Easy to work with and maintain, Onyx is widely used in jewelry. Its inimitably deep black color has intrigued for millennia. A symbol of strength, onyx has many benefits for the body and mind. Discover its origin, history and all its virtues!
Researchers have discovered bowls carved entirely from onyx in Egypt¸ dating to the 2nd Dynasty. In Crete, during the Minoan era, sardonyx was used frequently, notably in the palace of Knossos. Onyx was also very popular with the Romans. Pliny the Elder describes two varieties and reports several methods of changing its color.
A certain Roman legend tells the origin of its name: while the goddess Venus was sleeping, Cupid, her son, used one of his arrows to make his nails. As these could not disappear, they were then transformed into onyx. In the Holy Book, onyx is depicted as one of the stones making up Aaron's breastplate and one of the gates of the Heavenly Jerusalem.
In Arabic literature, it is referred to as "El Jaza" which means "sadness".
The Indians and Persians considered that onyx protected them from the evil eye and had the capacity to relieve the pains of contractions during childbirth. To do this, it must be placed on the woman's belly. Onyx was also believed to reduce sexual urges.
In China, onyx was used as a bad luck charm. Indeed, it was exploited by slaves in the mines and nobody wanted to touch it for fear of attracting the evil eye or losing energy. It was thus intended for export and for the unaware, far from the borders of the country.
It was only in England, during the Victorian era, that onyx became popular, especially the black one. To respect the fashion of mourning, as worn by Queen Victoria for 40 years, other colors were formally prohibited.
In ancient times, onyxes originated in Arabia and India. The most beautiful ones come from the Shibam mountain, not far from Marib, capital of the famous kingdom of Saba (today buried under the sands of Yemen, in the Hadramaut region). The astonishing size of the worked onyx blocks still amazes scientists and historians. All ancient civilizations have used onyx with great skill.
In Abydos, Egypt, researchers have discovered several onyx plates, jars and vases. Funerary temples also hid onyx earring beads. The Romans made signet rings with various symbols engraved on them. The Cabinet des Médailles now houses an old Phoenician seal dating from 780 B.C., depicting the solar child-god Nefertoum surrounded by beautiful lotus flowers.
According to Appian, a Greek historian, the king of Pontus (located in the north of present-day Turkey), Mithridates the Great (about 100 BC), would have in his possession two thousand vases of onyx and gold. Following his victory, Pompey brings back these magnificent vases to Rome. Their material is not really certain, since onyx can also mean alabastrite, a kind of veined white marble.
This alabaster was used to design vessels used to preserve precious ointments and perfumed balms such as benzoin or myrrh. This odoriferous resin would have given rise to the murrhins or onyx murrheus vases mentioned in ancient accounts. It is perhaps certain that the vases of Mithridates were made of alabaster. Scientists and historians are also confused about "marble-onyx".
Onyx, rather sardonyx, is frequently called memphite. Around 200 B.C., General Scipio the African is said to have brought the first sardonyx to Rome, and it has been highly sought after ever since. Antiquity is marked by the art of glyptics (intaglios and cameos).
The Romans and Greeks preferred to use onyx blocks with straight and parallel strata. Several ancient works in sardonyx or onyx are represented in museums. The Cabinet des Médailles in Paris holds two of the most famous onyx pieces, which date from the first century AD:
- The Apotheosis of Augustus or the cameo of the Sainte-Chapelle. It is without doubt the largest cameo in the world, with dimensions of 31×26 cm. It depicts Augustus and his lineage, up to the emperor Tiberius, that is to say 24 great characters. By mistake, the Middle Ages brought a Christian interpretation to the representation. King Saint-Louis acquired it and installed it in the Sainte-Chapelle as a relic.
- The cup of Ptolemy or vase of Saint-Denis. Carved from a single block of canthara and dedicated to Bacchus (Dionysus), the work has two handles in the form of vines. There are festive scenes where several characters and animals move among plants and ornaments. Having belonged to the Carolingian king Charles the Simple, a base decorated with precious jewels transformed it into a chalice used in the ceremonial coronation of the queens of France. Glyptics disappeared in the West during the barbarian invasions. In the first centuries of the Middle Ages, Roman cameos were found in churches and royal treasuries. Rather crude imitations on glass are made.
Later in the Middle Ages, in medieval stories, the term onice refers to agate intaglios. Those depicting some animals have an excellent reputation, while the snake and the stag convey courage. Wearing onyx as a ring or necklace at night is not recommended: "it gives you the opportunity to see devils and to have many fantasies while sleeping". Onyx allows one to talk with a departed loved one during sleep while preserving the memory upon awakening.
It also has other negative influences: it makes the mood difficult, multiplies trials, awakens sadness... In the 12th century, the bishop Marbode states that "If you have sarde with you, onyx cannot harm you". The Sardinia takes its name from the ancient city of Sardis, located in present-day Turkey. It brings temperance and gentleness to onyx.
Much later, Isabella d'Este, wife of the Duke of Gonzaga, owned prestigious collections of antique cameos in Mantua. The most famous is the large cameo of Gonzaga or Malmaison, 16×12 cm in size. Having traveled extensively, this 3rd century B.C. gem has had many owners, including Empress Josephine and Tsar Alexander I.
Originally from Alexandria, it depicts Ptolemy II and his sister-wife Arsinoe (preserved in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg). The Vienna Museum of Art History houses the onyx-kanne, the onyx ewer. This vase made of gold and onyx, embellished with precious jewels is a masterpiece of the Frenchman Richard Toutain. Charles IX offered it to the Tyrolean prince during his union with Elizabeth of Austria. The onyx ewer was then part of the flourishing of French art in Europe.
Onyx remained popular during the Bourbon period. Henri IV's favorite, Gabrielle d'Estrée, had an onyx pendant with the king's image engraved on it. Louis XV has a seal made of onyx, gold and carnelian bearing the motto "Love brings them together". It features the subtle profile of Madame de Pompadour protected by a cover beautifully decorated with red fruits and foliage. The hill of Chantilly-sur-Marne abounds in pink chalcedonies and three-layered onyx (two reddish brown and one bluish white).
Its name comes from the Greek "Onyx" meaning "nail or claw". It may be a reference to the flesh-colored onyx that looks like a nail. It is of the same family as chalcedony and is made of silicon (its chemical formula is SiO2). On the Mohs scale, its hardness is set at 7 and its density is around 2.65. It is composed of black and/or white bands, however, it is found in all colors (except blue and purple). It is formed as a result of silica deposits during the flow of siliceous water in cracks, at a temperature below 200 °. The onyx is an agate whose bands are concentric and circular. One finds a whole variety of it:
Sometimes onyx is deliberately modified by man. Since antiquity, certain treatments have made it redder, yellower or simply blacker. The main onyx deposits are located in Chihuahua (Mexico), Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil), Colorado and Utah (USA), Uruguay, Madagascar and India.
Onyx gives strength and support in difficult times, in business and during times of physical and mental stress. It allows us to find an alternative solution during a life upheaval, whether negative or positive. It also allows us to take control of our future.
During meditation, onyx allows us to conquer the information we seek. The onyx stone helps to purify karmic energies. This incredible property makes it useful for past life work and allows it to heal old traumas. In India, it protects against evil spirits, while in the Middle Ages it caused discord.
On the psychological level, the onyx stone is a real shield against negative thoughts and energies. By reducing daily stress and anxiety, it helps to regain self-confidence and to replace mental ruminations with positive thoughts. It allows you to be more focused on the present moment and not to be distracted. As such, it is an excellent stone to learn meditation. With onyx, you will find the confidence to open up to others with sincerity and kindness.
Onyx optimizes self-control and helps increase your sense of responsibility. It provides a protective shield and stability against harmful influences and harassment. In summary, onyx:
On a physical level, onyx is a powerful protective stone that helps strengthen the immune system. It effectively protects the teeth, vocal cords and all organs around the mouth. It facilitates the elocution and the communication. Moreover, it participates in the proper functioning of the kidneys and liver. Wearing an onyx stone allows to eliminate faster the toxins accumulated in the body. In a general way, the onyx :
On a spiritual level, the onyx stone is connected to the heart chakra and the root chakra. On the one hand, its positive action on the root chakra allows one to better receive the energies of the Earth. By opening this chakra, the onyx favors the anchoring to the Earth. It helps to regulate primary needs, i.e. needs related to survival.
Thus, wearing an onyx stone can help you refocus on the essentials: security, stability, work, money and the will to live. When the sacral chakra is perfectly harmonized, it is not uncommon to feel a new source of strength and fighting spirit welling up from deep within your soul. Conversely, if your sacral chakra is out of balance, you may feel frustrated and aggressive.
On the other hand, onyx acts on the heart chakra, the central point of the 7 chakras, the home of universal love. Thanks to its positive action on the heart chakra, onyx helps to reinforce feelings of love, sincerity, tenderness, compassion and forgiveness.
Like a bridge between material and spiritual energies, the heart chakra brings you a great feeling of joy, inner peace and serenity. If you find it difficult to open your heart to others, to give and receive love, wearing an onyx stone should help you overcome your fears to discover sincere and unconditional love.
The advantage of black stones is that they fit perfectly with all types of materials. They are often found on silver, white gold or white gold jewelry. That said, you can wear an onyx stone with yellow or rose gold jewelry for a more luxurious and sophisticated look.
You can wear onyx with other minerals, as long as they are not totally contradictory in virtue and energy. Onyx is a fairly neutral stone that pairs well with carnelian, amethyst and moonstone. To strengthen the opening of the root chakra, you can also associate it with jasper, hematite, lava stone or pyrite. To amplify its protective power, you can match it with an obsidian or a black tourmaline. However, the latter two should be worn sparingly as they tend to absorb the energy of other stones and render them inactive.
The stones you should absolutely avoid wearing with onyx are: turquoise, malachite, shungite, peridot and tiger's eye. These are too powerful and energizing to let onyx express its vibrations, but you can wear them individually on another piece of jewelry.
The more you wear it, the more energy your onyx stone will lose. Moreover, onyx is a protective stone that absorbs all the negative waves around it. Don't worry, all you have to do is learn how to care for it properly to continue enjoying its virtues and beauty for many years to come.
To start, you can clean it once a month with water, salt, earth or incense. The easiest and most accessible method is to soak your stone in a container of salt water for a few hours. Avoid tap water as it may damage your stone prematurely.
Once your onyx stone is free of all stored negative energies, you can move on to the next step. To recharge it, you can put it under the sun for a few hours. Generally, dark stones do not fear heat and light.
To optimize this recharging process, place your stone on a cluster of quartz. After spending a few hours under the natural light of the sun, your onyx stone will be ready to offer you all its benefits and to protect you as on the first day.