Gorgeous Southwest Onyx & Marble Co. Shift Knob

I found this stunning vintage shift knob in the basement of an old dealership building a while back. It is made of onyx, and the markings on the base indicate that it was made by Southwest Onyx & Marble Co. That company, located in San Diego, California, operated the quarry at El Marmol on the Baja Peninsula until it closed in 1958.

The onyx deposits at El Marmol were discovered around 1900. Great blocks of the unique stone were loaded on freighters to be shipped to other parts of the world for use in manufacturing beautiful items like clocks, tables, desk sets and this shift knob. One story reported that the managing director of the company, Kenneth Brown, would accompany the blocks to the freighter to direct the loading and then dive overboard and swim back to shore right before the freighter sailed away. Some of those blocks were also used to build a schoolhouse in the little mining town and, according to this article, some of that school building is still standing today.

Sadly, the prolific use of plastics lessened demand for onyx, and the mining towns became ghost towns. It is a shame, because I have never seen a plastic shift knob that could outshine this butterscotch beauty.