A Biblical Stone
Most gem lovers are unaware that what they have in their collections is nothing but a high-quality fake, neither they know how the real sample of this stone looks like. Throughout history, the mineral was either worshipped or stayed away from. Great rulers and military leaders believed the stone to be an indispensable power attribute. As ancient legends say, Aphrodite, a Greek goddess of love and beauty, had to sacrifice one of her fingernails to ensure onyx would materialise. Eros, a young god of love and sex, was on Mount Olympus playing with a bow. An accident happened, and an arrow that he shot hit his own mother and wounded her. A part of her finger fell onto the ground and turned into a rock with bizarre patterns.
In the old days, onyx was thought to be a sacred stone. It is, in fact, one of the 12 precious stones of the Bible. A common belief is that the walls of the first Jerusalem temple, which was built around 1000 BC, are made of onyx.
The Arabs perceived the coloured onyx bands as a warning sign. Chinese people associated the stone with grief and sorrow; people tried to keep away from the onyx deposits, being afraid of the evil eye. In Africa, the mineral was on the contrary honoured and served as a local currency at an equivalent rate of gold. The thinner bands had a higher value, and, consecutively, the sample would cost more than the sample with thicker bands.
People of India are still thinking that onyx worn around the neck can cure diseases and cool down the ardour. In the past, Indians used to treat infant colics with the gem. They attached a stone sample to the sore area and kept it there through the night. In Ancient Rus, local people believed that any illness could be cured if one would drink some healing water from an onyx bowl.
As an easy-to-cut material, onyx was favoured by jewellers already back in the old ages. Numerous onyx items are considered true masterpieces of lapidary works. One of them is the Hermitage’s collection highlight - ‘Gonzaga Cameo’ -, which depicts the Pharaohs of Egypt. The cameo is carved from black and white onyx.
Nowadays, the stone is mostly used as a finishing material - for instance, the balustrades of Grand Opera in Paris and some stations of the Moscow Metro are decorated with onyx. As the mineral can transmit light, it is often used in wall construction. If properly lighted, the separation walls help to create a unique and cosy atmosphere. White onyx also has a bactericidal effect - bathrooms, toilet facilities, kitchens, saunas, and swimming pools faced with it will be forever protected against fungus and mould.
Though it may seem surprising, those greenish figurines that are often found in souvenir shops are most often made of striped marbles. This onyx-like marble is not in any way inferior to the authentic onyx and got its name because of the wavy and striped patterns on the stone’s surface. As a matter of fact, the patterns are not always striped; sometimes, they are spotted. The way they look like usually depends on the direction in which the stone’s sample was cut.