It's safe to say Denise of the Etsy shop Manor Jewels is an onyx addict. I know a gem addict when I see one, and I don't think Denise would balk at my diagnosis. I adore onyx, it's black, it's shiny and it is a gem that seems to carry seemingly mythical properties. I wanted to learn more about onyx and it's definitely my to be acquired list one day - so I tapped Denise the "Onyx Queen" (no really she is) to help out and answer all my questions.
What is Onyx?
Onyx is a form of chalcedony that is usually treated to produce the uniform black color we think of as Onyx. It is typically found with bands of color rather than the solid black that is desired. Once dyed, it is cut and polished to a high shine in every conceivable shape, and even lends itself perfectly to carvings such as cameos and intaglios.
What do you need to know if you are planning on purchasing an onyx piece of jewelry?
Not all black polished stones are Onyx. There are several look a likes so make sure you know what you are buying. That doesn’t mean that other black polished pieces aren’t desirable in their own right, just that you should know what you are paying for. Mourning jewelry from the Victorian era, for example, was often made with Jet which was in plentiful supply in England. It is easily confused with Onyx (as are a number of others) so verify with your jeweler. It is important to know as caring for the item may vary depending on the stone, as well as potential pricing concerns.
Any questions you should ask your jeweler before purchasing onyx?
Many sales take place online these days, so when you are purchasing a piece that you can’t hold in your hands before purchasing, make sure to ask about the condition of the Onyx: is the Onyx scratched or scuffed at all and is the stone tight in the setting (vintage items may well have these issues and it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker as long as it is disclosed)? Are there any chips, breaks, or fractures to the Onyx? If the piece is a ring, make sure to ask if it can be sized to the size you need — sometimes particular settings can make this difficult but you should know that before purchase.
What era is best known for onyx?
Onyx has a long history and is even mentioned several times in the bible. Some of the most classic onyx pieces we see are filigree style mountings with small diamonds, typically set in the center. These often date from the early 1900s (Edwardian) through the art deco period (1920–35) when lines became cleaner and more geometric. These pieces are the epitome of Onyx to me, although I also appreciate more modern designs. I actively work to keep a good selection of Onyx pieces in my online store.
Why do you love onyx?
For me, it’s that onyx is incredibly easy to wear — whether the occasion calls for jeans or an evening gown. You can find so many designs that use onyx from antique filigree to really modern, abstract pieces. Plus it won’t break the bank. Versatility, style, and affordability — it’s a tough call for gemstones to perform well on all three of those points but you can find no end of Onyx pieces with just that hat trick.
What is the best way to care for onyx?
While onyx is harder than Jet, for example, it is still capable of being damaged. Scratches, scuffs, and chips are all common with pre-loved pieces. Remove any onyx pieces when doing manual labor such as gardening or house chores. Don’t wear onyx while using harsh chemicals. If you need to clean an onyx piece, a soft toothbrush and a bowl of warm water should do the trick. Always clean pieces in a bowl so that if any stones become dislodged, you will find them at the bottom of the bowl rather than in the bend of the drain…..I speak from experience! A gentle rub over with a soft cloth afterward should bring some shine back to the setting. If you feel it needs a deeper clean, stop by your local jeweler. They are often happy to clean pieces for you.
You can find Denise and her lovely onyx selection on Etsy at Manor Jewels.