Birthstone of December, “Onyx” is the mystical gemstone, loved by people since ages. It is the anniversary gemstone of 7th & 10th year and also the birthstone for “Leo”. It got its name from the Greek work “onux” which means fingernail. The legend associated with this gemstone goes like this- According to Romans, once goddess Venus was asleep on the bank of river Indus and Eros/Cupid was clipping her fingernails and some of them fell in the river and on the ground. To immortalize the remains of this heavenly body, these nails were converted to stones and came to be known as Onyx!
The onyx stone belongs to the chalcedony quartz family and has smooth and waxy luster. It is a dark form of agate stone. These stones are the silica deposits from volcanic eruptions and they may display colored stripes on their outer surface. Some onyx stones display straight, parallel bands of white against black or reddish-brown background and are known as sardonyx. Onyx can be found in the high amounts in Brazil, Peru, Afghanistan, India, Madagascar, and the U.S. These stones are cut from agate and have layers. Each layer has its own color and normally light colored layer is placed over the dark one. This layered variety of onyx is mostly used in engraving where the layers exhibit an interesting look.
Having a hardness of 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale, this stone is very good for carvings. Beautiful engravings like “intaglio”, where a negative image is created, and “cameo”, a raised relief, are created with this amazing stone. Onyx is a silicon dioxide with a density of 2.58-2.65 and a refractive index of 1.530-1.540.
Apart from these physical properties, this stone is said to have the mystical powers. It is believed that this stone can reflect back negative energy and increase one’s determination to accomplish his goals. Buddhist monks in the Himalayas wear this stone as they believe that it is the most protective stone. Similarly, soldiers of ancient times used to carry onyx with them, in order to keep safe from injuries and harm in the battle. The Roman General Publius Cornelius Scipio was famous for wearing lots of sardonyx.
Black onyx is widely used in jewelry because of its low cost and potential to make elegant jewelry. Other gemstones that come in black color are diamond, tourmaline, jet, spinel and sapphire. As onyx is the cheapest of all, it is the most popular one. It can be used with metals like silver, gold or platinum, but black onyx goes best with yellow gold. Attractive jewelry is made out of this black-yellow combination. Rings, pendants, earrings, when studded with onyx gemstone, bring out the best piece of jewelry.
Maintenance of onyx is very simple. Avoid carrying this gemstone to places with extreme weather conditions like too much heat or too much cold. It can be well cleaned with a soft and moist cloth, should not be exposed to harsh chemicals and has to be stored in dry and cool place.