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Onyx Information

About Onyx

If you've never seen an onyx surface, you are missing a majestic view that will no doubt amaze you. This natural stone is stunning! For all the splendor it delivers though, it is relatively rare. So in this article, we are going to talk a bit about onyx. As we do, we will cover some interesting uses for the material and we sill mention how it is cared for, maintained, and why it is not often seen in projects. Since perceiving differences between natural and man made materials takes a bit of effort.

What is Onyx?

As with many stone materials, the stone industry is a bit more flexible with its labeling of onyx than are geologists. You can see that from what the following UseNaturalStone.org page, written by a geologist, mentions regarding onyx:

In the commercial stone industry, onyx refers a category of stones that are made of layered bands of light-colored or translucent minerals. Most slabs of onyx are what a geologist would call banded calcite. This same material also goes by the names onyx marble, Mexican onyx, or Egyptian alabaster.

Despite the relaxed naming conventions used to describe onyx, the characteristics are notable. As the quote above states, onyx is a stone that is composed of clacite and other minerals. This makes it a relative of other notable natural stone such as:

  • Marble
  • Limestone
  • Travertine

As you might correctly conclude, onyx has some of the same properties as the stone mentioned above. Yet, it also has some unique ones as well.

Properties of Natural Onyx

Most onyx is recognizable by the colors it is composed of and its translucent appearance. Often times, because of the impurities in natural onyx, the color is white with a honey, pink, salmon, or gold color bands layered through the stone. There are other colors of onyx, but the most frequent color of onyx seen is one that has a honey color in it.

The bands that alternate between shades of color and white (or clear) are a mark of this natural stone. The white is calcite and the color is caused by the other minerals that tint the stone. Onyx is also translucent, which makes it such a stunning stone. The fact that light passes through it is often demonstrated when it is used by shining a light through it from the back.

Onyx is a soft stone like its closest relatives. That means that it can be scratched easier than other natural stones like granite, serpentine and quartzite. Still, it has a number of uses.

Uses for Natural Onyx

We won't go as far as saying that you will never see a kitchen countertop made of onyx. But this stone is more often used in other ways. For example, onyx makes for a great backsplash, fireplace surround, or vanity tops. Really, anything that does not see a great deal of acidic liquids or rough edges is a great way to work onyx into your designs. One very nice way is to use this marvelous stone as an accent piece.

Cutting Natural Onyx

Again, like the rest of its family, onyx is a material that is relatively soft and therefore it is pretty easy to cut using a diamond blade. Yet, the proper blade will yield better results. So choosing a diamond blade for cutting calcareous stone is recommended.

Onyx Care and Maintenance

Being a calcareous natural stone, onyx needs to have some pretty specific attention so that it can remain looking its best. By following the care routine that we recommend for all natural stone that contains calcite, the stone will keep its natural beauty and look the best over time. The following routine for onyx is a good way to keep it looking good:

  1. Periodically seal the stone using an impregnating sealer dessigned for use on calcareous stone.
  2. Clean onyx using a specially formulated cleaner that will not destroy the sealer dissolve the calcite in the onyx.
  3. use specially designed stained removers if the stone gets stained and needs to have the stain removed.

Those three parts of the care and maintenance routine work together to keep the material looking its best. First, the sealer creates a barrier that helps the stone repel water based and oil based liquids so that the stone can be cleaned before the liquids have a chance to penetrate the pores of the stone. Second, cleaning the material using the appropriate cleaner will preserve the sealer longer. Why? because some cleaners actually destroy the selaer. So, if the wrong cleaner is used, it just removes the sealer and that defeats the purpose of sealing the stone to begin with. Finally, stain removers provide a way to correct issues that arise from going too long without sealing an onyx surface. A stain also may point to the need for the stone to be sealed.

In conclusion, onyx is a magnificent natural stone with the potential to transform a space into a stunning design when used correctly. And evne though it is not common to see onyx used as a kitchen countertop, you will no doubt find it in a variety of upscale designs. Furthermore, when you do see a project making use of onyx, it is sure to make a lasting impression.