The Twelve Foundation Stones of the Heavenly City—Onyx

The Book of Revelation in the New Testament of the Bible is an enigmatic read—full of futuristic visions, puzzling metaphors, and cryptic passages. It was written around the year AD 95 by John, a Christian prophet. Revelation begins with seven letters of exhortation to seven churches in Asia, which John was instructed by Jesus Christ to write. The letters are followed by a series of John’s apocalyptic visions. The visions include symbolism such as a slain lamb, the Seven-Headed Dragon, the Serpent, and the Beast.

In general, Revelation is thought to be a prophetic account of the end of times and the emergence of a new heaven and earth after the collapse of spiritually corrupted systems.

The final two chapters of Revelation, 21 and 22, are said to metaphorically describe the heavenly realm, and it is where we find mention of a future holy city made of gold. For gemstone enthusiasts, perhaps the most interesting part is the introduction of the twelve foundation stones of the heavenly city.

What are the Twelve Foundation Stones?

Revelation 21:19–20 reads, "The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every jewel; the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst."

There’s debate among experts today about the accuracy of this list of foundation stones.

This is because the ancient names of gemstones don’t correspond with our modern mineral classifications. Instead of categorizing gemstones based on their crystalline forms and composition, like we do today, in ancient times stones were named based on their color, place of origin, or how they were used.

The International Gem Society published this list of the twelve foundation stones as the one they believe is the most accurate and correct version: garnet, amethyst, jasper, diamond, emerald, agate, turquoise, carnelian, chrysolite (peridot), beryl, topaz, and ruby.

Each article in this series will cover the geological properties, historical uses, and metaphysical qualities of one foundation stone. This month, it’s all about the fifth foundation stone, onyx.

Onyx: Onyx is a banded form of chalcedony with flat, parallel layers of different colors. Chalcedony is a microcrystalline form of quartz, which means that it is made of microscopic crystals that can only be seen via magnification.

Onyx is typically a black stone with white or colored bands. The colored bands can contain purple, blue, green, red, yellow, orange, or brown. The different colors form due to trace amounts of impurities. For instance, brown or red bands in onyx contain iron, and green bands occur due to the possible presence of nickel or chromium. Onyx is sometimes artificially treated to enhance or change the color, a practice that dates to Egyptian times. Most solid black onyx you find on the market is dyed gray onyx.

If you have studied gemstones, you might be familiar with sardonyx, which is another form of onyx with a rich history of folkloric use. It has alternating bands of onyx and sard, forming a reddish-brown and white zebra pattern. It looks similar in appearance to Carnelian and is an August birthstone.

Onyx is found in many locations around the world, such as the United States, Mexico, Brazil, India, Uruguay, and Russia. It has a hardness of 6.5 to 7, making it a durable material that can be beautifully polished. Due to its unique appearance and banding, it is used today to make jewelry, statues, decorative objects, and as a building material for countertops, floors, and walls. Onyx is the 7th anniversary gemstone.

Historical Information and Uses:

Onyx is the Greek word meaning “fingernail” or “claw.” The white bands in the onyx stone resemble the lunula, which is the white crescent-shaped part of the human fingernail. As the legend goes, the goddess Venus was sleeping near the Indus River when Cupid gave her a manicure using the point of one of his magical arrows. Her fingernail clippings fell to the bottom of the river and transformed into onyx.

Onyx was the first stone mentioned in the Bible. In the Book of Genesis, onyx was described as an element of creation, and it could be found in Havilah alongside gold and sweet-scented resin. Havilah was fed by a river that flowed directly from the Garden of Eden. In addition to being the fifth foundation stone, onyx was named the eleventh stone in the High Priest’s breastplate. Sardonyx was mentioned in the Christian lapidary, where it was said to represent people who felt the tortures of the Passion of the Christ. Rabanus Maurus, the Archbishop of Mainz, wrote that Sardonyx symbolizes and embodies the humility of the saints.

In the past, onyx was a stone with a mixed reputation. Early humans saw it as a stone of mystery and power that could cause both positive and negative effects.

From ancient times through the Middle Ages, onyx was believed to provoke anxiety, depression, anger, and negative moods. When worn, it was said to make black bile circulate through the mind and body, which caused feelings of gloom, sorrow, and melancholy. Lapidaries from the Middle Ages claimed that onyx attracted demons, nightmares, and lawsuits. These negative effects could only be counteracted if one wore a sard in tandem with onyx.

Onyx was also considered a stone of bad luck and sadness in Arabic and Chinese traditions. In Northern Africa, it was believed that wearing onyx, having it in the home, or placing it near important possessions could cause diminished energy, bad dreams, and disputes. They also believed it could harm pregnant women.

In ancient India and Persia, onyx had a much more favorable status. Onyx was seen as a powerful protection stone against the evil eye. It was placed on the abdomen of a woman in labor to ease the pain and help with the delivery. Onyx was also used to treat epilepsy. Some cultures believed that onyx could be utilized to contact and communicate with deceased loved ones in dreams. It was used in burials and spiritual ceremonies, and it was a stone for scrying and spell work.

Many cultures used onyx to carve powerful figures in cameos and intaglios and to make seals, stamps, amulets, and stone inlays. The ancient Romans believed onyx was a protective stone, so they went into battle with onyx amulets carved into the image of Hercules or Mars. Specific images carved into onyx were thought to summon, capture, and dispel demons: a camel or two goats amid myrtles, a stag, or a viper. To aid pregnant or breastfeeding women, a black onyx should be engraved with a three-headed Chnoubis, which is a snake deity with a lion’s head. To create beautiful offspring, one should carry an onyx that is black, white, and golden, carved in the image of Artemis and Apollo. This specific amulet was also said to attract abundance and respect.

Metaphysical Properties:

Despite the old superstitions around onyx, today it is recognized as a powerful stone with many beneficial energetic properties. Onyx is a perfect support stone when you find yourself in extremely stressful or difficult circumstances. It is known to heal, stabilize, and fortify your root chakra while lubricating all seven chakras. This allows you to be grounded, energized, strong, and better able to respond to life’s curveballs. Under the influence of onyx, it is easier to focus, concentrate, and multitask. It keeps you centered and in the present moment.

Onyx calms and balances excessive energetic or emotional states. Grab onyx when you feel anxious, overwhelmed, angry, or fearful. It stabilizes the emotions and assuages irrational thoughts. Onyx is a stone that helps you through the grieving process. It is also recommended for releasing bad habits and unhealthy relationships. Onyx brings these issues to light while giving you the strength to make the necessary changes.

In the psychic and spiritual realms, onyx helps your gifts shine. It clears the chakras and aspects of your bio-energetic system that receive intuitive data so that you can more easily pick up psychic signals. Onyx fosters your connection with the Divine Source and all of creation, allowing you to absorb beneficial healing energy. Onyx is known to help you develop and sharpen telekinesis and psychometry. It also enhances clairvoyance, scrying, psychic forecasting, and dreamwork.

Onyx is still regarded as a powerful protection stone. It is known to create an energy shield to deflect negative energy, psychic attacks, nightmares, manipulation attempts, and crime. Onyx supports the healing of the nervous system, the immune system, the skeletal system, the ears, and the feet. It helps you bounce back after a prolonged illness due to its revitalizing power.

Onyx is a mysterious and powerful stone with many layers. It adds a stabilizing dimension to the walls of the heavenly city. Working with it can help you establish a stronger foundation in your own life. Stay tuned for the next article in this series, which will dive into the history and properties of the fascinating foundation stone, Carnelian.