Onyx is a natural stone found in caves and is made up of small crystals called cryptocrystallines that drip from stalactites. This dripping process gives the stone its unique swirled pattern. Onyx comes in a variety of colors, ranging from white to pink to honey. It can be used as an alternative to granite and marble. Onyx is commonly used hanging vertically but it can also function horizontally as a countertop. One of the unique elements of this material is that it is translucent and can lend itself to backlighting. However, just because onyx has translucent properties it does not mean that illumination works in all situations. It’s important to follow these guidelines to help enhance onyx’s beauty and create a stunning effect when backlighting.
First, make sure that the onyx slab is thin enough to be translucent. With thicker stone, the light will not be able to show through. This will prevent some veins of color from being highlighted, creating a chunky or uneven appearance. Test all potential onyx slabs with a flashlight to see how the stone will light up before purchasing. Depending on the size of the project, it is advisable to use matched slabs of onyx that have continuous movement and constant veining originating from a seam, as opposed to random veins which will not align properly.
Finding the right light source is crucial in ensuring that the proper backlighting effect is achieved. LED light panels are the most popular lighting source for illuminating onyx. The panels are flat light bulbs that can project constant light and emit little to no heat. LED light panels are thin enough to be used for backsplashes, floors, countertops, and shelves. These innovative panels can be custom-cut to fit any curved stone surface. Another advantage to LED panels is their long life. Twenty years is the average lifespan of most panels.
After choosing the light source, it should be placed far enough away from the slabs to produce a constant illumination. White onyx is prone to hot and cold spots, so it is essential to have the lighting at a correct distance. If another type of lighting is being used, the lighting source must be far enough away to prevent hot spots from forming on the stone.
Once the stone and the light source are chosen for the onyx, it is important to decide what color of light to use. Onyx shows best under a soft, white light. If the lighting source is too powerful, it can wash out the onyx and render the veining indistinguishable from the rest of the stone. Other colors will be too dark and diminish the brightness.
Whether using an onyx slab at home, the office or in a restaurant or bar, following these steps should prevent any problems while installing and backlighting. Onyx is a beautiful stone, and when correctly backlit, it will let its natural characteristics shine through.