Onyx derives its name from the Greek ONYX, ONYCHOS, and means a Fingernail.

This is in reference to the Greek story of Cupid who upon finding his mother Venus asleep on the river bank, cut her fingernails with one of his sharp arrowheads. These clippings became stones which resembled flesh-colored onyx with white bands.

Onyx is the parallel banded variety of silicate mineral chalcedony. Agate and onyx are varieties of the banded chalcedony. The only difference is that the onyx has parallel bands while agate has concentric bands.

Onyx has a hardness ranging from 6.5 - 7 on the Mohs scale. It has a waxy to dull luster and is typically opaque. When it is cut and polished, onyx is typically free from inclusions. It has a fluorescence that varies according to the bands, moderately strong with yellow to blue-white.

Most often, Onyx is identified by its black base and white upper layer with parallel bandings. However, it can be solid pitch black too. These are often dyed.

Varieties may show red, brown, yellow and blue layers. The most familiar onyx is black and white-banded. This is also known as "true" or "Arabic onyx".

Sard Onyx has a brown base with white and reddish, brownish or yellow upper layer; Cornelian Onyx has a red base and white upper layer; Niccolo Onyx has a thin upper layer of white, displaying the black base color as grey or blue. (Niccolo is derived from the Italian ONI-COLO the Little Onyx.).

Onyx should not be confused with Onyx Marble, which is Limestone. Onyx is related to other varieties of quartz especially the cryptocrystalline quartz such as agate, chrysoprase, jasper, carnelian and bloodstone.

Onyx was used in Egypt as early as the Second Dynasty to make bowls and other pottery items. Beautiful onyx artifacts from Minoan Crete, a civilisation from the Bronze Age, had also be excavated.

Onyx was held in high esteem by the ancient Greeks and Romans who carved it in the form of cameos and intaglios, most often showing off the beautiful bandings of onyx.

Cameo some scholars believe indicate Onyx on the account that in ancient Greece and Rome it was Onyx and Sardonyx that was often used in engraving symbolical, mythological or heroic figures in relief.

It is believed that the word Cameo comes from the Arabic Chemela which means a Charm. In Hebrew, Chemela is Khemela and it stands for Amulet. Both interpretations, in my opinion, are correct. In the ancient world, onyx was used as a charm, as an amulet and as a talisman.

Famous onyx cameos are the Great Cameo of France, dating back to approximately 23 AD and the Gemma Augustea (Gem of Augustus) carved from Arabian onyx. The Fabergé Trans-Siberian Railway Egg, created in 1900 for Tsar Nicholas II of Russia is made of onyx, silver, gold and quartz.

Besides cameos, onyx is also popularly cut into beautiful glossy cabochons, beads and pendants.

Throughout history, onyx is believed to bring powers of protection, and the reduction of sexual desires.

Onyx is a strongly protective stone. It absorbs and transforms negative energy and strengthens emotional well-being.

It is said that Cleopatra used to wear black onyx for its protective features. Sensing negative energy, the crystal would vibrate, alerting the queen of potential danger.

It is believed that a spirit is trapped in onyx and that at night it comes out like a playful little gnome who conjures visions of terrors in the dreams of its wearer.

Onyx was used in ancient times to control and constrain demons. It also protects the wearer against the works of black magic.

Onyx was usually enclosed in a setting of lead, and engraved with a crowned King or a witch riding her dragon.

Those onyx that looked similar to the Eye, were perceived to be very magical and were used to cure eye problems and as talisman against the Evil Eye.

Onyx is a sacred stone that is used to obtain higher spiritual experience. It banishes grief and woe and encourages self-control and resilience.

It is known as a stone of Saturn as it has the power of conferring eloquence and conjugal bliss to its wearer.

It is believed that onyx engraved with a hawk or an eagle will attract good fortune to your life.

Onyx deposits are found all over the Earth, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, India, Botswana, Madagascar, Mexico, Myanmar (Burma), Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Uruguay and the United States.