Issue 25

The Crystal Maze

YOUTH magazine takes a look at the rise and rise of the popularity of crystals around the world, and the social media trend taking what was once an alternative practice, firmly into the mainstream

If you’re reading this then you, or someone you know probably own one, or several, healing crystals and implement them as part of some manner of holistic ritual to bring any variation of positive energies into your lives. If this is you, you’re in good company among the horde of people (both lay and celeb) delving into the wave of crystal-related wellness practice that has had a resurgence over the last five or so years.

Five years was the reductive duration we plucked from a New York Times article that reported a boom in their use that began in 2017, however the source of crystal healing practices goes back as far as civilisation itself. The ancient Sumerians, Egyptians, Greeks, Mexicans, Chinese, Native Americans, Aztecs, Mayans, Aborigines, and Maoris have all used crystals in some form or another throughout the ages.

Interestingly enough, despite there being absolutely no interaction between many of these cultures, and no opportunity for crossover, there are many examples of gemstones meaning similar things to different cultures. Jade was considered to be a kidney healing stone by the ancient Chinese, and also Aztec and Mayan civilisations, turquoise has been worn to give strength and health all over the world, and jaspers have almost always conferred both strength and calm.

Fast forward a millennium or two and we find a civilisation once again in search of meaning. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, crystals found a fresh audience in followers of the New Age spirituality, but it’s in recent years that crystals have exploded once again and this time it's a geology tsunami. YOUTH magazine’s motivation for pursuing this topic was borne out of reports of teenagers queuing to buy the mystical stones at a wellness store in the centre of Dublin, which brought us down a wellness wabbit hole of crystals, their followers, retailers, properties, and practices.

Instagram and TikTok yielded massive volumes of posts and accounts related to the practice and retail of crystals. (#crystal has 11.8m posts on IG, where #crystaltok on Tiktok threw forth a casual 2.8 billion hits.) There are untold amounts of people of every level of spiritual experience, selling, talking about or divining the powers of crystals social media. The scale is overwhelming and the resurgence has been somewhat explosive!

In order to better understand the cultural phenomenon we wanted to chat to some crystal retailers to shed a little light on the industry. We reached out to several crystal accounts and while many answered but didn’t properly engage, we were surprised and delighted when Bri from Rocks of the Spirit, the biggest crystal account on Instagram, came back to us with a wholehearted interest in chatting. Unfortunately she politely declined when we sent our list of questions, and as of the time of writing, we’re unsure if that was because of the volume of questions we’d penned, or the trickier questions we’d posed about the ethical sourcing of stones (but more on that later.).

We did however speak to Hana, the proprietor of Hana’s Crystals, a small but very active crystal website, she also sells crystals on her IG and showcases them on her TikTok.

Hana, who hails from Vancouver in British Columbia has been on her crystal journey since she was 5 years old when she became fascinated with the geodes and raw crystals she saw while on holiday. Today, she holds regular live sales on her crystal Instagram account and describes herself as a “healing crystal provider".

She incorporates crystals into her everyday life, “I love to wear crystal jewelry instead of carrying them in my pockets because I lose everything," she laughs, "I love to wear amethyst if I’m feeling a little anxious, citrine if I feel like I need good luck or if I have an interview or something important, and Amethyst helps me a ton with my migraines”

Amethyst comes up repeatedly as the most popular among the crystals, along with rose quartz, clear quartz (said to be the “master crystal”). Other popular ones are black tourmaline, citrine, selenite, and jade.

Having made the jump from marginal to mainstream with the help of celebrities (like Gwyneth Paltrow, Victoria Beckham, and the full complement of Kardashians), extolling their alleged virtues, not to mention the explosion of social media marketing, the crystal industry is now worth a reported 4 trillion dollars worldwide. Digital retailing has opened up the floodgates for crystals to be sold to anywhere in the world and the appetite for them is only increasing in a world that has endured the most anxiety-laden 24 months in living memory.

In the United States, Colorado is a treasure trove of the seams that lead to fertile crystal grounds. Of the 100 minerals that meet the US Geological Survey’s criteria for a “gem”, (meaning it possesses “beauty, durability, and rarity”) more than 60 are found in the US, and Colorado’s warren of disused mines are testament to this. This is where Brian Busse plies his pickaxe as a prospector of aquamarine, a gem that appears to enclose the ocean, and is the official state rock of Colorado. Today, it’s a popular choice among metaphysical stone enthusiasts for the same reasons nervous sailors once carried it across vast, uncharted seas: the energies associated with it – calm and courage – are in high demand.

In America, most gemstone mining is done by individual collectors, hobbyists, rockhounding clubs, and family operations, not the huge open-pit commercial mines one might imagine. The United States Geological Survey estimates there are about 250 gemstone mines in the country employing about 1,500 miners.

Strict US environmental laws, combined with the high costs of labor and developing a claim, have meant that, despite Americans leading the world in consuming gemstones, just a fraction of crystals sold in the US are actually mined there. In 2017, the US produced only $13m worth of gemstones while importing $22.6bn, much of which came from Brazil, Madagascar and Sri Lanka.

Hana tells me that her crystals come from Mexico, Uruguay, Pakistan and Brazil, a wide range of source locations, however, she carries out research on the suppliers that she comes into contact with.

Scientific proof of the benefits of crystals may be lacking, but this is not a deterrent for those who come seeking their comfort, not does it trouble Brian, who doesn’t voice feelings either way on believing in their alleged powers or not. “I’ve seen them put a smile on thousands of faces,” he says. “If that’s not good medicine, I don’t know what is.”

And in a time when the human spirit looks for solace from wherever it needs to, we can’t help but agree.

See also

The Darkness of the Mined
The Darkness of the Mined

The intense boom driving the increase in the crystal trade in the last number of years has seen mining increase on a massive scale. YOUTH...