Onyx | Birthstone for July


onyx mineral sphere

Onyx Stone | Facts and Photos

Onyx is a natural stone that's used for a wide variety of different purposes including fireplace surrounds, household furniture and ornaments.  The finest grade material is cut and polished for use as gemstones.  Although often described as a type of chalcedony, onyx is actually a cryptocrystalline variety of quartz or agate that's made up of bands of quartz and chalcedony.  Stones can exhibit contrasting colours and attractive banding which made it popular with the Romans who used it primarily for seals and cameos.  They considered it to be an ideal lapidary material and was often dyed black.  Few people are aware that the vast majority of black onyx is actually dyed.

In his encyclopedia Naturalis Historia (circa 77-79 AD) the Roman author and naturalist Pliny the Elder wrote about techniques used to dye onyx.  Although black onyx does occur naturally it is extremely rare which is why the vast majority of material is dyed.  In addition to black it's also dyed many other colours because it's porous and retains artificial colour particularly well. 

The history of onyx can be traced back much further than Ancient Rome and is believed to have been one of the gemstones in the high priest breastplate.  This religious garment was worn during biblical times by the Jewish high priest over the top of a tunic-like garment.  Onyx is believed to have been the second stone in the fourth row with beryl to its left and a variety of jasper to its right

When used in crystal healing onyx is said to be useful for dealing with grief, strengthening self control and for stimulating the power of good decision making.  It can strengthen self confidence and stamina, help with phobias, control sexual desire and can also balance yin and yang.   Stones are often used to bring happiness and luck.

Birthstone for July along with the gemstone ruby, onyx is a relatively hard stone which grades 7 on Mohs scale of mineral hardness.



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Further Reading

Information from Wikipedia