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

Alabaster and onyx have very few things in common.

The biggest is their beauty and their use in exquisite stone works.

To learn more about these fascinating stones, check out the following guide.

Onyx vs Alabaster: Explained

What is Alabaster?

The name alabaster comes from a place called Alabastron in Egypt. It’s a fine type of gypsum, i.e. calcium sulfate.

An enormous form of gypsum with a valuable translucent tone.

This tone made it popular for thousands of years.

Likewise, it’s somewhat similar to marble.

To the untrained eye, it’s hard to distinguish between the two.

Alabaster was popular for centuries in Italy and Egypt.

In fact, most of the alabaster artifacts in these infamous ancient cities are marble.

It is a sedimentary rock and comes in different varieties.

Each one differs in suitability for carving, quality, and making sculptures.

Alabaster is translucent and smooth.

It ranges from a creamy white to a bright white.

But, some forms have a light cream color with a distinctive appearance.

It has enough color to look good with the white paint without creating a clinical look.

You can also trim the alabaster to create a more cohesive look.

Two Types of Alabaster

There are two types of alabaster and they have different price points as well.

They have similar characteristics and they’re used for the same things.

Some of these uses include carving, ornaments, and statues.

  • Calcite alabaster: This is a very tough form of calcium carbonate. It originally hails from Egypt. Usually found in the caverns as stalagmites.
  • Gypsum alabaster: It’s also known as calcium sulfate. This version is much softer than the Egyptian version and it comes from England. The waterlogged country has slowly evaporated many of its deposits over centuries.

It’s important to note that the use of both types of alabaster dates back thousands of years.

Their use is widespread. They’re found in cultures all over the world.

What is Onyx?

Onyx is generally made of silicon dioxide, SiO2.

There may be inclusions of other minerals to give it different colors.

You can find onyx in many parts of the world, like Australia, China, Indonesia, India, South America.

But, it’s still relatively new in the world of architecture.

Its distinctive appearance also makes it useful in jewelry, carvings, and construction.

This distinct feature is its strength, swirls, and dynamic color palette.

These are just some reasons it’s a popular material in architectural landscaping.

How onyx and agate are alike is in the way their bonds form.

But, there’s a difference in the layers.

In onyx, they’re parallel.

Agate layers look more like curved bands.

Different Onyx Stones

People think that all onyx is black but , the truth is, it comes in a variety of designs.

For instance, there’s a variety of onyx with bands of black and white.

Jewelers often made these into cameos.

The beautiful layers of this type of onyx give engravers more creative freedom.

These bands let them manipulate color and layers to create splendid designs.

What Do Onyx and Alabaster Have in Common?

Onyx and alabaster don’t have many things in common at all.

Two common similarities are they’re great for ornamental use.

Also, when polished alabaster is gleaming, it looks like a lighter form of onyx.

“Onyx” is often used as a descriptive term to identify specific colors of alabaster, calcite, and opal, though the materials themselves are not actually “onyx” at all.

What Are Their Differences?

The fundamental difference between the onyx and alabaster is their chemical formula and color.

  • Onyx is a crystalline type of quartz
  • Alabaster is gypsum

Alabaster is white and onyx is generally black with bands, though it have been discovered in other colors.

What is Alabaster Used For?

Alabaster is often called Egyptian alabaster.

This is because it’s one of the first places that incorporated this stone into its artwork.

Through the ages, alabaster is still one of the finest carved stones.

Just as long as the artist remembers to use miniature stone carving tools and small flat chisels.

Is Alabaster A Precious Stone?

It determines if you’re comparing natural alabaster to the fake version.

Replicas use resin to create a similar look to alabaster.

The stone is more expensive.

Still, alabaster is one of the most precious minerals in nature.

Our ancestors called it a noble material because of its artistic and decorative uses.

It’s held this distinction for thousands of years.

This stone adds inherent quality and sophistication to any project.

Is Onyx a Precious Stone?

Onyx is more than a beautiful gemstone.

It was a precious gemstone at one time.

But today, it’s an affordable gemstone that’s suitable for any budget.

Still, it has just as many uses, both lapidary and decorative.

For example, jewelers still carve them into beautiful jewelry designs.

Onyx has a smooth, glassy luster that is a sleek and stylish part of any jewelry collection.

Artists also use it to create table tops, basins, and more.

One of the best abilities of onyx is that it exudes light.

That’s why it is often used to decorate interior spaces.

We usually see this in commercial properties. These include shopping malls, pubs, hotels, and more.

But, keep in mind that while the onyx stone has many architectural purposes, there are some instances where it won’t do a good job.

Onyx and Sandstone: One Last Comparison

Onyx gemstones don’t have a lot of impurities.

They often have top levels of clarity.

Most onyx gemstones are opaque, so they have a dull but shiny luster.

Plus, there is a relatively hard stone with a Mohs ranking of 7.7.

Keeping things in perspective, any gemstone with a lower-ranking scratches easily.

Even dust damages them.

To put it another way, onyx composition is very tough.

But, not tough enough. It won’t crack or chip if dealt a hard blow.

In comparison, Alabaster’s Mohs hardness is 2.

This sounds rather weak, but this rating makes it a medium hard stone.

That’s why the impressive sculptures made from this stone withstand the ravages of time.

From an architectural perspective, thick alabaster lets light pass through, creating an ambiance.

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onyx vs alabaster