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There are several contestants for the title "Onycha" -as follows:

1) Labdanum. The petals of this plant are shaped like finger nails and labdanum is a very "sweet spice"

2) Spikenard has also been suggested as a possibility.

3) Gum Tragacanth. When this is harvested, it takes the form of grotesque "fingernails"

4) Cloves are called “nails” in contemporary Hebrew

5) Devil’s Fingernails: These are the opercula of a snail like creature (ie a whelk) is another possibility. The operculum is the "lid" that all these types of molluscs secrete over their shell opening in order to seal themselves in during dry periods.  The term “Devils Fingernails”  is used both throughout the Middle East, and also by Cornish fishermen. The “finger nails” sold  in Turkey and Cairo are quite small (ie about finger nail size) and relatively soft whereas  those available in Oman, (where they are used in Bkhur) are much larger and harder.

During the 1990's excavations were carried out on the wreck of a Late Bronze Age Phoenician merchant ship found of the coast of Southern Turkey and a large quantity of these opercula were discovered amongst the cargo. It is thought that these were being carried in order to be traded as a rare incense ingredient.

They are still used in Anatolian magick to contact the Dark Forces and also to drive the Devil from the house. The Turkish formula is to burn one of them at mid-day together with a small amount of Syrian Jawee.  For general everyday usage just add one to any incense resin or blend to totally transform the effect of that resin.
However, they are not a "sweet spice", and when burnt alone they smell of, well, burning finger nails!

6)  Cuttlefish "bone". These certainly look like gigantic fingernails, and can be used in incense. Certainly possible, but again not a "sweet spice

7) Some form of Red Sea mollusc that has a shell shaped like a fingernail. We have been to the area and asked some of the local boatmen and fishermen about such shells, but we have not as yet found anyone who knows anything about them. However, we did notice some cuttlefish bone washed up on a coral reef off Safaga...

All the above substances fit the description of a "finger nail". However, the word “onycha” comes from an early translation of the Old Testament into Greek, and the original Hebrew word is "shecheleth" meaning nail, claw or hoof. This means that the most likely substances are probably either the opercula, a claw-like shell or Gum Tragacanth.  Our own opinion is that the true onycha is probably the mollusc opercula, and we base this on the discovery that they were carried as a precious cargo by the Phoenicians (see above)
We can offer you two grades of opercula, the small ones (see above) which we list as Devils Finger Nails. Or a larger type which we list as Onycha

"Kai kou" or "kaiko" is an operculum used in Japanese incense as a fixative.

Preparing the onycha for use in incense.
There seem to be several ways to do this.
Firstly in Oman and other middle eastern countries they are simply ground to a rough powder, and a small amount of this is added to  the mixture.
Secondly they can be crushed and slowly heated in a pan with just enough oil or ghee to cover them. It is important not to overheat and burn the opercula. The active ingredient is drawn into the oil which is used as the incense ingredient, and the residue as a fixative.
In Japan and China they are treated with alcohol, vinegar and water to remove the fishy aroma, and there is also a Hebrew tradition of using wine and lye (caustic soda) to do the same

                                                                                                 Onycha opercula
“Onycha” is one of the most mysterious substances mentioned in the Bible. It occurs as an ingredient in the recipe for sacred incense given in Exodus 30 v.34:

"And the Lord said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha and galbanum, these sweet spices together with pure frankincense of each shall there be a like weight."

Unfortunately, this reference does not give any clear indication as to what "Onycha" actually is! However, a starting point is the fact that the name is the ancient Greek word for "Finger Nail".