Onyx vs Obsidian: How to Tell the Difference and When to Use

With crystals that look similar or have similar uses such as Onyx and Obsidian, it can be difficult to tell the difference and determine which one to work with.

However, there is a simple way to quickly identify Onyx from Obdisian due to the mineral compositions that cause these crystals to both feel different and appear different in sunlight.

Continue reading if you want to know more about the physical properties of these stones to tell the difference, as well as how you can use them in your spiritual practice.

Onyx vs Obsidian – How To Tell The Difference?

In order to understand the difference between these two stones, we can look at the color, shape, pattern, clarity, and more. Below we’ll describe all these aspects in detail.

Chemical Composition

Onyx is a silicate layered chalcedony mineral crystal. Obsidian, on the other hand, is not a mineral. Rather, it is an amorphous black volcanic glass. These different compositions come directly from the source and formation process.

Onyx is formed from spring water that contains calcite. It is a form of quartz that is trigonal (hexagonal) and has parallel banding lines. This is because its layers of colors enable the required contrast between the foreground and the background.

Obsidian is formed by cooling volcanic lava and does not have an exact regular geometric pattern. Thus, it appears similar to a piece of broken black glass with rippled grooves and potentially sharp edges.


Onyx can have a single color, or it can have layers of color bands. In layered onyx, the base and upper sides are white, and the color bands appear in between. The color bands can be yellow, brown, red, or blue. For instance, sard onyx has brown-colored layers.

Solid black onyx is common though it is mostly dyed. Obsidian is commonly black. However, it has traces of hematite (black oxide) and tiny glass bubbles, which produce different colors. These color bands include red, brown, golden sheen, gray, green, or yellow.

Read Also: Full Guide To Black Agate vs. Onyx (This is the Difference)

Pattern and Clarity

Onyx is a crystal, while obsidian is a volcanic glass. They may appear similar, especially when their black variants are polished, but are different. The first and main way to differentiate them is that onyx is heavier and denser than obsidian when lifted.

Secondly, onyx has slightly dull clarity because it is a crystal. Onyx exhibits milk-like whitish or grayish whirls and spots within the gemstone. For obsidian, the whitish or grayish inclusions do not appear like a fluid.


Onyx has a hardness that reads 6.5-7 on the Mohs scale. Obsidian rates 5 on the Mohs scale, showing that it is less durable than Onyx and can potentially chip more easily.

Location of Origin

Onyx is found in diverse parts of the world like Pakistan, Yemen, and Uruguay. Obsidian is common in Mexico, New Zealand, Canary Island, Armenia, Argentina, and the Western United States.

Read also: Full Guide To Banded Calcite vs. Onyx (This is the Difference)

Historical Differences

Onyx and obsidian hold profound historical and cultural significance across various civilizations.

Onyx, with its layered beauty, was cherished in ancient Rome and Egypt for its protective qualities and was often used in carved artifacts and jewelry, symbolizing strength and stability.

Obsidian, known as volcanic glass, was highly valued by ancient Mesoamericans, notably the Aztecs and Mayans, for its sharp edges, crafting it into potent weapons and tools, and using it in ceremonies for its protective and grounding properties.

These stones’ rich histories underscore their enduring appeal and mystical attributes, weaving them into the cultural fabric of societies that celebrated their unique qualities.

Care Differences

To clean onyx, use a soft brush or soft dry cloth to remove the dirt. Moisten the cloth with water to collect the dirt from the stone. To remove the negative energy from the onyx, hold it under the running of water.

Obsidian is easy to clean since it is a natural glass. Just use a little soap and water to remove dirt. To remove the negative energy, place it in moonlight or dip it in brown rice.

Differences and Similarities in Use


Both of these gemstones are durable and have a lovely appearance. So, they are both used to make jewelry like ornaments, pendants, rings, earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. 

Also read: The Complete Guide To Wearing Obsidian


Black Obsidian is connected to the water element in Feng Shui. The water element helps to give depth, fluidity, and wisdom during meditation. Moreover, the water element gives career prosperity and helps to build essential social networks since it connects to the Kan area.

Obsidian also acts as a protective shield against negative energy and intruders into your home and life. You can place it at the entrance to your home, in your bedroom, under each corner of the bed, or one stone in every corner of your home.

Onyx, on the other hand, activates people’s root, solar plexus, and their third eye chakras during meditation. It gives potent vibrations of protection, willpower, focus, and strength. This drives our commitment and motivation to reach new heights. 


Onyx Properties

Onyx is regarded as a potent “warrior’s stone.” It helps remove negative thinking, fears, and ideas and builds a person’s inner strength, resistance, and persistence. It helps mental growth by ensuring that the wearer is fully focused, has memory retention, and has the willpower to commit to a particular task.

It symbolizes initiation and change in Native American and Peruvian traditions. In these cultures, onyx inspires personal growth and development that can only be achieved by facing your fears.

Black Onyx helps stimulate the connection between the feet and the first chakra. It is helpful to individuals having weak legs, excess energy, or those having trouble grounding.

Obsidian Properties

Obsidian is referred to as the “psychic vacuum cleaner.” This is because of its intense and mysterious vibes that perform psychic cleansing on wearers. The gemstone is regarded as a spiritual maid service.

Its services include cleansing the mind, soul, aura, and hearts of negative energy. It does this by eliminating negative energies from oneself and the immediate environment. It detects where one is holding negativity and helps to illuminate and cleanse it from the aura.

It also offers protection from disorders like addiction, self-abuse, eating disorders, anger, fear, greed, disharmony, resentment, and anxiety. Obsidian stimulates the root chakra and is, therefore, a powerful grounding stone, 

Also read: Can Obsidian Be In The Sun? (Black, Rainbow, Snowflake and Others)

Chakra Association

Onyx and Obsidian both activate the root chakra at the spine’s base. This root chakra gives you the basis for life, keeps you grounded, and gives you security and stability to counter any challenges. Once your root chakra is activated, your body gets energized, grounded, and relieved of stress.

This enables you to be connected to the earth and has the power to focus on your relationships and personal goals.


An imbalanced root chakra results in a lack of belonging and balance, which leaves us feeling unmotivated and insecure. The imbalances can also present themselves in the form of resentment, anger, depression, negative perceptions, and pessimism. Eliminating these are many of the reasons you need a balanced root chakra.

On the root chakra lies the dormant Kundalini energies (ultimate life force energies). Stimulation within this chakra will allow these energies to flow upward through the seven chakras. Awakening the Kundalini energies also leads to spiritual consciousness.

Also read: What Chakra Is Obsidian? (Black, Snowflake, Rainbow, Blue, Yellow, Green)

Zodiac Association 

Onyx for Leo or Capricorn

Onyx is the December birthstone for those native to the zodiac signs Leo or Capricorn. It is believed to enable these people to become masters of their destinies. It offers confidence, energy when faced with mental or physical stress, and wise decision-making.

Obsidian for Sagittarius or Scorpio

Obsidian is the November birthstone for those native to Sagittarius and Scorpio. Sagittarians are very truthful, and this might hurt other people’s feelings. Obsidian, also referred to as “Warrior of Truth,” is appropriate for people with this sign.

Scorpio individuals get too emotional and require obsidian to relieve them from negative emotional vibrations and cleanse their aura.

Element Association

Onyx and obsidian are associated with the earth and fire element. The Earth element offers stability, fertility, material potential, and rounding effect. It also symbolizes new beginnings and endings, or death and rebirth, since life comes and goes back to the ground. It also nurtures and spreads harmony and stability.

The earth element is also associated with personality traits like responsibility, long-term planning, and ambition. People of the earth element also have tendencies to be stubborn and inflexible. Stones of the element will help cultivate good traits and encourage them to step out of their routine without worry.

The fire element is associated with blood, strength, activity, and life force. It purifies, protects, counters impurities, and repels darkness. It has masculine properties that give warmth, fun, intimacy, vulnerability, and an ability to connect with others.

Fire energies are believed to bring transformation, hence the power to create and destroy. Without control, the energies are very destructive. Fire element stones will get the motivation and drive to pursue dreams.

Numerical Vibration 

Onyx Vibration Number 6

Onyx’s vibrational number is 6, representing the planet Venus. The number 6 symbolizes perfection and completion since the universe was also created in six days. It stands for love, harmony, and balance. Venus represents people who are trustworthy, dependable, romantic, and charming.

Obsidian Vibration Number 1 or 3

The obsidian vibrational number is 1 and 3. Vibrational number 1 resonates with new beginnings, exploration, progress, and self-leadership. It helps people progress in life, be creative, and have opportunities. Vibrational number 3 resonates with creative imagination, spontaneity, humor, and art. It helps people think broadly, acquire skills, love, and have fun. 

Ruling Planets

Mars and Saturn rule onyx and obsidian. Mars is also referred to as the “God of War” and symbolizes energy, action, and desire in astrology. It governs people’s hunger for aggression, sexual urges, fury, and survival. A strong Mars offers youthful vibrance, influence, and courage to survive in life. Saturn is also called the Lord of Karma, and it gives people courage, discipline, challenges, career, passion, maturity, prestige/status, and so on.

Mars is the planet associated with ambition, action, energy, and desire. Its energies are prominent in our survival instincts. The positioning of the planet on our birth chart defines how we express enthusiasm, emotions, triggers, and reactions. It’s also in our ambitions and what we seek. 

Saturn, on the other hand, is the planet associated with order and restriction. The placement of the planet in the birth chart sheds light on our boundaries and self-control. It reminds us of our responsibilities and limits.

The planet is also symbolic of the figure of authority in our lives. This is because it influences rules, regulations, and discipline, which helps us navigate our day-to-day lives and better understand the world. Saturn will encourage growth and maturity because we can explore and turn our limitations into our best strengths.

Best Combinations

A combination of Onyx and Emerald helps treat disorders and attract abundance and prosperity into your life. It also promotes empathy, care, and love.

Combining a pearl with onyx works to expand its power and will surely grow. It helps to clear negative energy and offer clarity in action. 

Pyrite combined with Obsidian increases positive vibrations and protects people from negativity. It makes introverts sociable and stimulates imagination and creativity to make people succeed in their undertakings.

Pairing Obsidian with Hematite amplifies the grounding of the negative energy. They will gather negative energy from people’s aura and surroundings and transfer it to the earth. This brilliant grounding power offers balance and harmony to people. This combination is powerful enough to protect the wearer from evil vibrations.

Trends for Onyx and Obsidian in 2024

In 2024, black gems like onyx and obsidian are trending for their regal, sophisticated, and mysterious aesthetic. These stones are being styled in various ways, from statement-making engagement rings to dramatic festoon necklaces, embracing a gothic charm that transcends the spooky season. This trend highlights the versatility of black gems, pairing beautifully with both gold and silver, and allows for dramatic, bold jewelry choices that stand out year-round​​.

Obsidian is being embraced for its sophisticated, mysterious appeal. Paired with both gold and silver, Obsidian is now being designed in a range from modern engagement rings to dramatic statement pieces. This trend underscores obsidian’s versatility and enduring charm in creating eye-catching, bold jewelry that makes a statement throughout the year​​.

Neat Crystal

I am a Crystal & Gem Specialist with 20 years experience collecting and analyzing crystals and gems. My main focus is on crystal and gem abilities to influence our human experience through energy caused by visual and physical properties of each. I also love to dive into the formation, chemical makeup, and rare impurities found within crystals - a Geologist in training. I started Neat Crystal as a place to jot down my thoughts, notes, and share my knowledge to help others.

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