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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The Luxury of Leather

The Luxury of Leather

Surely an indicator of how useful an object or how sustainable a material is the length of time it has been used and reused throughout history? Cotton, silk, linen, wool and finally, leather: what was perfect for the task 3000 years ago, continues to be perfect for the task today.

Add to this accolade the fact that technological advancements mean manufacturing processes are far more environmentally sound and that contemporary innovations also render production more efficient than ever before and a material’s longevity and worth become even more apparent.

Vintage French Leather Magazine Rack

Vintage French Leather Magazine Rack AU

Leather - Ancient skills and craftsmanship

Ancient skills and craftsmanship are still relied upon to produce leather, even alongside the use of clean, modern technology. Nevertheless, it retains its centuries’ long, earthy appeal.   Neither overtly masculine nor obviously feminine - in fact, either if so desired - this androgynous nature is just one facet of leather’s worth. Indeed, it could be said that its enduring charisma rests in its contradictions and chameleon-like ability to fit in with its application or its surroundings, be these contemporary or traditional, colourful or muted.

Vintage Leather Hide hand stitched lamp shade

Vintage Leather Hide hand stitched lamp shade

Leather in interior styling

In interior styling, leather excels at being the bold feature statement, but also if necessary, an understudy in subtlety and restraint. It can unite a design scheme, blending seamlessly into vintage interiors with timeless grace, or it can be far more dramatic and stylised. Nowadays it can be produced in every colour imaginable, but often left in natural shades of brown, leather can warm a cooler colour scheme and is often thought of as a neutral in itself.

Soft or textured to the touch, it is not just the feel and the look of leather that makes it so aesthetically pleasing, but also, its smell, which is unique to leather alone. It’s this heady combination which renders leather so popular: each assault on the senses is heightened by the effect it also has on the others.

Over time, leather can develop fine lines and wrinkles, but these only add to its patina and character which is why many people choose to buy vintage pieces. With proper care and a little maintenance, leather wears incredibly well, becoming more and more supple. The ability to improve with age on top of a natural durability are therefore two of the main reasons why a vintage leather purchase can be a smart and sustainable investment.

Safari Chair with hand studded detailing

1960s Safari Chair with hand studded detailing AU

The safari chair, designed in 1933 by Danish designer, Kaare Klint, is one example of where leather has been used to great effect to balance the artistry of craftsmanship with the practicality of a hardworking piece of furniture. Comfort for the user is paramount - no matter the terrain - and it is the combination of the design and specifically, the leather that enables this piece of furniture to be equal parts adaptable and beautiful.

Vintage Tribal Mexican Leather Tub Chairs

Pair of Vintage Tribal Mexican Leather Tub Chairs AU

Every leather object or piece of furniture in AU’s collection has been chosen because of its durability, its beauty and its functionality with equal emphasis placed on each of these components.

To browse AU’s vintage collection, please click here.

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