An onyx engagement ring is an excellent option for the bride-to-be looking for something unique and edgy. Plus, has there ever been a color more versatile than black?
What Is Onyx?
Onyx is a semiprecious gemstone characterized by bands running parallel to one another. A subvariety of the layered mineral chalcedony, onyx is most commonly found as a black stone; however, it's also available in green and reddish-brown, known as sardonyx.
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,” says New York City jeweler Ashley Zhang. Throughout history, onyx has been used in protective amulets, rosaries, and cameos. During the Victorian era, it became a favorite stone for mourning jewelry after Queen Victoria wore it. “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.”
“I recently had a bride come in who doesn’t wear jewelry very often,” says 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.”
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 a diamond.
Although onyx makes for a chic, one-of-a-kind ring, the gemstone may not be for everyone. If you're looking for a glittering, brilliant stone for your engagement ring, onyx is not that. It is a much more low-profile stone, and it's softer, creating more potential for damage. That's not to say it isn't everyday wear, but it might just require a bit more attention than more durable stones, such as diamonds and sapphires.
What to Look for in an Onyx Ring
- What setting works best with onyx? Zhang recommends 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 cut works best with this type of stone? Since onyx is a softer gemstone, it can be easily crafted into any shape. Some of the most popular cuts for this stone include the emerald cut and the cushion cut, although one of the best parts about onyx is that it works with any cut, so it all comes down to your preference.
- 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.” Since onyx is a more absorbent stone, using cleaning chemicals can cause it to change color.
While this stone does hold up well over time, it's essential to take your ring off while swimming or showering. Also, try to avoid wearing your ring while applying your makeup or styling your hair, as chemicals in these products could potentially damage your stone.
When taking your ring off, make sure to store it in a safe and soft jewelry box away from other jewelry that could knock against it and cause chipping.
Ready to start shopping for your onyx engagement ring? Scroll down for stunning options.
Kasia Jewelry Onyx Ring
Statement prongs bring the drama with this 3.8-carat, emerald-cut black onyx ring while a quarter band of diamonds brings the bling.
Ashley Zhang Jewelry Onyx Pavé Diamond Rolling Ring
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 Old European-Cut Diamond and Onyx Ring
Neil Lane, the designer behind engagement rings on The Bachelor, is also the designer behind this Jazz Age-inspired style. It features a 1-carat old European-cut diamond set in an octagonal onyx frame and platinum band.
Olive Avenue Jewelry Knox Onyx Ring
Part prim and proper and part rock ‘n’ roll, this gorgeous ring features an emerald-cut onyx buttressed by two accent diamonds.
Sweet Melissa Black Onyx Ring
This understated statement piece feels especially feminine, thanks to a pear-cut onyx and a delicate three-prong setting. Five diamond accents run down the band on each side for shimmer.
Bhansali 18k White Gold 13mm Cushion-Cut Ring with Diamonds
Take everyone’s breath away with this celeb-worthy Bhansali style. With diamonds surrounding and centered on a cushion-cut onyx, this ring will make every outfit feel red carpet–worthy.
Marrow Fine Bewitched Black Onyx 3-Stone Ring
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.
Angara Oval Black Onyx Split Shank Halo Ring
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.
Effy Eclipse Onyx and Diamond Teardrop Ring
Show your significant other they’re wrapped around your heart with this 6.3-carat pear onyx draped with diamonds like a vine.
Blue Nile Black Onyx Cushion Cocktail Ring
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.
Yvonne Léon Gold Onyx and Diamond Ring
This black onyx ring is perfect for the fashion-forward bride. A single diamond is held in the black onyx face of the ring, encased in gold-rope detailing.
Mejuri Black Onyx Square Signet Ring
Black onyx is a unisex stone that works great for brides and grooms alike. This ring from Mejuri features square-cut black onyx on a 14k solid yellow gold band.
Chopard Happy Hearts 18K Rose Gold, Diamond & Black Onyx Ring
This unconventional Toi et Moi ring features two hearts, one in black onyx and one with a diamond. It's a perfect way to show the bond between you and your partner.
Jennie Kwon East-West Onyx Equilibrium Ring
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.
Angara Oval Black Onyx Vintage Style Ring with Diamond Accents
The vintage style of this onyx ring gives it a glamorous flair. The gemstone is held in a scalloped setting with white diamonds decorating the yellow gold band.
Van Cleef & Arpels Vintage Alhambra Ring
Styled in the iconic Van Cleef & Arpels design, this onyx ring features a .06-carat diamond for a bit of added sparkle.
Bloomingdale's Black Onyx and Diamond Statement Ring in 14K Yellow Gold
Truly a statement-making piece, this black onyx is flanked by diamond accents. The split shank band is crafted in yellow gold.
Meet the Expert
- Ashley Zhang is a New York City–based fine jeweler. Her pieces have been featured in publications like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and worn by celebrities, such as Jennifer Lawrence, Bella Hadid, and Dua Lipa.