The name sardonyx is of Greek origin. The word "sard" means reddish brown and onyx translates into "veined gem." Sardonyx is the anniversary stone for year seven in a marriage as well as the birthstone for those born under the sign of Leo the Lion, between July 23 and August 22. The semi-precious gem can be naturally occurring or artificially created. Sardonyx is a form of agate.
Sardonyx is formed when the mineral sard forms in between white strips of onyx, giving the stone a banded, zebra-like appearance. The majority of stones are brownish, but it is possible to find them in pink, red, light green, blue and a blue lace. It is a common procedure to stain agate to give the appearance of the naturally occurring stone. Sardonyx is part of the chalcedony, or quartz family. The stone can chip or scratch easily if two or more specimens are improperly stored together.
Sardonyx was highly prized as far back as ancient Rome. Soldiers would wear talismans that had engravings of Mars, the god of war or other heroes like Hercules. The belief was that the sardonyx had powers to make the wearer brave. The Egyptians preferred sardonyx for their carved scarab beetles. Sardonyx was popular during the Renaissance period as well. The stone was thought to enhance the public speaking abilities of the wearer and was commonly carved into cameos.
Sardonyx has been credited for protecting wearers from stings and bites of insects and poisonous snakes and to ward off the plague. It is said to enhance self control and at the same time make a marriage happier and more stable. Other uses have been to aid in favourable legal or contract issues and to promote general peace, luck and self courage in an individual. The bands of sardonyx are also said to bring those of like minds together.
Sardonyx can be found in the United States around the Great Lakes Region in the mid-west, as well as in Oregon in the Pacific Northwest. Other sources around the world include Brazil, Sri Lanka, the Czech Republic, Uruguay and Germany. India has some of the best quality sardonyx gems in the world.
Sometimes black onyx stones are found with white bands. These stones were popular in the art deco period when they were paired with brightly coloured stones, particularly rubies. Black onyx is still in use today and is commonly paired with marcasite in jewellery making. Marcasite is a mineral, but also a jewellery trade name for tiny faceted, polished stones that are used in sterling silver pieces. Black onyx and sardonyx are part of the agate family.
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