Black Onyx: Meaning, Beneficial Properties, and Value

Curious about the mysteries behind the black onyx gemstone? You're in the right place!

In this Learning Guide, I'll answer the most popular questions asked about this black gemstone like:

black onyx meaning
  • Is all onyx black onyx?
  • What’s the difference between black jasper and black onyx?
  • Is black onyx good for an engagement ring?

What is a Black Onyx Stone?

How many years old were you when you found out not all onyx is black onyx? For me, it was a couple years after I named my all-black kitten "Onyx". Come to find out, an onyx stone can have additional colors rather than just the color black.

onyx kitten

Whoops. Too late to change her name now.

A black onyx stone is the black banded layered chalcedony gem variety. Chalcedony is the most common form of microcrystalline quartz. A black onyx gemstone is often characterized as pitch black, but most black onyx jewelry like this have been dyed.

black onyx

In actuality, most black onyx has white parallel bands around its black body color. An onyx stone may have white, red, brown, or blue banded layers.

Onyx vs Agate

A lot of people confuse a black onyx with a black agate stone. It's no wonder, either. Agates come in a rainbow of colors and varieties. They are also characterized by banded layers of chalcedony. 

The difference between a black agate stone and a black onyx stone is that agates have curved bands and black onyx stones have parallel ones. Agate bands may have many different colors, but traditionally the bands on an onyx stone are usually white.

Onyx vs Jasper

Jasper is another type of chalcedony that's often confused with onyx jewelry and agate stones. They are all chalcedony. The main thing that sets them all apart from each other is their appearance, but the composition is all microcrystalline quartz.

Jasper is any piece of chalcedony that is translucent. That means that when held up to a light source, only some light will pass through. The big exception to this is carnelian. All other translucent chalcedony are jaspers.

It can get confusing because there are many gemstones given the name Jasper that don't fall under the technicalities that would make it a jasper. They're also pretty popular as specimens and polished cabochons. Ocean jasper, bumblebee jasper, and Dalmation Jasper are all examples of this.

Bumblebee Jasper

credited to: James St. John

Ocean Jasper

credited to: mangovall 

Black Onyx's Meaning and Its Healing Properties

While the interest in new age practices and crystal healing started in the 21st century, they've sparked even more interest in the last 10 years with spirituality and religion. Each mineral is said to have its own healing properties to impart the energy from the earth to the wearer. For many crystals, their healing properties come from early science practices in ancient times.

History and Lore

The earliest known uses of this black gemstone dates back to ancient Greece. The name is derived from Greek word "ὄνυξ", which translates out to "claw".

According to Greek mythology, the goddess Venus had been sleeping by a river when her son Cupid clipped her fingernails using his arrows. He then took the fingernail clippings and placed them into the earth. In order to preserve them, the gods turned them into black onyx stones.

Aside from lore, the use of black onyx jewelry was popular in during the Victorian era of jewelry. It was often used in the form of a black onyx ring or used to create cameos and architecture.

Onyx Cameo Pendant
black onyx and silver ring

Metaphysical Properties

A black onyx crystal is said to have both healing properties from the spiritual realm, and black onyx aids in physical healing as well.

The physical properties of a black onyx gemstone are how the stone is believed to affect your physical body. Black onyx is associated with the Root chakra, which focuses on our abdomen. The physical healing properties an onyx gemstone is said to include:

  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Overtired, in ability to focus
  • Pain in lower extremities: legs, ankles, feet
  • Muscle tightness in lower extremities
  • Bladder problems
  • Issues with the nervous system
  • Bone marrow ailments
  • Aids in recovery of physical strength after ailment.

These types of problems are believe to be caused by negative energies that are blocking your root chakra. These negative energies are believed to be able to be dissipated by the emotional healing powers of black onyx.

Black onyx is believed to be able to absorb negative energy. It aids in balancing energy, dispelling negative energy and forming a protective shield around the wearer/user. In ancient times, black onyx was used as a protective talisman.

black onyx pendant

Aside from dispelling negative energies, black onyx brings harmony and peace to overwhelming emotions of the mind. Whether its anger, jealousy, possessive behavior patterns, or other negative emotions, black onyx can replace it with positive alternative energies.

Instead, black onyx can strengthen your emotional well being, such as enhancing you self confidence, self control, make the user's senses sharpened.

How to Use Black Onyx Stones

In the present day practice of crystal healing, black onyx is still used as a protective stone in the form of a worry stone. Worry stones are also called palm stones. Many people carry flat polished black onyx stones in their pocket to hold for mental clarity.

black onyx worry stone

According to those who practice the art of feng shui, they believe keeping a piece of black onyx in your home will attract good fortune and financial gain.

Onyx Stones in Jewelry

Hardness

Black onyx attracts many as an alternative gemstone for a dramatic engagement ring. While an onyx stone doesn't sparkle, sleek faceting can make a dramatic look. Don't be surprised if you come across a coffin-cut onyx ring, a favorite for the gothic and Halloween aesthetic.

black onyx coffin ring

Before setting your sights on a gemstone engagement ring instead of a diamond engagement ring, you'll want to take into account its hardness level. You do this by finding out where the stone falls on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. Every mineral has a hardness rating.

A diamond is considered the hardness mineral in the world, and reaches a 10 on the scale. A sapphire rates a 9 on the mineral scale. Despite the two gemstones only being 1 number away from each other, diamond is many times harder than sapphire and ruby (corundum).

Mohscale

Image by the National Park Service. Public Domain.

The Mohs scale is not a linear scale, so it can't be determined that way. A lot of people confuse the term "hardness" with durability or breakability. Hardness actually means the gemstone's vulnerability to scratches, namely household dust. Dust particles in the air hit natural gemstones repeatedly, especially if you're wearing it everyday. That's why you'll want to consider a gem's hardness before buying it for an engagement ring. You may find over the years you'll have to replace the stone.

If you're a fan of black onyx, you can rest assured that an onyx stone will stand up dust scratches. Onyx reaches a 7 on hardness scale. It's still a very, very far cry from a diamond's hardness, but it's harder than household dust. Any stone or mineral with a higher hardness level than 7 is able to scratch an onyx stone.

Durability

Overall, a black onyx ring makes a durable piece of jewelry. Hardness isn't the only factor that determines a gemstone's durability to be worn as an engagement ring. Some gemstones are better saved for low-impact jewelry like earrings or necklaces.

But with black onyx, the black stone is suitable for any type of jewelry. It has no cleavage planes, which can make gemstones susceptible to chipping or breaking. In addition, crystalline quartz stones like chalcedony have excellent tenacity against bumps and accidental hits.

Treatments

Natural onyx is mostly found with white bands. Solid black pieces of onyx exist, but you should assume that most pitch black onyx has been treated unless the seller states otherwise.

The most common treatment for onyx is dyeing. Most all-black onyx pieces have been treated with dyes. In fact, black onyx stones have been dyed for years using a sugar solution. Chalcedony is a porous gemstone, which means it can absorb liquid easily. That's also why it's not recommended to soak or clean directly with water for black onyx. Sulfuric acid is used to carbonize the sugar crystals, The crystals are absorbed into the porous rock which cause it to turn completely black. It's a permanent treatment.

Onyx stones can also be heat-treated to appear dark black. This treatment is often used as well.

How to Clean a Black Onyx Stone

The last thing you want to consider when buying black onyx is how to care for it. Gemstones are natural minerals. Some minerals can't stand up to jewelry cleaning chemicals or ultrasonic cleaners that others do. Similarly, some crystals can't be submerged in water, so they'll need to be dried quickly.

black onyx bracelet

The best way clean a black onyx stone directly is by using a moist cloth that has been dipped in a solution of warm water and mild dishwashing liquid. Use the soft cloth to rub away the dirt on the surface. Microfiber is a good option. Rinse soap off the onyx gemstone and dry it with a dry soft cloth.

Final Thoughts on the Black Onyx Gemstone

An onyx stone is a great option to use in any type of jewelry. They have excellent resistance to household dust as well as microscopic quartz particles found in our air. Onyx stones can be scratched, but only by things with a higher hardness rating.

Onyx jewelry is perfect to wear as any accessory, whether its a black onyx ring or a black onyx bracelet. As a microcrystalline quartz, it also has excellent resistance to chipping, breaking or shattering, no matter what the gemstone cut.


Meet Your Jewelry Expert

Learn More About Jewelry

Want to learn more about jewelry? Check out these other helpful resources written by our jewelry experts!

Ask Your Jewelry Question Here

We are a team of jewelry experts who will teach you to identify scams and avoid spending money on features you can’t see.

Tell us as much information as possible to help us help you (ie, budget, preferences, etc.)