(Investigator 134, 2010 September)

"christall stounes, fayre and cleare.. and thou must have a thonge of hart skin to wrappe thy stoune in..."

Although the above quote comes from a 15th century English manuscript, heart shaped amulets made from quartz were advocated in the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, to be laid in the chest cavity of the mummy to thwart heart snatchers. And in 300 BC, Theophartus in his book, On Stones, mentions quartz more than any other mineral in that ancient work indicating its popularity.

In medieval Europe, amethyst was in great demand to prevent bacchanal excess; and the finest crystal, prized for its clarity and lack of surface blemish, was shaped into balls for scrying or crystal gazing, a popular art form for entertainment and divination well before its traditional association with the gypsy fortune teller. Long before that however, quartz crystal had been a shamanic tool for peering into other realms of consciousness and promoting physical and spiritual well­being.

The 1980s saw a resurgence of belief in the powers attributed to crystals. There has been a proliferation of literature available on them and their commercial exploitation has been enhanced by claims of scientific evidence.

Part of the evidence offered evolves from the belief that a quartz crystal can power a radio. This erroneous belief is based on the fact that quartz possesses an unusual property known as the piezoelectricity effect. If squeezed, it generates electricity or when an alternating electrical current is passed through it, it alternately swells and shrinks, the phenomenon called oscillation. When cut into precise thicknesses, the quartz vibrates and transforms electricity into waves that can be broadcast as in radio and television signals.

Another application is in computer memory circuits, where tiny slices of quartz impregnated with germanium, gallium or arsenic are used to store large amounts of data and transmit information within the computer. This power, energy or radiation, can be compared with the type of radiated power that can be detected coming from Uranium with a Geiger counter. The effects of radiation on the body of refined Uranium and the penetrating waves used in X‑rays are well known and infrared ray lamps are commonly used for treating ailments. It is claimed therefore, that crystals, being able to generate and radiate power, can be harnessed for beneficial purposes in a variety of ways. It is also claimed that crystals can be charged with energy and stored for later use, and experiments are being carried out to see whether they can be used to record and recover thought forms. Their effect on mental energy is as dramatic as their effects on physical energy, so it is alleged that not only do crystals amplify body energy, but they amplify thoughts as well.

One of the major uses of quartz crystals is in the field of alternative medicine, where once again it is alleged that we can focus and amplify mental energy to effect healing and curing processes. Crystal healing deals not only with the physical and mental aspects of the body, but also the energy systems which create and support that body. Take that energy away and what happens? The body breaks down.

Proponents argue
"that energy comes to us in many ways, food, water, air and during sleep from the electromagnetic field of the earth, and while we can survive for varying periods without the former, deprived of sleep we deteriorate rapidly mentally, physically and emotionally. The human body, being electronic in nature with a series of energy systems interconnecting the mind, body and emotions, will interact and respond to the energy of a crystal and in conjunction with the mind, create functional changes that will then manifest themselves in the physical body.

Kirlian photography can be used to observe the dramatic changes and effects that crystal energy can have on the human body. If a a crystal is held say in the left hand, the energy field will be doubled. Take a photograph of the right hand holding nothing, then another while holding a crystal in the left hand and the second photograph will show a dramatic increase in the energy flowing from the finger tips. This ability to increase the energy field can be used for healing. Pain can also be reduced this way by holding a crystal in one hand and by placing the other hand over the area where you feel pain. The crystal amplifies the energy and it flows to the pain area. As pain is simply a signal from the brain telling you that something is wrong and that energy is being sent to the cells to correct the problem, the technique of using the amplifying ability of a crystal to give us extra energy to be directed to a specific area, speeds up the natural healing process."
All the foregoing is based on an erroneous understanding of simple physics. The New Agers' belief that crystals can amplify, store, transfer, focus and generate electricity is completely unfounded and once the reason is made obvious there will be no need to refute individually the claims made on their behalf.

Around one of the fervent beliefs in the putative powers of crystals, in particular the quartz variety, multi‑million dollar businesses have been built, sales have boomed and literature extolling the magical and curative powers of this simple mineral abounds. Quartz is simply oxidized silicon or silicon dioxide. Its chemical name is silica and it is the most common mineral on earth. It is softer than diamonds and zircons and has little ability to reflect and scatter light. It is also available in quantity and, compared with other gem stones, relatively cheap. The value of quartz lies in two remarkable properties, it is highly resistant to temperature change and it changes shape when an electrical potential is applied.

 It is around the latter effect, known as the piezzo-electricity effect, that the misconceptions of the New Age crystal fad have been constructed. As well as the slight change in shape when a voltage is applied to opposite faces of a quartz crystal, the converse takes place if it is squeezed in a vice — a voltage appears across the electrical contacts. Depending on the frequency specifications, crystals are precision cut from high‑purity quartz and used in electrical circuits to regulate and stabilize frequency vibrations such as those in radio transmitters, clocks and watches.

As a supposed power source one need only remove the battery from a quartz clock and ask oneself why it stopped working. Further, while it is true that a voltage can be produced by squeezing a quartz crystal in a vice, it is not possible manually to exert the same pressure, and certainly not while it is hanging on a cord around your neck.

To suggest that the electromagnetism generated by crystals can be used for healing purposes (when in fact they do not of their own accord generate anything), is simply a reiteration of a long discredited belief in the healing powers of magnetism.

A quartz crystal is an inanimate mineral which simply does not have the mystical, magic or healing powers attributed to it. The dangers in promoting this false concept as a healing therapy should be apparent to any prepared to give it a few seconds thought, for it is on a par with the cure‑all elixirs sold by the travelling snake oil merchants of old.


Chirgwin, R. 1988. "Crystal Clear." the Skeptic. 8 (3):11‑13. Australian Skeptics Inc.

Gould, G. 1987. Crystal Energy. Contemporary Books.

Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. 1991. Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience. Diamond Books. London, W6 8JP.

Jerome, E.J. 1989. Crystal Power, The Ultimate Placebo Effect. Prometheus Books. Buffalo, NY.

Markham, U. 1987. Fortune‑Telling By Crystals. A Practical Guide to Their Use in Divination, Meditation and Healing. The Aquarian Press, UK.

Sheaffer, Robert. 1982. Psychic Vibrations. Skeptical Inquirer, 6(4):14.

From: Edwards, H. A Skeptic's Guide to the New Age