Onyx: colors, characteristics, composition and uses


Firstly, what is onyx? Onyx is a natural stone of extraordinary beauty, prized for its unique translucency and timeless elegance. This precious material boasts a fascinating history and a wide range of applications, ranging from construction to jewelry, making it a highly valuable item in many fields.

History and origin of onyx

Onyx has a rich and fascinating history, with origins dating back to ancient times, testifying to its presence and importance through the ages.

Onyx in Ancient Times

In antiquity, onyx stone was highly prized for its beauty and supposed magical properties. For example, the Egyptians used onyx to create amulets and jewels, while for the Romans onyx meaning was mainly that of courage and strength. This stone was also highly prized in Greece and Persia where it was often used in jewelry and sculpture.

Onyx in the Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages, onyx rock continued to be appreciated for its aesthetic and symbolic properties. It was often used in works of art and architecture, such as churches and monasteries. Furthermore, onyx gem was considered a symbol of protection and was often used in amulets and talismans.

Onyx in the Modern Age

In the modern age, onyx has maintained its popularity. Today, it’s used in a variety of industries, including construction, jewelry, and interior design. Its unique beauty and versatility make it a highly sought-after material.

Characteristics of onyx

onyx colors

Onyx is known for its beauty, but its characteristics go far beyond the aesthetic aspect. Onyx stone has a few physical and chemical properties that make it unique.

Chemical composition of onyx

There are two main types of onyx: siliceous onyx and calcareous onyx, each with a distinct chemical composition.

Siliceous onyx

Siliceous onyx is composed primarily of silica, or silicon dioxide (SiO2). This form of onyx rock has a microcrystalline structure, giving it a unique luster and can vary from black to white, passing through red and brown, depending on the impurities present.

Calcareous onyx

Calcareous onyx, on the other hand, is mainly composed of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). This form of onyx has a more porous texture and tends to be white or beige in color. Unlike siliceous onyx, calcareous onyx is softer and less resistant, but is equally prized for its beauty.

Onyx color and structure

Now, what color is onyx? Onyx stone can exhibit a wide variety of colors and textures, depending on its chemical composition and the conditions under which it was formed. Onyx colour variations can include black (black onyx), white, red, brown and beige, while textural variations can include bands, veins and spots. All these possibilities make each onyx piece unique.

Physical and mechanical properties of onyx

Onyx has several physical and mechanical properties that make it a versatile and resistant material.


Onyx has a hardness of 6.5-7 on the Mohs scale, making it tough enough for many applications, but less hard than other stones such as diamond or corundum. This hardness makes it suitable for use in jewelry and building applications.


The density of onyx rock varies according to its chemical composition, but in general, it is a rather dense material, with a density that can vary from 2.5 to 3 g/cm³. This high density gives onyx a weight and solid feel that are highly prized in jewelry and architecture.


Calcareous onyx is more porous than siliceous onyx, which means it can absorb more water and other liquids. This property can be both an advantage and a disadvantage, depending on the application. For example, in architecture, porosity can help create a unique translucency effect, but it can also make onyx stone more susceptible to wear and corrosion.

Onyx colors

One of the most fascinating aspects that define onyx is its wide range of colors. Onyx color can range from pure white to deep black, passing through several shades including red, brown, green and gray. This variety of colors is due to the presence of different mineral impurities within the crystalline structure of onyx.

Black onyx

Black onyx is perhaps the best known and most appreciated variety of this stone. Its intense color and sheen make it a highly sought-after material in jewelry and interior design. Also, black onyx is often associated with concepts such as strength, protection and mystery.

White onyx

White onyx, or marble onyx, is a variety of onyx that exhibits a pure white or cream onyx color. This stone is particularly appreciated for its elegance and its ability to reflect light, creating unique translucency effects. White onyx stone is often used in architecture and interior design, where it helps create bright and sophisticated environments.

Red or brown onyx

red and brown onyx

Red and brown onyx are types of onyx that feature warm, earthy undertones. These stones can range from rusty red to chocolate brown and are often characterized by bands or veins of contrasting color. Red and brown onyx are highly prized for their natural beauty and warm aesthetic.

Green onyx

green onyx

Green onyx is a variety of onyx that has shades of green, from light green to dark green. This stone is often associated with concepts such as balance, healing and growth. Green onyx gemstone is highly prized in jewelry, where it is often used to create jewels of great beauty and significance.

In conclusion, the many onyx color varieties make it a stone of great versatility and beauty. Whether it is a piece of jewelry, an interior design element or a piece of architecture, onyx always carries with it a touch of elegance and uniqueness.

Onyx in the building field

Onyx is a highly appreciated material in the building field, thanks to its beauty and versatility. Its ability to create unique visual effects and its strength make it a material of choice for a variety of applications.

Onyx uses in architecture

In architecture, onyx stone is often used to create impressive visual effects. It can be used for internal and external cladding, for floors, for worktops and for other architectural elements. Its unique translucency and onyx color varieties make it an impressive material in any architectural setting.

Indoor cladding with onyx

In interior cladding, onyx offers a touch of elegance and luxury. It can be used to create walls, floors, countertops and other design elements. Its ability to reflect light and create translucent effects makes it a perfect material for creating environments with great visual impact. Precisely because of this characteristic it is often used to create backlit walls.

Onyx rock is a perfectly suitable material for creating unique spaces and atmosphere and can be used as a raw material to make bathroom furnishings such as this example of an onyx bathroom.

Outdoor cladding with onyx

In exterior cladding, onyx can create an impressive visual effect. However, due to its porosity, it may require more careful maintenance than other materials. Nonetheless, its unique beauty and strength make it a unique material for creating impressive facades and exterior cladding.

Onyx in the world of gems

Onyx is also highly regarded in the gem world, where it is used to create jewels of great beauty.

Onyx in jewelry

In jewelry, onyx gem is often used to make rings, bracelets, earrings and other jewelry. Its beauty, variety of colors and resistance make it a very versatile material. Additionally, its hardness makes it suitable for use in jewelry that is subject to wear, such as rings and bracelets.

Onyx meaning and symbolism

Onyx gemstone has a rich symbolism, which varies across cultures and traditions. In many cultures, onyx means protection, strength and courage.

Onyx in Feng Shui

In Feng Shui, onyx is considered a stone of protection and strength. It is believed to help balance energies and promote stability and harmony. Also, black onyx is believed to help repel negative energies and promote mental clarity.

Onyx in crystal therapy

In crystal therapy, onyx is often used to promote physical and mental strength. It is believed to help overcome difficulties and promote determination and perseverance. Additionally, onyx gemstone is believed to help promote emotional balance and reduce stress.

Onyx in the modern market

In the modern market, onyx stone continues to be highly regarded for its beauty and versatility. Its presence in a variety of industries testifies to its popularity and importance.

Onyx in interior design

pink onyx design

In interior design, onyx is often used to create impressive visual effects. It can be used for cladding, flooring, countertops and other design elements. Its unique translucency and onyx color varieties make it a material of choice for creating visually impactful spaces and rooms.

Onyx in fashion

In fashion, onyx stone is often used to create beautiful jewelry and accessories. Its variety of colors and its sheen make it a highly appreciated material. Additionally, its strength makes it suitable for use in jewelry that is subject to wear, such as rings and bracelets.

How to choose and buy onyx

slab of onyx

When choosing and buying onyx, it’s important to consider a series of factors, including quality, onyx color, texture, and price. It is also important to buy from reputable dealers to ensure the authenticity of the material. Finally, it is important to consider your own personal needs and preferences, as onyx comes in a variety of colors and textures.

Origin and quarrying of calcareous onyx

Calcareous onyx, also known as marble onyx, is a natural stone of great beauty and versatility. Unlike siliceous onyx, which is a form of chalcedony, calcareous onyx is a type of limestone. Calcareous onyx meaning is mainly elegance, brightness and ability to create unique translucency effects.


Calcareous onyx is formed in different parts of the world, but the main sources of this stone are found in Italy, Mexico, Turkey and Iran. These countries are known for their vast reserves of calcareous onyx and the superior quality of their stones.

In Italy, calcareous onyx rock is mainly quarried in Tuscany, a region famous for its rich tradition of stone quarrying and processing. In Mexico, calcareous onyx is mined in the Puebla and Oaxaca regions, where it is known as “honey onyx” due to its unique golden onyx color. In Turkey and Iran, limestone onyx rock is mined in several regions, including Afyon and Esfahan, respectively.


The extraction of calcareous onyx is a complex process that requires expertise and precision. Onyx stone forms in thin layers inside underground cavities; therefore, the quarrying must be done with care to avoid damaging the stone.

The mining process begins with the identification of onyx veins within the source rock. This can be done through geological analysis or through the use of underground imaging technologies. Once the onyx vein is identified, a tunnel is dug down to the stone.

Once the onyx vein is reached, mining can begin. This is done using several techniques, including diamond wire saw cutting, water jet cutting, and chain saw cutting. These techniques allow onyx blocks of different sizes to be quarried, which can then be cut and worked to create a variety of products, including onyx slabs, onyx tiles and onyx sculptures.

In conclusion, calcareous onyx is a stone of great beauty and versatility whose extraction requires skill and precision. Whether it is a piece of architecture, an interior design element or a piece of jewelry, calcareous onyx means elegance and uniqueness in most cases.

Care and maintenance of onyx stone

Onyx is a durable material but requires some care and maintenance to maintain its beauty over time.

Onyx cleaning

Onyx cleaning should be done with delicate, non-abrasive products. It is important to avoid using acids and other harsh chemicals, which can damage onyx stone. Additionally, it’s important to clean your onyx regularly to remove any dirt and dust that can build up on its surface.

Onyx storage

Onyx storage should be done in a dry place away from direct sunlight. It is also important to protect the onyx rock from bumps and scratches, which can damage its surface. Finally, it is important to check your onyx stone regularly for signs of wear or damage.

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