceted black onyx on this cocktail ring. It’s a smart statement ring that will go with pretty much anything in your wardrobe.

Black Onyx Rope Bracelet

The twisted rope settings really make the onyx stones in this bracelet pop. I think that this is a subtle and sophisticated piece of jewelry. 

Black Onyx Cushion Earrings

Everyone should have a pair of studs like these in their arsenal. They’re simple yet modern, and just like most jewelry on this list, they’re appropriate for a variety of wardrobes and occasions. 

Brilliant Earth

Brilliant Earth only offers a few styles of black onyx jewelry, but if you have an idea in mind, you can contact them to design a custom black onyx piece. 

Black Onyx ID Bracelet

Black Onyx ID Bracelet

I think that this bracelet is such a cool nod to the ID bracelets that were so popular in the 1970s. It’s a sleek, trendy, gender-neutral piece of jewelry. 

Black Onyx Tag Necklace

I love the modern look of this simple, trendy necklace. It’s bold without being too severe and is another excellent gender-neutral piece of jewelry that you can really make your own. 

FAQ

Question: What is “agate black onyx?” 

Answer: Onyx and agate are both varieties of chalcedony, but onyx has parallel bands while agate has curved bands. “Agate black onyx” is a term sometimes used to describe dyed agate for marketing purposes. 

Question: Is onyx durable?

Answer: Onyx is around a 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs hardness scale and has no cleavage, which makes it hard and durable enough for everyday wear in jewelry. As with all jewelry, you should still take care when cleaning and storing your onyx pieces. 

Question: Does onyx come in different colors?

Answer: Yes, onyx can be found in a range of colors, including black, red, brown, orange, white, tan, and bluish-gray. 

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re looking to rid your life of negative energy or just want a piece of jewelry that will match most of your wardrobe, black onyx is an excellent choice. It’s a gorgeous, durable, mysterious stone that’s been used for thousands of years. A handful of reputable online retailers offer stunning, well-curated collections of black onyx jewelry, but my favorite is Angara for their variety, reliability, and prices

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