The Arizona Onyx Quarries lies along Big Bug Creek in Mayer, an old cowboy town about 75 miles northeast of Phoenix that is approx. 5,000 feet above sea level. One of the first speculators on the site was a man by the name of William “ Bucky” O’Neill, a lawyer, miner, cowboy, sheriff and congressman who was one of Teddy Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders” during the Spanish-American War. O’Neill paid $150 for his one-third share of the mine, and shortly thereafter discovered that the site had “the richest deposit of onyx between Prescott, AZ and Puebla, Mexico” - according to historical documents. According to an article in a 1918 issue of Yavapai Magazine, Joe Mayer settled in the area, a stagecoach stop between Phoenix and Prescott, in the late 1800s. Having seen an outcropping on the side of a hill near Big Bug Creek, he set up an onyx quarry business with Al and George McCann and William O’Neill, a one-time mayor of Prescott and member of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War.
Black Canyon and Grand Canyon Onyx has a breathtaking range of color with Grand Canyon Onyx resembling an aerial view of the canyon itself. However, it’s the jade green color found in the Grand Canyon Onyx that first put this onyx quarry on the map when at the turn of the century jade spheres were mass produced to serve as the gear shift knob in Henry Ford’s luxury automobiles. This quarry, once owned by a family of contractors who built Arizona’s State Capitol - has laid virtually dormant for decades. When the Depression hit (beginning in 1929), the quarry was shut down and it laid dormant for over 70 years. In 2003, Stoneworld Company Inc. acquired the quarries and has brought Arizona ONYX back to the world market.
“Arizona onyx is fast gaining reputation in the East, and the day is not far distant when most of the onyx used in the United States will come from this territory. The great beds of this precious stone in Yavapai and Maricopa counties alone, when sufficiently developed, will supply a greater part of the demand. Even now from two to five carloads are shipped from the Yavapai beds, and arrangements are being made to increase the output, and by the 5th of May, teams will be moving several tons a day from the Cave Creek mines.
“The Yavapai onyx beds, owned by W. O. O’Neil and partners, are probably the most extensive mines of the kind known, being almost a solid body one mile by one mile and a half in extent. At present about forty men are engaged in taking out the stone that is being shipped to Chicago, New York, Cincinnati and other Eastern cities, where it is worked into table-tops, etc. Probably the largest slab of onyx ever taken out in one piece was dug out of the O’Neil ledge, it being 10 x 23 feet, and 26 inches thick. The stone from this claim is very fine grain and takes a much higher polish than the celebrated onyx of Mexico, and it contains colors that were exhausted many years ago in the Mexican mines. Then, too, the mines of that country never turned out pieces larger than five or six feet square. So far as developed, the Cave Creek onyx beds do not seem to be as large as the Yavapai beds, though the stone is as fine, but even as they are, they will produce large amounts and in blocks of very satisfactory size. J. B. Dougherty, of New York, is doing a great deal of development work, and as soon as the road is completed, he will put teams to hauling and loading it on to the cars at Phoenix, for shipment to New York.“
Onyx is a beautiful fine-quartz material that seems to retain an almost watery glow when cut both thin and thick. It starts out naturally as quartz, but over time, heat and pressure fuse the quartz stones together to create this intricate, yet wondrous stone. Onyx can be used for flooring in offices, or commercial retail décor. Often times, onyx materials are backlit, bringing an elusive and captivating light to an entire room or entrance.