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What Is Onyx? How to Use Onyx Slabs for Your Next Project

Onyx is a unique natural stone that originates from dripstone deposits of limestone caves. When water drips from stalactites and stalagmites within these caves and evaporates a compound called calcium carbonate is left behind. This causes the stone’s colorful veins, swirls, and patterns that are unique to onyx. Therefore, onyx is classified a chemical sedimentary stone and can at times contain fossils and shells. Prehistoric animal skeletons have even been found preserved inside onyx!

limestone_cavern
A limestone cave. Photo courtesy of Manal Sabbagh

What Does Onyx Look Like?

Onyx is crystalline stone, and often translucent – which means it allows for light to pass through. The degree of translucency varies among onyx slabs and is dependent on the color, thickness and surface finish. A unique feat, onyx will recrystallize in time, often enhancing translucency as a result. Onyx typically comes in a wide array of yellow hues due to the presence of iron deposits, but other common colors are green, white, orange, gold, pink and brown.

Aria Stone Gallery Onyx White Extra Bathroom
Aria Stone Gallery’s Onyx White Extra Bathroom. Image Courtesy of Aria Stone Gallery.

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Aria Stone Gallery Backlit Onyx Caramello Bar
Aria Stone Gallery’s Backlit Onyx Caramello Bar. Image Courtesy of Aria Stone Gallery.

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Should I Use Onyx in My Next Project?

We believe that if you love this stone, a skilled fabricator will be able to make your onyx project a reality. Like most natural stones, onyx has the potential to etch and stain; however, a sealer can be used in addition to prevent wear and tear over time. Feature walls, countertops, art pieces and fireplaces are all especially great examples of ways to incorporate onyx into your home. Most onyx applications can be backlit to enhance the stone’s natural translucency.

Aria Houston Showroom
Backlit Onyx Artwork Inside Aria Stone Gallery’s Houston Showroom. Image Courtesy of Aria Stone Gallery.
Aria Stone Gallery Backlit Onyx Nuvolato Bar and Feature Wall
Aria Stone Gallery’s Backlit Onyx Nuvolato Bar and Feature Wall. Image Courtesy of Aria Stone Gallery.

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VIEW MORE:
Backlighting Onyx Q&A
Backlit Onyx Caramello Bar and Lounge at The Grove Kitchen & Gardens
How to Turn Your Remnants into Furniture and Accessories

Backlighting Onyx Q&A

As described by The Natural Stone Institute, onyx is a frequently translucent and generally layered, cryptocrystalline calcite. Onyx is a sedimentary rock that is usually deposited in cold water solutions, often in the form of stalagmites and stalactites in caves. Through this formation, cryptocrystalline is created and the size and uniformity of these crystals is what contributes to the classic translucent property of onyx stone.

Dating back to the Egyptians, onyx was used to create bowls and other decorative elements and nowadays onyx is commonly used to create jewelry, decorative surfaces, and wall materials. The unique patterns and striations, in addition to a wide range of colors, make onyx the perfect material to add a dramatic focal point to a space. One of the many appeals of nature’s beautiful onyx is that it has the ability to be backlit due to its unique translucent properties. When a slab of onyx is able to be backlit, it is able to take on a completely new life, showcasing the unique veining while adding additional ambiance to a space with a subtle glow.

The key to backlighting is using the correct LED panels to ensure an even coverage of light and eliminating any “hot spots.” To further analyze key tips when it comes to backlighting, we connected with the backlighting expert himself, Patrick Dwyer from Knema LLC (dba LuminousFilm), and picked his brain so you can backlight with confidence. Read on.

Backlit bar features Aria Stone Gallery’s Onyx Caramello at The Grove Restaurant
When Quartzite is mostly pure Quartz (the mineral), it may also be able to be backlit. Image of Quartzite in Aria Stone Gallery.

Q. What do you need to consider before lighting a countertop? Power source? Size? Material? Is there anything that is different about lighting a wall vs a countertop?

A. Actually, not really. As long as you are mounting the panels to a surface and securing them with something like mirror clips, or c-channel you should be fine.

Q. What should you know before choosing an LED bulb for backlighting onyx?

A. When picking a light color, you should be aware of the overall affect it will have on the room. Do you want to contrast or match existing light fixtures? And you should be aware of how the light will affect the color of the stone. If you have a honey onyx using a very warm color temp (2700K for example) would help bring out more of the yellows in the stone.

Image of Aria Stone Gallery’s Backlit Onyx Black Cloud.

Q. What are the LED backlighting color options? 

A. Our panels have two main color options. White light LEDs (ranging from ~2700K-6000K) and we have RGB LEDs, which allows for millions of different color options.

backlit onyx

Q. How much does it cost to backlight a stone?

A. Cost per square foot varies greatly depending on the project and the products used. Variables such as the thickness of the stone, distance of panel from the stone, and how translucent the stone is can affect the square foot price greatly. Generally, we find the cost to run roughly ~$45-100/square foot.

Backlit bar featuring Aria Stone Gallery’s Onyx Nuvolato. Designed by M2 Designs.

Q. What is the maintenance on the LED lighting panels?

A. Typically there is very little – to no maintenance on the products.

Backlit bar featuring Aria Stone Gallery’s Onyx Fantastico. Designed by DeLeo & Fletcher.

Q. How often do LED panels need to be replaced? 

A. If properly installed, the panels should last a very long time. We usually end up replacing power supplies before we replace panels. Our LED edge-lit panels have an L-70 rating of ~50,000 of continual use and our large LED modules have and L-70 rating of ~120,000 hours of continual use.

Note: L-70 is a rating that means that at 50,000 / 120,000 hours our lights should still produce 70% of their original brightness.

VIEW MORE:
What is Onyx?
Backlit Onyx Caramello Bar and Lounge at The Grove Kitchen & Gardens
Tour This Transitional Onyx and Marble Home