Onyx is a banded variety
of chalcedony, a cryptocrystalline form of quartz. The colors of its bands range
from white to almost every color (not including shades such as purple, blue, or
black). Commonly, specimens of onyx available contain colors of white, tan, and
brown. Sardonyx is a variant in which the colored bands are sard (shades of red)
rather than black.
It is usually cut as a cabochon, or into beads, and is
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. One can view
a close variant of this material in St.Mary's Church at Żebbuġ, Gozo.
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
The agate-like sardonyx (banded agate).
The specimen is one inch (2.5