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Onyx is a form of quartz that has a smooth texture and a black color. Less commonly it may also have white bands against a black or brown background. This particular variety is called a sardonyx and is also a birthstone for Leo. Onyx was once believed to be a healing stone for diseases of the heart and kidneys, to reduce stress, restore sleep and improve eyesight. It is also said that onyx sharpens the wits and increases spiritual inspiration.

Onyx is the birthstone for the month of December and is usually given as a gift for the seventh and tenth wedding anniversaries. It is a form of chalcedony quartz and is found in India, Uruguay, California and Brazil. Its name comes from the Greek word onyx which means fingernail or claw.

Legends say that one day while Venus, goddess of love, was sleeping, Cupid cut her fingernails and left the clippings scattered all over the ground. No part of a goddess can die, so the gods turned her fingernail clippings into stones which later became know as onyx.

Although when we think of onyx today, we usually think of the black variety, the sardonyx – a reddish brown variety with lighter red or white bands is becoming just as popular.

Onyx is quite a hard stone with a reading of 6.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, which makes it a great stone for carving. Most of the black onyx which is available today has had its color enhanced by being heat treated and dyed. These processes increase the depth of its color.

There is a significant folklore surrounding onyx which tells that the stone can boost regeneration, increase happiness, bestow powers of intuition, lower sexual desire and eliminate bad habits. In crystal healing, onyx is used to alleviate disorder of the heart, kidneys, nerves, insomnia and to strengthen nails, hair and eyes as well as curing apathy and stress.

In jewelry onyx is often mixed with pearls to make a stunning contrast between the two colors and lusters. Onyx is also used to create cameos in which the background is cut away to reveal a raised design usually of a face.

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