Agate vs Onyx: What Are They, And What’s The Difference?

Precious stones come in all shapes and sizes.

There are literally hundreds of types, styles, colors and variety of precious stone that stand out from your run-of-the-mill rock that you might find in your backyard.

Agate and onyx, though they are both layered chalcedony stones, do have plenty of differences that can help you identify each.

Today we are going to discuss both agate and onyx and how to identify each.

Agate vs Onyx (EXPLAINED)

What is An Agate?

Agate is a rather commons tone that consists of chalcedony, or crystallized silica that is made of quarts and moganite.

These stones come in a range of different colors, and are most often made of volcanic and metamorphic rock.

Agates are often very jagged when they are first mined or collected, but they can be polished to a very smooth surface.

This stone can be used in jewelry, as a form of crystal for those that believe in crystal healing, and can even be a fantastic decor piece.

Agates most commonly form inside other rocks that have already been formed and can often be found as nodules or growths on other rocks.

Since agate stones are layered stones, you can often see the layers of the formation within the rock when they are broken open and polished.

There are a few different types of agate, lace agate, moss agate, turritella agate, Greek agate, and so many more.

Each variety of agate is named based on the formation and on the individual colors and tones of the stone.

A great example is a Brazilian agate, these are often brownish in tone with white and gray, while moss agate can be varying shades of green.

What is An Onyx Stone?

An onyx stone is another type of chalcedony stone that is often black or white in color.

This stone is mainly different from an agate in that the bands in the stone are not curved like they are in an agate, but rather they are parallel to one another.

While we hear the word onyx and immediately think of a deep black stone, there are actually tons of different colors of onyx stones.

There is a red onyx, black onyx that is solid, black onyx with bands, and red onyx that does not have very visible bands.

Onyx is most likely going to be black while sardonyx is what the red variety of the onyx is called.

Solid black onyx, thought this is what we most often associate with the word onyx or thinking of the stone, is rather rare and most onyx is going to be banded with visible banding that is either yellow or red and even brown in some cases.

Similarities Between Onyx and Agate

As mentioned before, these are both layered stones that are part of the chalcedony family of stone.

They are also both rather common in terms of how often they form and how often they show up.

Both stones have clearly defined lines in most cases that are visible even when the stone is not broken open and when it is not polished.

These stones both come in a range of colors, shapes and varieties and are great for a huge range of uses.

These are both stones that can be polished and used for art, jewelry and more.

Agate is a rather hard stone, it is a 6.5 to 7 on the hardness scale as is Onyx.

They can both vary in color, vary in striping and do have white streaks in them.

They are both naturally occurring stones that can also be lab created in some cases if the conditions are correct.

Differences Between Agate And Onyx

The main difference between these two stones is the structure of the stone.

Agates are going to have lines that are less structured and less straight.

In many cases these lines are curved, even circular in some cases, and are often a bit more chaotic and far less organized.

The lines in an onyx are parallel to one another and are far more structured and orderly.

Onyx also comes in less colors than agates.

Agates can come in red, blue, green, gray, black, brown and so many more colors.

Onyx on the other hand is almost always either black, black with visible lines and colors, or red.

Onyx comes from dying agates in many cases and they are waxy in texture rather than being flat in texture as many agates are.

An onyx is not going to have any crystalline structures in it as agate might have and onyx are almost always rather very consistent in color with them either being all black, all red, or black or red with white striping present.

Why all the Confusion Between Onyx and Agate?

It is easy to confuse these two stones for the simple fact that they can both look like one another.

These stones can look like one another since agate can be red and black which can make them look a great deal like an onyx.

These stones are easy to mistake for one another when you first see them and you might think that a black striped onyx is an agate, if you do take the time to pay attention and look a little harder, you can determine which is which.

The best method for telling these two apart is to look at the lines on the surface.

If they are parallel to one another and have clear structure, the stone is not an agate.

If the lines are round, curved, if they have very little order, this stone is most likely an agate.

They are very similar in hardness, they can be carved into the same shape and they can be the same color.

Cultural Significance Of Agate And Onyx

Agate has long had specific and special connotations.

In Babylonian culture agate was worn as a form or protection and strength. In Islamic culture agate was worn by prophets.

This stone has been turned into jewelry, it has been used as healing crystals, and it can be used in your home as a decorative piece that may also bring strength to your family.

Onyx on the other hand has been worn by ancient Persian and Indian cultures as a protector from evil and a stone that was meant to help protect you from forces that might be seeking your destruction or harm.

It is also used as a protector of harmonious relationships as the stone that different layers of the stone were thought to be a symbol of different people loving one another.

How To Find Agate and Onyx

For those looking to find natural agate you are most likely going to find them in areas where eruptive rocks or ancient lava is present.

This stone most often occur naturally in Oregon, Washington, as well as Idaho and Montana.

Agate can be found all over the world but these are the most common locations in the United States where the stone can be found naturally occurring.

Onyx can be found in the United States but it is less common than agate.

Onyx can be found in Madagascar, Yemen, Pakistan and Uruguay as well.

Onyx is most often found in Arizona in the United States.

These are not stones that are going to be laying on the ground in many cases, they can be mined and dug up though and they are a gorgeous stone to find.

If you have an agate or an onyx, these are both gorgeous stones that can be a great addition to your home, your rock collection, or even your jewelry collection if you have a piece that is made of these stones.

They are quite similar but they do have enough differences that with a little bit of inspection, you can find out which stone is which and identify them both correctly.