Sardonyx Gemstone Information
An alternate birthstone for August, the sardonyx stone has a prominent place in history. In ancient times, it was favored both for its appearance and its ability to be used for intricate carvings.
However, it isn’t as widely known as some other stones, causing many to incidentally overlook its beauty. If you want to know more about what sardonyx is, how it was used, and what it has to offer people today, here’s everything you need to know about the sardonyx stone.
Technically, the sardonyx gem isn’t a single gemstone. Instead, it’s created when layers of onyx and sard come together in parallel layers. Both of those stones are chalcedony minerals, with sard technically being a form of orange carnelian. Additionally, sardonyx is usually considered a subset of agate, though its unique composition lets it stand out from other agate pieces.
Sardonyx isn’t the most durable stone around, so it’s important to exercise caution when wearing it in certain kinds of jewelry. For example, it may not be the best choice for rings, particularly for anyone who works with their hands or have a highly manual hobby, like gardening and various forms of crafting.
Sardonyx can be found in a few colors, though the stones are almost universally found in earthy hues. The sard layers are commonly brown, dark orange, or brick red. Then, the onyx layers are typically black or white, although some may appear cream due to the semi-translucent nature of some white onyx pieces.
It is possible to find mostly white or mostly black sardonyx, as well as stones that are mainly an earthy hue. Those pieces simply feature more onyx than sard or vice versa. However, if there’s no sard or no onyx present, it isn’t sardonyx; it’s just the other stone.
The History of Sardonyx
Sardonyx has been used for thousands of years, with some examples dating back over 4,000 years ago. The stone was primarily for decorative and jewelry-oriented purposes.
The Gemma Augustea in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. photo James Steakley, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
For example, the Gemma Augustea, an ancient Roman carving, dates back to the 1st century AD, likely from the second or third decade. Sardonyx gemstone signet rings and seals were also popular during Roman times, as wax doesn’t stick to the stone.
Part of sardonyx’s appeal was the distinct layers. It creates unique carving opportunities, making it perfect for stone cameos or other decorative items where having the color of the foreground and background differ is ideal.
Some also believe that sardonyx was present on the High Priest’s breastplate, based on the Old Testament.
As for the sardonyx birthstone, it’s considered an alternate option for August today. However, sardonyx is actually the original August birthstone. It was later replaced by peridot.
Where Sardonyx Is From
The sardonyx gemstone is found in a variety of areas. Usually, India is considered the most prominent source of the sardonyx stone. However, you can also find it in Brazil, Germany, Madagascar, the United States, and Uruguay, along with other countries.
Usually, sardonyx jewelry features cabochons, carvings, or beads, not faceted stones. With cabochons and beads, showing off the parallel layers is typically the goal. For carvings like cameos, the layers may be positioned to ensure certain features of the design stand out visually. Otherwise, the carved shape may simply be an alternative to a traditional cabochon.
As for sardonyx jewelry types, necklaces, pendants, and bracelets are the most widely available. However, it is possible to find earrings and rings, too.
Generally, sardonyx jewelry is reasonably affordable, as well. The exact price can vary depending on a few factors, such as the supporting metal used and the intricacy of any carvings.
August birthstone sardonyx jewelry isn’t as common as peridot or spinel jewelry. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t available.
It is important to note that, as with many other types of chalcedony, sardonyx is frequently dyed before it is used in jewelry and décor. That means the color you see may not be the stone’s natural hue. Additionally, since high heat can alter the color of dyed stones, extra care may be necessary when wearing or cleaning it.
Sardonyx Stone Meaning
Cross of Lothair with Augustus cameo. The intersection of the cross is accented by a magnificent, three-layered sardonyx cameo. The slightly oval, antique cameo shows the turned to the left bust crowned with a laurel wreath of Emperor Augustus, who holds an eagle scepter in his right hand.
When it comes to the sardonyx meaning, it varies depending on the belief system. For those who think it was part of the High Priest’s breastplate, it may represent the strength found in leading a spiritual life.
Roman soldiers were said to believe sardonyx would provide them with protection during battles. Mainly, this was because they associated the stone with Mars, the Roman god of war.
Other spiritual systems connect this August birthstone with stability, communication, strength, and happiness. There are also associations with optimism, confidence, and mental focus, due to the presence of onyx. At times, its coloring may allow it to serve as a root chakra gemstone. However, sardonyx isn’t traditionally used as such.
Stones Similar to Sardonyx
Stones similar to sardonyx differ depending on the aspects of the stone you are trying to capture. If your goal is to find a layered stone, multicolor agate or rhodochrosite are both excellent choices. Some pieces of jasper may be a reasonable substitute, as well as certain tiger’s eye matrix stones.
Fluorite also has a striped appearance, though the colors differ dramatically from what you find in sardonyx. Purple and green layers are common in fluorite, while sardonyx features browns, reds, and oranges. Additionally, fluorite is more translucent, in general.
For anyone who wants to find a stone that resembles black onyx, you may have luck with black obsidian. Black rutile quartz and black jasper are two other strong possibilities.
If it’s the earthy or fiery coloring of the sard you want to find in another stone, look for tiger’s eye matrix, brown scapolite, brown obsidian, brown pietersite, carnelian, or red or orange coral. Jasper or agate would be excellent options as well, particularly since they can both be found in a wide range of earthy hues.