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

Black tourmaline and onyx are both black stones used in jewelry making and have roots in ancient uses.

Many people believe these two popular stones have been used for centuries to reduce negative energy near people, objects, or spaces.

Black Tourmaline vs Onyx: The Basics

What is Black Tourmaline?

Black tourmaline is a rare mineral.

It is found in pebbles and lumps on specific points or outcroppings on the earth’s surface.

Black tourmaline was given its name because it is black but contains specks of other colors.

It forms in wetter environments, and many of the raw forms of this stone have lines from bubbles, pockets, and curved edges when cut.

These unique edges assist jewelry makers in providing their customers with individual pieces that cannot be duplicated.

The Physical Properties of Black Tourmaline

In its raw form, black tourmaline is rough with straight-lined edges throughout.

It looks like a straight-edged crystal.

The outside of it has a dark grey appearance to a foggy charcoal appearance.

It’s somewhat opaque until you get to the middle, where the stone is entirely black.

Once processed and polished, this provides a smooth, soft surface.

Other members of the tourmaline family also come in colors of green, red, and pink, and a mix of red and pink.

During processing, the person working with the stone will notice slants, edges, drop-offs, and veins of slight color inside.

These qualities arise because of the way the stone forms.

Gas pockets can form within the rock, and due to the moisture content, allow other types of sediment into these areas.

Over time, they compress and include veins.

This stone is different in that when it’s heated up, the stone will produce electricity.

When manipulated the proper way, this stone will also hold an electrical charge.

Black tourmaline is a hard stone.

What Is Onyx?

Onyx forms when different quartz crystals are layered one on top of the other and compressed at high heat.

Most often, it’s immediately created from the gas pockets found within and around lava flows.

Onyx can come in colors other than just black, with variations including stripes and predictable wavy lines found in most of it, ranging from brown, red, orange, and white.

Black onyx is rare to see in the wild.

Therefore, much of the black onyx being sold today has been manipulated with color to make it look that way. It’s primarily used in jewelry making.

The Physical Properties of Onyx

Onyx is a variety of quartz created by silica molecules.

It’s often used in creative pursuits due to its ability to accept colors and be dyed into any shade that the artist desires.

The stone is also scratch-resistant, which allows it to maintain its beauty for long periods, making it alluring for those who use it as jewelry.

Artisans can use the unique color variations that occur in onyx to create a variety of distinctive pieces.

There are many different types of onyx available today because each different composition comes with varying physical properties.

The two most commonly sought-after designs today are black and multi-colored onyx.

Still, Alpine onyx has a translucent quality.

It’s a fire onyx composed of fibers containing reds, yellows, and browns.

In the two opposite types of onyx, black and white, you’ll see differences in the physical properties because of the content of each type.

One is softer than the other because of this.

Understanding these qualities allows you to choose the right kind of onyx for the project you’re contemplating.

Black Tourmaline vs Onyx: The Similarities

Black tourmaline and onyx have similar qualities, but it’s mainly in the colors; they’re both black.

  • Both stones have been in existence for centuries.
  • Both stones are believed by some groups of people to reduce negative energy.
  • Both are hard stones.

Black Tourmaline vs Onyx: The Differences

Despite the occasional color similarities, one key difference is that black tourmaline has more water content than onyx, which means it is softer, but only slightly.

On the other hand, onyx is denser and heavier than black tourmaline, making it much more robust against physical damage from daily wear-and-tear.

Black tourmaline won’t shine without processing and polishing.

The onyx stone shines on its own without any need for polishing.

Onyx jewelry is glossier and will resist scratches from everyday wear.

Black Tourmaline vs Onyx: Why the Two are Confused

Some of the stone’s similarities often confuse the inexperienced observer.

  • Both stones have smooth, hard surfaces once they’ve been cut and polished.
  • Both stones can appear in different color variations, including greys, whites, and black. Both may or may not have lines in them, depending on the kind.
  • Both kinds are used in construction in the modern day.
  • Both stones are tough and scratch-resistant.

How to Identify Black Tourmaline

In its raw form, the stone is chunky with many straight edges running from side to side or top to bottom, but not both.

Black is the most common kind and the easiest to find compared to the rest of the colors.

It can be foggy on the outside and darker black on the inside or straight, a solid black, but with a dull finish.

Compared to onyx, black tourmaline has more edges, and features inside the stone once cut into it.

It can contain veins, curved edges from bubbles that were at one time present in the rock formation, and slants, dips, and drop-offs.

Holding it up to the light should reveal a different color variation of black from every angle it’s viewed.

The scratch-test is the tell-tale sign for this stone.

Scratch a sharp needle across the surface.

While the needle will scratch other materials like plastic, wood, cloth, and other substances, it won’t scratch the black tourmaline.

How to Identify Onyx

Onyx is a type of gemstone that may not be as widespread as other gemstones but is relatively easy to identify when it’s found.

Onyx gets its name from the Greek word “onux” for fingernail or claw, and the shape of an onyx stone resembles that of a fingernail.

Not all onyx stones come in orange or red, but when the stone has a banding effect, you may see some color variations.

When holding the onyx up to the light, you should see some wavy or jagged lines running along the length.

If you’re holding a piece of black onyx, you won’t see these veins at all, based on how the rock was dyed.

If you’re looking at a black bit, “Black-eyed Susan” markings might be found where there should only be one steady stripe.

These markings give clues to tell if an onyx has been dyed and what color the dye was.

Where to Find Black Tourmaline

Black tourmaline is a gemstone that can be found in many countries.

Black tourmaline is mined in Brazil, India, Sri Lanka, and the United States of America.

It can also be seen as a by-product of copper mining from Cornwall to Utah.

The best places to find it for craft or creative purposes are at a gem show or through an online retailer.

You can also buy it from smaller stores specializing in crystals, minerals, stones, and gems.

Where to Find Onyx

Onyx is found worldwide, but it can be challenging to spot in the wild, so to speak, simply because it blends into the surrounding area and other rock types they’re near.

For craft or creative purposes, a person should seek an onyx importer or outlet.

What Black Tourmaline is Used For

Because of its capacity to generate and absorb electricity, many people primarily use black tourmaline in jewelry like pendants, bracelets, necklaces, brooches, earrings, and small carved statues.

There is a belief surrounding the stones indicating that they are used for protection from negative energy and stress.

Black tourmaline draws in and absorbs negative ions, which then re-emits them as positive ions.

Water has similar behaviors and properties.

What Onyx is Used For

The tradition of using onyx as jewelry may stem from its hardness, which ancient Egyptians valued over the more popular black tourmaline.

Onyx is an extremely hard stone, and its use in decorative settings can protect against scratches and scrapes that can occur over time.

Onyx was used for carvings and small sculptures because of its durability.

Others collect onyx for its metaphysical purposes.

Although black tourmaline and onyx are similar on the outside, their main differences lie on the inside.

Each stone has its own place and capacity for unique uses in the world.

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