It's August! Thus, let's welcome the month's birthstone, Sardonyx.
Sardonyx is "striped" with random bands of two different variations of chalcedony: "Sard" (the reddish portion shown here) and "Onyx" (which is shown above in white). The range of possible natural colors is quite wide (including black and white) and, like onyx, the stone can be color-treated with heat or chemical washes (usually various acids) to amplify or change the stone's natural color.
In the antiques retail trade, sardonyx is sometimes casually called "agate." Agate and sardonyx, though related, are differing varieties of chalcedony. Agate is usually softer than sardonyx and agate's bands are more irregular than the straight-ish lines found in sardonyx. Both stones, sardonyx and agate, are used decoratively, including in jewelry.
Sardonyx has been used artfully since ancient times. Egyptians and Minoans from Knossos, Crete, made bowls and other decorative vessels from the stone. Romans carved cameos from select pieces. And sardonyx was widely used for beads, jewelry and various carved talismans.
Ancient Roman warriors would carry sardonyx amulets (carved with an image of Mars, God of War) into battle to ensure bravery. Persians believed the stone could prevent epilepsy. Medieval English midwives would place a sardonyx stone between a mother's breasts during delivery, believing it would ease her birth pains. And Renaissance Europeans wore sardonyx to enhance eloquence.
The sardonyx brooch shown above, hallmarked Edinburgh 1962, was made on the mystical Scottish island of Iona. A peaked cabochon of banded sardonyx is set within a handsome scrolling botanical mounting. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248