The first known uses of sardonyx date back thousands of years to Ancient Egypt. To this day, archeologists still unearth ancient artifacts including sardonyx necklaces, rings, and other relics from the past. Over thousands of years, sardonyx has accumulated a rich history of use, mainly in the creation of cameos and intaglios, which are intricate, three-dimensional carvings made from earthen stones and rocks.
What made sardonyx such a prime medium for ancient carvings and trinkets? Sardonyx gained fast popularity in ancient times because of its practical application, sturdy construction, and striking banded colors and patterns. Aside from practicality, however, sardonyx is truly a gorgeous piece of the earth!
Today, Sardonyx is cut and fashioned into jewelry pieces, as well as tumbled smooth for holistic healing. However, there is some confusion regarding the differences between sardonyx, sard, and carnelian.
Here, we’re sharing the fundamental characteristics, properties, meanings, and uses of the eclectic sardonyx stone.
What is the sardonyx stone? In essence, sardonyx is an agate variant with straight and parallel banding made of layers of chalcedony and sard. In the larger family of gemstones, agate is a member of the chalcedony cryptocrystalline quartz family.
Is sardonyx a gem? That’s right! The chemical composition of sardonyx stone is silicon dioxide, and it forms when silica is deposited into gas cavities in lava rock. The bands that we see on onyx stones result from layers of silica deposits that pick up different minerals under specific temperatures, creating both sard and chalcedony in varying colors. Black onyx, composed only of chalcedony, doesn’t have the sard, making it less common.
As far as durability, sardonyx falls at a respectable 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs hardness scale. For this reason, sardonyx jewelry designs usually employ beaded cabochons that have been smoothed and polished to limit any hard edges from cracking.
So how did sardonyx get its name? It’s all in the stone’s composition! The gemstone has two contributors: sard, a brownish-red stone, and onyx, a black stone that shows mostly white, brown, and purple banding. Put them together and what do you get? Sardonyx! Without sard entering the mix, it would simply be onyx, so sardonyx can be considered a variant of onyx stone.
Do you think you’ve stumbled on one of these banded jewels? If so, how do you identify sardonyx?
In many ways, sardonyx can be compared to onyx, with a few slight discrepancies:
Color: Sardonyx colors vary from white to orange and red to black. Most often it appears reddish-brown with lighter or darker binding.
Crystal structure: Trigonal
Luster: Vitreous to waxy
Transparency: Translucent, Opaque
Refractive index: 1.530 to 1.543
Now that you know the stone’s chemical and structural makeup, what does sardonyx stone symbolize? There are many meanings associated with sardonyx, so let’s explore.
What sardonyx means varies, depending on who you ask and during what time period. In general, the stone’s bold, warm colors represent courage and happiness. When gifted or owned by a couple, sardonyx can help foster smoother communication skills and provide marital stability and everlasting happiness.
As with other vibrant gemstones like tanzanite and opal, the color and pattern of sardonyx changes its meaning. For example, red with white banding and red bullseye stones are rumored to have stronger spiritual properties, which leads many wearers to ask, is sardonyx a healing stone?
Also, what is sardonyx used for? For us to understand sardonyx holistic properties, benefits, and uses, we need to take a trip back in time to survey how our ancestors regarded the stone. Ancient civilizations believed that certain sardonyx carvings would affect their physical attributes and abilities.
Over in Ancient Rome, women wore sardonyx jewelry carved with cameos of Venus, Goddess of Love, in hopes of attracting a qualified partner. Any guesses as to what carvings men wore? If you had an inkling they had to do with battle, you’re correct! Men wore carvings of Ares, God of War when they went into battle to harness his protection and strength against adversaries.
In crystal healing, sardonyx is a staunch protector against all forms of evil. Healing practitioners advise placing sardonyx stones in all corners of a home to create a grid against negative and toxic energies. You can also place a stone under your pillow before going to sleep to encourage a blissful night of rest. The stone’s energy may also help to reduce irritability, increase relaxation, and improve sleep quality overall. If you’re struggling to catch some ZZZ’s, it’s time to get serious about sardonyx!
On a physical level, sardonyx contains nourishing minerals the human body craves. Physically, sardonyx stone may assist in endocrine system functioning, promote good circulation, and cleanse the skin.
But remember how sardonyx comes in several color and pattern variations? Well, there are devoted sardonyx healing properties for each variety. Let’s have a closer look!
Today, white-banded and red bullseye sardonyx offers wearers charisma and exuberant personality. Wearers notice heightened self-confidence and a stronger sense of self-identity, thanks to sardonyx. Some even advise caution while wearing this stone. Sardonyx is rumored to give a person so much charisma that it may be overbearing to others, so you might want to reserve it for social encounters that command a more outgoing expression. Grab sardonyx and show ‘em who’s boss!
Black and white-banded sardonyx is a bold variety that can enhance traits such as cleverness, versatility, verbal skills, and positivity in people already possessing these personality characteristics. Those with a Type A personality may find themselves even more outgoing than before they started wearing the stone. Can you believe that? If you have a surplus of these traits or struggle to control your extroverted tendencies, sardonyx can offer some balance.
Other colors like black and red-brown sardonyx are associated with grounding, protection, and neutrality when it comes to communication. White and red-brown sardonyx, on the other hand, symbolizes purity. More specifically, the white and red-brown variety is linked to the Crown chakra, the energy portal responsible for prophetic insight and higher communication with the divine and celestial realms. As such, wearing this stone can contribute to higher enlightenment and even make you stand taller!
A stone that contains a combination of all sardonyx color variations symbolizes perfection and provides wearers with a combination of all the amazing benefits we mentioned. If you’re able to find a flawless multi-colored sardonyx stone, you’ll want to snag it quickly!
So, when it comes to buying sardonyx, what factors should you consider?
Gemologists measure a stone’s quality based on four different categories called the 4 C’s. Each individual stone ranks differently, with sardonyx having its own unique set of parameters. To understand, let’s start with color.
In a sardonyx stone, the color itself isn’t as important as the contrast. A high-quality stone should have vibrant layers of red sard contrasting bright white layers of onyx. The key here is saturation in whatever colors are present in the stone. If the sard is more brownish-red than true red and the onyx is black, the stone can still be highly desirable as long as each layer is vibrant enough to distinguish the colors.
The most common cut of sardonyx is cabochon, a cutting style of smoothing and polishing the stone rather than cutting hard lines seen in gemstones like diamonds and emeralds. However, well-carved stones placed into cameos, intaglios, inlays, and brooches can be sold for a lot more, especially if they hold historical value. What’s more, these cutting styles lend themselves to cherished family heirlooms that can be passed down from generation to generation. In this way, sardonyx is truly a timeless, everlasting stone.
The clarity of a sardonyx stone is less important than color and contrast, but it’s still important to understand. Stones ranging from translucent to opaque can all be extremely valuable, as long as they show no visible watermarks or fractures.
The value of a stone’s carat weight relies on its quality in the other three categories: color, cut, and clarity. A large sardonyx stone with weak coloring would be valued less than a smaller stone exhibiting striking color combinations, patterns, and clarity.
And that covers the important 4 C’s! Where does sardonyx come from?
Sardonyx comes from regions across the globe, including Brazil, India, Germany, Uruguay, Russia, and in the Lake Superior region of the United States. The most coveted sardonyx is found in India, where the geological composition is perfect for vibrant, flawless, and colorful stones.
We see sardonyx uses and benefits throughout history, specifically in Rome, Egypt, and other cultures, so gemologists believe that a large quantity of the stone was traded and transported. Now that you understand some of the specifics, let’s dig a little deeper into the rich history of this beautiful stone.
For thousands of years, people from all cultures and civilizations have used sardonyx in primitive and modern ways, for everything from jewelry to holistic benefits to protective talismans. Archaeologists continue to uncover ancient artifacts made of sardonyx in ancient societies. Pretty neat, right?
What is it that makes sardonyx so adaptable? For starters, no two sardonyx stones look alike. Binding layers, color, transparency, and sizing all change the stone and its appeal. As a result, the value of sardonyx has stood the test of time, even if it’s a relatively abundant gemstone.
Perhaps the most famous sardonyx jewelry was a carving with the image of Queen Elizabeth I of England. This striking piece was gifted to the Earl of Essex by the Queen herself as a token of good faith and friendship, though, evidently, it did lose some protective properties as he was later executed by the crown — yikes!
Not to worry! So long as you’re not a British monarch, you’re safe to enjoy sardonyx in all its glory!
Cleaning natural sardonyx is easy! All you’ll need to use is warm, soapy water and a soft brush. Anything stronger containing harsh chemicals can end up damaging your stone. You’ll also want to take care to have your stones set properly into jewelry designs as they can scratch if it crosses paths with a harder gemstone like a diamond or sapphire. Also, avoid harsh chemicals like detergents or bleach whenever you’re working with gemstones, especially softer ones like sardonyx.
There are also a few ways you can cleanse and purify sardonyx stones. The purification process rids your stone of any negative energies and acts as a sort of reset button for your own use. If you’ve used your sardonyx gem for protection, consider cleansing it every once in a while to wash away any absorbed energies that can hinder the stone’s vibrational current and potency.
First, you’ll want to bury or soak your stone in large grain kosher salt for about 24 hours. This cleansing process will last you about one hundred days. If you don’t have any kosher salt on hand, you can also try cleansing your sardonyx using a crystal cluster or by placing it in a flowing stream of clear, fresh spring water.
If you’re wondering why we said “natural” sardonyx, there’s a reason. Sardonyx is frequently dyed to change the color of the carnelian layers. The bright red-orange coloring of high-quality sardonyx can be pretty easily replicated using chemical additives. When purchasing sardonyx or any other semiprecious stone, work only with trusted sellers through reputable sites like Gem Rock Auctions.
Thanks to the stone’s abundance, sardonyx stones under 10 carats are widely available and moderately priced. However, remember that the cut of the stone plays an important role in its price. Intricate sardonyx carvings will increase the stone’s value, but so will the size of an uncut, flawless gem. And finally, stones exhibiting the most vivid colors and patterns, with high contrast between light and dark color bands, will naturally fetch the highest prices.
Sardonyx stone has, in one way or another, left its mark on history. Not only are these stones absolutely gorgeous, but they offer a slice of history, modern holistic benefits, and an earthly aesthetic to your home décor or personal style. Sardonyx is a vibrant stone that enhances jewelry while providing protective properties to those who wear it.
Ready to add this beautiful stone to your collection?
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