Countertop Spotlight: Shedding Light on Naturally Luminescent Onyx Slab


The popularity of onyx has experienced a resurgence in recent years, with designers and homeowners rediscovering the amazing effects that can be accomplished with this already striking natural stone.  Amazing colors, strong veining, and unique translucent properties, perfect for achieving show-stopping back lighting effects, have made this stone the marker for bold, imaginative designs. For those seeking its inclusion within their homes, however, care is warranted.

A Rare Jewel

The colorful translucency of this fragile stone, each species unique, has been used as far back as ancient Egypt in the crafting of perfume bottles, vases, and sacred, sepulchral objects. Owing its unique composition to sedimentary deposits of calcium carbonate within limestone caverns, and with a chemical composition similar to travertine, onyx results from the water droplets left behind to form stalactites, stalagmites, and other formations that occasionally encase fossils. The only difference between the two being the presence of hot water (due to proximity of onyx to areas of volcanic activity), whereas highly-calcareous travertine is formed near springs. Extremely limited in production due to the stone’s fragility and subsequent quarrying complications, slab sizes are smaller, with production rates of the largest onyx quarry paling in comparison to even the smallest marble operation.


Delicate Beauty

The numerous seams, starts or voids in onyx, resulting from mineral discontinuity, require repair and reinforcement, each slab held together carefully via fiberglass mesh backing. Yet the stone’s fragile nature fails to dampen its popularity. No two pieces are the same, the stone’s striking patterns and veining adorning slabs ranging from light to dark, neutral to pastel. This variability, like other natural stones, make in-person perusal and in-depth project specifications a must, particularly when it comes time for trimming this spectacular stone into shape.

Amazing Applications

Used for visual effect, onyx can be polished on both surfaces to enhance translucency and dramatic impact. No other stone can be illuminated the way onyx can. But to achieve this striking look with crystal-clear translucency, the careful application of specialized lamination is essential, with the addition of transparent glass or plastic transparent backers integral to achieving the jaw-dropping effect of light passing through the stone. Even without backlighting, the stone’s translucency remains, creating complications. Opaque joint filler can lead to interruptions in the path of light, creating darkened shadows, and making precise, expert installation integral to maintaining the stone’s renowned looks. Common applications for onyx include:

  • Wall Art
    Onyx makes an unmatched centerpiece in any room.
  • Countertops
    Onyx can add an extra special touch to kitchen and bath countertops – but it requires attentive care.
  • Bar Tops & Table Tops
    Frequently used for bar tops despite its high maintenance reputation, degradation to onyx’s stunning surface in this application should be anticipated.
  • Flooring
    An amazing flooring surface, onyx susceptibility to abrasions limits its use to residential applications.
  • Shower Linings
    Despite its vulnerability to moisture, onyx is occasionally used for shower walls. Installed as tiles or by the slab, adhesive application is critical to longevity, lest seams or natural separations in the stone well/lift over time, raising the stone’s surface. This reaction is not a defect, simply a property of the material.

Cherished, Yet Challenging

Incompatible with outdoor usage and exterior storage, onyx can be both challenging to work with and maintain. It is prone to chipping in shipment and fabrication, and its handling during trimming and installation requires the hands of a skilled craftsman familiar with the stone. Best used in applications that will not experience a great deal of use, onyx is the perfect example of a stone that requires extra care. Soft and reactive, the stone must be frequently sealed and carefully cleaned to protect its longevity. Mild acids will etch the surface of this calcium-based stone, which is also easily marred by knives and sliding service items, pots, and pans. Though it has yet to hinder the popularity of the stone, especially for homeowner’s craving that distinctive, extra-special touch, expect attentive care and periodic refinishing for countertops that see daily use.

Yearning to make an impact? For those willing to put in the extra effort, onyx countertops are unmatched. Achieve the extraordinary. Shop the amazing illuminated countertop selection at your area Granite Imports today.