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What Are Onyx Tiles?

Before you make your tile decision, learn more about onyx tiles, its history, how it is made, its characteristics, where to put them and how to maintain them.

This is a close look at an onyx tile.

Onyx is huge in home design right now. If you’ve been noticing a gorgeous stone that looks like marble but isn’t marble that’s suddenly everywhere, it’s probably onyx. This stone has literally been around for millions of years but it’s suddenly the hot new look in home design.

Onyx is a gorgeous natural stone with a brilliant sheen to it that looks amazing no matter where you put it. But why is everyone suddenly designing with it? Why should you choose onyx over other types of tile and what kind of difference will it make for your home spaces?

What is Onyx?

Onyx occurs naturally. It’s a type of sedimentary rock that is created over time. This stone has natural bands of chalcedony, a type of quartz, that gives onyx a distinct look. Onyx has a naturally luminous sheen that makes it look luminous and shiny. The sheen and shine of onyx makes it immediately noticeable and sets it apart from other natural stones that have similar striations, like marble.

You may picture onyx as a black stone. When it’s used in jewelry, black onyx is definitely the most popular so you may automatically think of onyx as a deep, black stone. However, natural onyx isn’t always black. Actually, black onyx is rather rare. This stone more often appears in lighter colors, ranging all the way to white. You can even find onyx in pink, green, and blue shades.

Onyx tiles may be mixed with other types of stone to make them a little harder and more durable. It’s a very popular material in mosaic designs. Onyx is one of the more expensive tile choices, usually skewing a little higher than both granite and marble tiles when it comes to price. Choosing a mixed onyx design can lessen the cost. Onyx is a little more expensive than even marble or granite tiles, making this one of the more expensive design choices out there.

Onyx in History

This is a close look at marble onyx tiles.

Onyx has been prized as a decorative material for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians used onyx to decorate pottery and it has been used to make jewelry for centuries as well. Onyx has such a rich luster, it looks like a gemstone. Its natural shine gives onyx a rich appearance that has made it popular in building and design through the ages. But more recently, onyx has become popular in home design as a tile in floors, bathrooms, and kitchens.

Onyx Characteristics

Compared to some other natural stones, onyx is rather soft. Onyx is softer than both marble and granite, two other popular home design choices. You don’t want to use onyx tiles outdoors because of this but they work very well for interior spaces. Often, onyx tiles are made with a resin that adds hardness so they’re more durable. Because onyx is somewhat soft, as compared to other stone tile options, it can chip more easily than other stone tiles.

How to Maintain Onyx

Onyx is an incredibly porous stone that can be prone to staining. Because of its porous nature, it has to be sealed no matter where you install it in your home. Every year or two, you’ll need to re-seal the tile so that it will be stain- and water-resistant. If you keep it sealed, onyx will continue to resist water and stain damage and retain its natural luster and good looks.

A dry mop or cloth will keep the onyx tile clean on a regular basis. A little warm water will do the trick if there’s grime or liquid on the tile that needs to be cleaned. Use only non-acidic, mild cleaners on onyx if you encounter more resistant grime. A general stone cleaning solution will work fine on onyx. Before trying any new cleaning product, test a hidden spot using the cleaner to be sure that it won’t cause any damage to your tile.

With regular cleaning and regular sealing, onyx tiles will continue to look beautiful and gleam for years to come. If you don’t mind a little maintenance, you can live with an onyx tile. If you try to make life as maintenance-free as possible, consider this tile choice carefully.

Why Design with Onyx?

A close look at a floor with onyx tiles.

Onyx tiles have a very high-end look that instantly draws the eye. These tiles immediately stand out and they look like a natural stone because of the striations and color variations. Onyx adds a luminous look to any room where it’s placed. It reflects light well and helps to illuminate any space. It’s glossy and beautiful and it’s all the rage in home design right now.

Why is onyx suddenly so popular? For one thing, it’s a natural stone. Using natural materials is huge because so many people are moving toward more eco-friendly home looks. Natural is very much in right now and onyx is a very pretty choice if you’re looking for some design ideas. And because onyx reflects so much light and looks so luxurious, it’s an easy choice for those who are shopping for stone tiles.

Because onyx is available in a huge range of colors, it’s easy to design with these tiles. They can match any existing decor or overall design plan. The rich colors add distinction to any design. The great color patterns are another reason why onyx has become such a popular choice.

This tile can be more expensive than other options, but many people believe the natural luster and high-end look of onyx offset the price. Onyx’s natural beauty and luxury appearance make any room stand out. And because onyx can be used for floors, walls, counters, and backsplashes, this is a highly versatile design choice. Onyx takes a little more maintenance than other types of tile but with sealant, performs just as well as other types of stone. If you don’t mind a little extra work and a little extra money to enjoy stone that has a little bit more luxury than other choices, onyx tiles may be the perfect choice for your home.

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Written by KC Morgan

KC Morgan has been a professional freelance writer since 2006. Over the last decade, KC has published thousands of articles and blog posts that have been read by millions. A DIYer in her free time, KC has written hundreds of how-tos, guides and tutorials for different DIY and improvement projects around the house.
KC’s articles have appeared in “Popular Mechanics,” and have been featured on Bob Vila’s website. KC has written in-depth DIY articles for Sears.com and Overstock.com, as well as dozens of other websites. When she’s not writing or DIYing, KC enjoys watching college basketball, playing with her cats and experimenting with new cupcake recipes. Follow KC on Twitter @KCMorganWrites.