Crystals Are Bullshit and Totally Worth Your Money

My crystal phase didn’t come after connecting with a starry-eyed stranger of dubious sobriety at a music festival. It did not come after accidentally attending a particularly mystical breath healing class at my local yoga studio where, yes, crystals are readily available for purchase. My crystal phase came right after my dinosaur phase (which honestly never really ended) at age six. Hypersthene, rhodonite, the quartzes—oh, the quartzes! They were my Pokémon. I needed them all. Because they were cool.

I never stopped liking crystals. But as crystals and their purveyors appear increasingly on the rise in the adult, urbanite culture I’ve adopted 25 years since that childhood fascination, I can’t help but notice how the stakes have changed. Healing totems, intention vessels, guardian amulets. Are these the same rocks I aimlessly fiddled with as a kid? I’m not one to blindly dismiss the powers of unseen forces (gravity, anyone?). I believe in the power of thought (inasmuch as it has a strong impact on creating actions). But my love for pretty minerals has not come flooding back with their recent rising tide, and I’m not sure whether I’ve become jaded or the crystals themselves have been corrupted.

A cursory look at the claims being made about these fancy shards of earth will send many people’s bullshit meters redlining. For sites like Spiritual Gangster and Energy Muse, the rules of crystals are quite literally set in stone. Garnet gives you more energy. Black tourmaline protects you from negative thoughts if your dreamcatcher’s on the fritz. Moonstone just might revive your romantic life better than a haircut and a well-timed thirst trap. And that purple amethyst in your geode? Like a Valium for your anxiety, apparently. Pharmaceutical-grade claims aside, even mainstream outlets like Time and Vogue have jumped on board with crystal guides boasting the psychological, even medicinal benefits of crystals, generally with a web store but a click or two away.

When pressed for the science behind these claims, the explanations tend to be two-pronged: First, that crystals have been exalted and relied upon by cultures around the world for millennia. Fascinating. And second, that every type of crystal contains a unique vibrational frequency that relays with our bodies’ own vibrations in an invisible dialect of intention and betterment. Just wow. As someone who’s thought rocks were cool for decades, this validates a lot for me. Playing with all those different rocks must have felt cool because our vibrations were interfacing. Right? Perhaps. But while there are certainly scientifically proven beneficial properties in crystals—from holding electric charges in electronics to antibacterial chemical compositions in certain very cool instances—none of the vibrational properties of crystals seem to play into these cases. And certainly not as they might pertain to influencing human physiology.

As it turns out, every substance on earth holds some kind of vibrational energy, because yes, matter is constructed of atoms. That is to say neutrons, protons and rascally little electrons. In that sense, if you believe the vibrational energy of a rock has any physiological effects on you, you should probably be terrified of the screen you’re reading this on. And maybe the refrigerator storing your food or the car you drive. Lots of vibrations there.

I don’t say all this to shut down the crystal party. I’m happy for the droves of new owners of crystal shops around the country making millions selling cool rocks. And reaching out to some of the crystal-owning men in my world opened my mind to a gray area between the science and the babble that has real power. Kevin, a creative director and music supervisor, told me of his relationship with crystals. “Crystals represent the mystery of the universe to me. Not the answer, but the part that you can’t answer. I might hold or carry a stone and use it as a sort of mantra mnemonic like, ‘I am fluid,’ or, ‘Time is an illusion.’”

Another crystal enthusiast and actual magician, Brandon finds a similar ethereal power in crystals’ geological origins, “They provide me with an extremely tangible way to contemplate my impermanence in this world. When it hits you that this beauty was created by forces immeasurably greater than you before our ancestors had left the tree canopies, one can’t help but feel small, soft and vulnerable.”

With these attitudes, copping crystals doesn’t have to feel like a walk through a drug store. Different stones can have different meanings to different people, and the same stone can carry different meanings over time. “They are superstitious placebo rocks. But placebo works, which really is just proof that magic is real,” Kevin posits. And hey, what good’s a placebo effect without a touch of personalized delusion?

Acolytes of crystals’ would-be medicinal qualities often advise forming a relationship with your crystals, to direct specific intentions into them and carry them with you as reminders of that intention. Kevin takes this and runs with it, saying, “If someone gives me a stone for say, strength and mental clarity, I'm going to put so much good intention behind that stone because it's like I've already got the freebie momentum of another person sending that intention my way.” This language may trigger some more scientifically minded readers, but it’s hard to argue that well-wishing from friends could ever be a bad thing.

And sure, you could clearly apply this same reasoning to any inanimate object in your life, but crystals are as cool an object to do it with as any. As my artist friend Spencer puts it, “It’s truly a bunch of psychosomatic bunk, but boy are they gorgeous to look at.” Which is why I got into crystals in the first place. They look cool. My childhood collection is probably in a landfill now or collecting dust beside my dinosaurs somewhere (Mom?), but there’s no bad time to start collecting cool things again. Which is why I’ll never look a gift geode in the quartz and may even have to hit up my next local gem fair, expecting nothing in return but a cool rock and, sure, some good vibes. I can feel the zen already.

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