A semiprecious gemstone, a hard variety of agate; the term also applies to a banded form of chalcedony. The onyx has white layers alternating with black, brown, red, gray or green. The pale color produced by the combination of the red layers showing through the translucent white layers of this stone evidently reminded the Greeks of the fingernail, which in Greek is oʹnyx. From early times, onyx has been prized for ornaments, rings and beads. The varicolored layers made it especially popular for cameo work.
The “land of Havilah” was a prominent source of onyx in early Bible times. (Gen. 2:11, 12) Onyx stones were among the valuables contributed for the making of things associated with Israel’s tabernacle. (Ex. 25:1-3, 7) The “names of the sons of Israel . . . in the order of their births” were engraved upon two onyx stones (six names on each stone) placed upon the shoulder pieces of the high priest’s ephod “as memorial stones for the sons of Israel.” Another onyx stone was engraved with the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel and was set in the center position of the fourth row of stones on the high priest’s “breastpiece of judgment.”—Ex. 28:9-12, 15-21; 35:5, 9, 27; 39:6-14.
Later, David personally prepared many valuable things, including onyx stones, for the construction of the prospective temple at Jerusalem. (1 Chron. 29:2) Onyx was also among the precious stones serving as a figurative “covering” for the “king of Tyre” in the dirge recorded by Ezekiel. (Ezek. 28:12, 13) Recognizing wisdom’s value, Job stated that with “the rare onyx stone” and other precious things one could not buy priceless, godly wisdom.—Job 28:12, 16.