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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 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.”
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.
“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.”
Learn about the pros, cons, and what to look for in an onyx ring below.
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.
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.
Jacquie Aiche Morganite + Onyx Solitaire Ring
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.