AskDefine | Define onyx

Dictionary Definition

onyx n : a chalcedony with alternating black and white bands; used in making cameos

User Contributed Dictionary



Before 1300 as onix, in about 1250 as oneche, from Old French oniche or onix, or from Latin onyx, from Greek ὄνυξ (onyx).


  1. A banded variety of chalcedony, a cryptocrystalline form of quartz.



  1. jet-black


  • , Genesis, 2:12
    And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone.

See also


Extensive Definition

Onyx is a cryptocrystalline form of quartz. The colors of its bands range from white to almost every color (save some shades, such as purple or blue.) Commonly, specimens of onyx available contain bands of colors of white, tan, and brown. Sardonyx is a variant in which the colored bands are sard (shades of red) rather than black. Pure black Onyx is common, and perhaps the most famous variety, but not as common as Onyx with banded colors.
It is usually cut as a cabochon, or into beads, and is also used for intaglios and cameos, where the bands make the image contrast with the ground. Some onyx is natural but much is produced by the staining of agate.
The name has sometimes been used, incorrectly, to label other banded lapidary materials, such as banded calcite found in Mexico, Pakistan, and other places, and often carved, polished and sold. This material is much softer than true onyx, and much more readily available. The majority of carved items sold as 'Onyx' today are this carbonate material.

Historical usage

Onyx is originally an Assyrian word meaning ring, and so could refer to anything used for making rings. The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University was originally planned to be coated in green onyx. However, there wasn't sufficient green onyx in the world to build such a structure, so that the designers used marble. Onyx was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans. Use of sardonyx appears in the art of Minoan Crete, notably from the archaeological recoveries at Knossos. Onyx was used in Egypt as early as the Second Dynasty to make bowls and other pottery items. In folk religion, onyx is sometimes used for targets of psychic attacks of all forms, especially those sexual in nature.


If onyx is cleaned with an ultrasonic device or cleaned with abrasive or ammonia based chemicals, discoloration of the stone may occur.

Line note references

See also

onyx in Arabic: أونيكس
onyx in Bulgarian: Оникс
onyx in Czech: Onyx
onyx in German: Onyx (Mineral)
onyx in Spanish: Ónix
onyx in Persian: عقیق سلیمانی
onyx in French: Onyx (minéral)
onyx in Galician: Ónix
onyx in Hebrew: אוניקס
onyx in Latin: Onyx
onyx in Latvian: Onikss
onyx in Lithuanian: Oniksas
onyx in Dutch: Onyx (mineraal)
onyx in Polish: Onyks
onyx in Portuguese: Ónix
onyx in Romanian: Onix
onyx in Russian: Оникс
onyx in Simple English: Onyx
onyx in Serbian: Оникс
onyx in Finnish: Onyksi
onyx in Swedish: Onyx
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