Heavenly Onyx: Interior Design and Gemstones

Heavenly Onyx: Interior Design and Gemstones

Onyx gets its name from the Ancient Greek word for nail. It is said that the goddess Aphrodite was resting on the bank of the River Indus when Eros fired an enchanted arrow at her. The tip of the arrow sheared off her nails and they fell into the water coming to rest on the riverbed where they turned into onyx.

Beautiful Onyx Barrel Garland

Vintage Chunky Onyx Barrel Garland, AU

How does Onyx form in nature?

The geological truth behind onyx’s true formation is no less amazing than this ancient myth. Just as stalactites and stalagmites are formed by the precipitation of minerals from water trickling slowly through caverns and caves, so too does onyx come into being.

A sedimentary rock with a cryptocrystalline construction, onyx acquires its translucence as a result of the size and uniformity of its crystals. It’s one type of the silicate mineral chalcedony, which in itself is a form of microcrystalline quartz.

Agate is also a type of layered chalcedony, but whereas the bands of silicate mineral that make up this gemstone are curved, those that make up onyx run parallel.

Vintage Onyx Table Lamps

Pair of Vintage Onyx Table Lamps, AU

Onyx comes in many forms

In times gone by, all chalcedony was referred to as onyx whatever its colour or banding. Often still considered to be a black stone, onyx comes in every hue. If layered, the different shades that make up its bands are reminiscent of the veining in marble and as such, they lend it a similarly timeless appeal. A light rock, whatever its colour, onyx is soft and fragile and while not as robust as marble, it certainly has a similar translucence and uniqueness.

Vintage Onyx Green Plinths

Pair of Vintage Onyx Green Plinths, AU

Onyx & Interiors

Onyx is a stone that, again, just like marble, sits beautifully in any interior, be that contemporary or traditional. This is partly down to its versatility; whether it embodies discreet neutrality or is a more dynamic, dramatic piece, onyx has the ability to pair sensitively with other materials, both organic and manufactured. 

Vintage Onyx and Brass Floor Lamp

Vintage Onyx and Brass Floor Lamp, AU

Ancient Superstitions - The History of Onyx

The superstitious beliefs of many different peoples have centred upon onyx. In Persia it was thought that the semi-precious stone could relieve epilepsy whereas in Renaissance Europe, a person who held it would become more articulate. The Ancient Romans, believing it would lend them courage in battle, carried onyx amulets engraved with Mars, the god of war. English midwives meanwhile thought it could ease childbirth and in periods of mourning during Victorian times, the stone was used to convey grief and sadness.

For thousands of years therefore, onyx has been used for a multitude of purposes. As a precious gemstone in jewellery or for ornamental carvings, it was highly prized by both the Romans and the Ancient Greeks. Relatively soft and therefore comparatively easy to carve, it was used to make figurines of the gods for burials and ceremonies, and also, for other more utilitarian purposes like bowls and cups.


Vintage Onyx Decanter, Glasses and Tray

Vintage Onyx Decanter, Glasses and Tray, AU

Nowadays, as a gemstone, onyx is thought to bring strength and stamina, enhancing both durability and self-control. Said to deflect negativity whether the source is internal or external, it protects against bad luck arising from jealousy. Whether or not this is true, what can certainly be said is that an object hand carved from onyx - with its smooth patina and diaphanous quality - is an asset to any space.

Vintage Onyx Bookends

Pair of Vintage Cream Bookends, AU

Every single piece of onyx in AU’s collection has been handpicked to fit with our ethos of sustainability through re-usability; each object has been hand crafted by artisans and stonemasons rather than on an industrial scale. T

To browse AU’s collection, please click here.

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Healing and restorative: crystals and interior styling

Healing and restorative: crystals and interior styling

What are crystals?

Clustering together deep in the earth’s crust, deposits of minerals form that most beautiful and rare of objects: a crystal. Layer upon layer of these deposits – left behind once water has evaporated – cling to each other in highly organised structures. In time, occasionally after a few days but most often over the course of thousands of years, these mineral deposits become crystals. The shape of a crystal mirrors the internal make-up of its atoms so no two are the same. This uniqueness is also partly due to the differences in temperature and chemical composition wherever it is they come into being. What colour a crystal becomes is determined by the arrangement of the crystal’s atoms as well as the way in which light interacts with them. Impurities in the atomic structure are a further cause of colouration, beauty arising from imperfections. This layering of mineral deposits and the formation of a crystal could be viewed as symbolic, providing as it does a stunning visual representation of the many different attributes crystals can bring to our living spaces. Feature image - Rare crystal muscovite cluster

Healing and restorative

Crystals are much more than just decorative, sculptural pieces. Fascinating to many because of their transformative origins and natural beauty, they are also known for their religious symbolism and the belief that their use can bring about harmony and peace. Placed in the correct spot, it is said that the right crystal can encourage and energise, cleanse and renew, or calm and relieve. Belief in the healing properties of crystals is not a recent, or even semi-recent, trend. For thousands of years crystals have been highly significant to many people, people who are themselves geographically, historically and culturally diverse: the Ancient Sumerians and the Ancient Greeks, the Chinese and the tribes of South America, are just a few examples. Many forms of medicine continue to avail themselves of the powers of crystals, with each crystal regarded as holding its own individual energy or power. Natural therapy practices advocate their use, believing that they can bring our own bodies into balance and unblock mental tensions or physical struggles. It is thought that the crystals’ vibrations interact with our own chakras – various focal points used in ancient meditative practices – aligning our bodies with our souls and thus restoring serenity and equilibrium.


Set of two agate crystal cylinders in grey tones AU Bespoke
Set of two agate crystal cylinders in grey tones AU


Natural, sustainable design

Nowadays, the vast majority of crystals are produced naturally but sustainably. Consequently, they are no longer mined, significantly reducing if not eradicating completely the environmental impact of obtaining them. Nevertheless, with their glittering aesthetic and infinitesimal arrangements, crystals still evoke a sense of wonder at just how miraculous and awe- inspiring nature is. Illuminating any space in which they find themselves, crystals refract light and add colour to an interior, be it traditional or contemporary.

Utterly unique, no two crystals will ever catch or reflect light in the same way. Indeed their tones and colours change not only as day fades to evening, but also throughout the seasons. Crystals provide texture contrasting beautifully with other materials, such as burnished wood or polished marble. This can be especially effective in a living space, which is pared down and minimal; a carefully placed crystal will lend a touch of the dramatic to a tonal, more neutral space. As varied as their formations, they can be both small and unobtrusive or chosen as a larger, sculptural statement.


Huge rare crystal golden healer cluster AU Bespoke
Huge rare crystal golden healer cluster AU Bespoke


Beauty and meaning

Chosen then because of their natural beauty or for deeper, personal meanings or indeed a combination of both, it becomes the case that the ancient practices of crystal healing intertwine with modern concepts of design. One thing is clear; a crystal’s visual impact is no less important than its healing properties and vice versa.


Set of two agate crystal cylinders in brown tones AU Bespoke


Restorative or brilliant, crystals elevate their surroundings with life-enhancing and affirming energy. Whether we strive for balance within ourselves or for our interiors, crystals can help us to replenish our reserves along the way. Meanwhile, their magnificence serves to remind us – as it has reminded our ancestors over millennia – just how miraculous both their and our creation truly is.

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