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An onyx engagement ring is an excellent option for the bride-to-be looking for something unique and edgy. After all, has there ever been a more versatile neutral than black?
What Is Onyx?
Onyx is a semi-precious gemstone characterized by bands within the stone that run parallel to one another. It is a sub-variety of the layered mineral chalcedony.
A distinguishing characteristic of onyx is its color. Onyx stones are most typically black with white bands. Though less common, onyx can also be found in green or reddish-brown called sardonyx. Fans of the ornate, antique looks of the Victorian era or the bold geometry of the Art Deco aesthetic may also want to consider an onyx engagement ring, as the stone was popular in both time periods.
“I recently had a bride come in who doesn’t wear jewelry very often,” says New York City jeweler Ashley Zhang. “To her, a diamond didn’t feel genuine. She didn’t want anything flashy. She wanted something unique and different. After looking at everything I had, she settled on an onyx ring because it was really simple, clean and modern.”
Meet the Expert
Ashley Zhang is a New York City-based fine jeweler. Her pieces have been featured in publications such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and worn by celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence, Bella Hadid, and Dua Lipa.
Pros and Cons of Onyx Rings
If you are looking for an edgy yet wearable alternative to a diamond, onyx is a great option. Colored gemstones have the potential to clash with everyday wear, while onyx remains fairly neutral with its black hue. "I'm not the biggest fan of color—maybe because I'm a New Yorker—and when you have an engagement ring, you should be able to wear it with everything," she says. "Onyx really lends itself to that, so you can do a lot in terms of styling." Not to mention, it's generally more affordable than diamonds.
Even though onyx makes for a one-of-a-kind, chic ring, the gemstone may not be for everybody. If you are looking for a glittering, brilliant stone for your engagement ring, onyx is not that. It is a much more low-profile stone that has properties different than a traditional diamond. Onyx is also a softer stone that has more potential for damage. That's not to say it isn't a stone for everyday wear. It might just require a bit more attention than more durable stones like diamonds and sapphires.
What to Look for in an Onyx Ring
- What setting works best with this type of ring? Zhang recommends to opt for a bezel setting for your onyx stone. “The bezel is a frame of metal around a stone,” she explains. “This is a smart way to set the stone, as when you hit the ring during everyday wear the metal will take most of the pressure.” This decreases the chance of the stone cracking or chipping.
- What shape works best with this type of stone? Since onyx is a softer gemstone it is able to be easily crafted into any shape! You will see it come in a variety of different cuts and shapes.
- How can I tell if an onyx gemstone is high quality? As with all engagement rings, you’ll want to work with a reputable jeweler you trust. Banded calcite, a less valuable mineral, and other stones can be dyed and passed off as onyx. Beyond that, Zhang says to look for scratches and chips on the surface of the stone, particularly if you’re considering a vintage ring.
How to Care for Your Onyx Ring
“Onyx is softer than diamond, but it is still an easy stone to care for,” says Zhang. “Steam or ultrasonic cleanings are safe, but you want to avoid extreme heat or chemicals. Soap and water is always safe and easy.”
The History of Onyx Gemstones
Per Zhang, the word onyx is derived from the ancient Greek word for claw. “The story is that while Venus slept, her fingernails were trimmed, and the gods turned these clippings into the stone known as onyx,” she says.
Throughout history, onyx has been used in protective amulets, rosaries, and cameos. During the Victorian era, it became a favorite stone in mourning jewelry. “The jewelry of this period reflected the monarch’s style,” says Zhang. “Queen Victoria expressed her sadness at the loss of her husband, Prince Albert, through her fashion choices.”
Today, onyx is associated with the Zodiac sign Leo and is also a traditional gemstone gift for 7th wedding anniversaries.
Ready to start shopping for your onyx engagement ring? Scroll down for stunning options.
Statement prongs bring the drama with this 3.8ct emerald-cut black onyx ring, while a quarter band of diamonds (0.09ct worth) brings the bling.
Part of Ashley Zhang’s signature “rolling ring” collection, the interlocking rings in this piece are designed to intentionally move while you wear it. The hand-cut emerald-cut onyx can be set in a yellow or white gold band, and the cut-down style pavé band allows for a hint of metal to shine between each of the diamonds.
Neil Lane, the designer behind engagement rings on The Bachelor, is also the designer behind this Jazz Age-inspired style. It features a 1ct Old European-cut diamond set in an octagonal onyx frame and platinum band.
Part prim and proper—and part rock ‘n’ roll—this gorgeous ring features an emerald-cut onyx buttressed by two 3mm accent diamonds.
Love David Yurman’s signature rope motif? The braided band on this faceted onyx ring is a cool update, while the diamond halo around the center stone makes the style feel engagement-worthy.
Take everyone’s breath away with this celeb-worthy Bhansali style. With diamonds surrounding and centered on a 13mm cushion-cut onyx, this ring will make every outfit feel red carpet-worthy.
Sweet and traditional, this ring features a faceted oval center stone buttressed by white diamonds. Its simple style makes it a prime match for curved stacking bands on either side.
A split shank and diamond halo lend an air of opulence to this engagement ring. The faceted oval onyx stone is prong set for an extra layer of security.
Show your significant other they’ve twisted around your heart with vine-like diamond wraps around a 6.3ct pear onyx.
Sleek and modern, this onyx ring is perfect for the minimalist. Cushion-cut stones are classic and a favorite among brides, including celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Meghan Markle.
Art deco style complements onyx perfectly, and this ring is a great example. This 1970's-esque ring features an old european cut diamond surrounded by carved onyx. Single cut diamonds circle around the outside of the onyx.
If you like the idea of incorporating onyx into your ring but don't want it to be the center of attention, try pairing it with a gemstone. This engagement ring has an onyx inlay with a morganite gemstone in the center, which combines some shine with the black gem.
This unconventional Toi et Moi ring features two hearts, one in black onyx and one with a .04 tcw diamond. It's a perfect way to show the bond between you and your partner.
This ring is a modern yet timeless take on the onyx gemstone. It features a diamond pavé band and an East-West setting for the emerald-cut gemstone.
The vintage-style of this onyx ring gives it a glamourous flair. The gemstone is held in a scalloped setting with white diamonds decorating the 14K yellow gold band.
Styled in the iconic Van Cleef & Arpels design, this onyx ring features a .06ct diamond for a bit of added sparkle to this elegant design.
Truly a statement making piece, this black onyx is flanked by diamond accents. The split shank band is crafted in 14K yellow gold.