Gemstones A to Z; A Handy Reference to Healing Crystals
By Diane Stein
A Rainbow of Rocks and Colors
When I first discovered gemstones and crystals for healing and metaphysics, there was very little to choose from. Working with gemstones primarily meant using clear quartz crystals, always from Arkansas and usually small, rough, unpolished quartz points of an inch or two in size. Colored gemstones included only a few basic choices such as amethyst and rose quartz. A few healers who had great interest in gemstones knew how to use smoky quartz, blue sodalite and lapis, green aventurine, and peach carnelian - but not much else. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, there wasn't much else available.
Gemstones and crystals were hard to find at that time. Most of my first stones were tumbled pieces, about an inch long, and came from a museum gift shop; there were no metaphysical stores then. A few came from lapidary stores that only sold raw specimens in varying sizes, which were unappealing and usually dirt-covered chunks often at very high prices. Some gemstones came from old jewelry, usually beads and an occasional pendant. The rest came from the women's music festivals that were just beginning to happen, where raw stones, tumbled stones, gemstone jewelry, and sometimes even gemstone pendulums were available and much sought after.
Things are much changed today. Gemstones and crystals are available in a great many types and colors that were unknown twenty-five years ago, and they come from sources worldwide. They can be bought from metaphysical shops, nature stores, jewelry stores, gift shops of all kinds, pagan sources, department stores, lapidaries, gem and mineral shows, bead shows and stores, commercial and designer jewelers, on the Internet including eBay, and a variety of other outlets. Stones may be ordered online directly from crystal and gemstone mines worldwide, and sometimes by visiting the mines. Gemstones and crystals are found in every kind of jewelry and come as specimens, beads, raw pieces and points, polished and cut points and shapes, gemstone skulls, carvings, chips, wands and obelisks, eggs and spheres, cabochons, faceted jewelry shapes, sacred geometry sets, hearts, and animal and Goddess statues - to list just some of the possibilities.
Gemstones and crystals arrive in the United States from all over the world. Hong Kong is the central clearinghouse for gemstone beads, with India a close second. Brazil is a primary source for such stones as amethyst, rose quartz, smoky quartz, the tourmalines, aquamarine, and clear quartz crystal. Moonstone and many of the rarer specimens and precious stones (rubies, sapphires, and emeralds) come from India. China has become a major player in mining and selling fluorite, turquoise, jade, and gemstone carvings, as well as other stones for which Hong Kong is a clearing center. Poland and various former Soviet Union countries offer amber, moldavite, and zincite. Africa provides malachite and many varieties of jasper. Australia offers opals and prehnite. And these are just a few.
The high prices of gemstones twenty-five years ago limited most healers to using tumbled stones, crystal points smaller than three inches, raw chunks, and a few less expensive lapidary specimens but this is no longer the case. Tumbled stones are still inexpensive - several for a dollar - even cheaper now than they used to be, and many more gemstone forms are available and affordable. Many women prefer jewelry and beads including gemstone chip necklaces that cost only a couple of dollars, striking gemstone jewelry and bead strands at a wide variety of prices. Gemstone spheres now start at less than twenty dollars, and less than ten dollars for small ones. Small carvings can cost even less. Crystal skulls remain high priced but are more available, and many people are drawn to working with them. Small quartz points can cost as little as a dollar apiece and affordable larger specimens of all sizes are common. Stones that once seemed totally unattainable are now affordable, even precious stones like natural opals, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds in raw pieces, cabochons, beads, or tumbled form. Shopping around to find the best price is always a good idea. The variety is endless and gemstones and crystals are more available and affordable today than ever before.
The Confusion of Gemstones Today
Along with availability, however, come inevitable problems. Not all merchants are honest or even knowledgeable about what they are selling. Commercial names may not reflect what a stone really is. The large and beautiful variety of jasper types that has appeared in the last several years is a case in point. Each type of jasper has a name, but sellers don't always use the same name for the same type of stone. Ocean jasper can mean a stone with a variety of mixed colors in it, usually green, brown, dark red, and grey. The same name can also be given to a type of jasper that is black with swirls of white through it, or one that is brown, grey, cream, and black. Picture jasper is the name for a jasper type that is usually caramel brown with darker hair-like inclusions - or for a stone that is brown with grey and moss green in interesting landscape patterns. Fancy jasper may be the name for the mixed colors of ocean jasper, or it may refer to red and green bloodstone. It can also be a generic name given to any jasper variety by confused sellers. A jasper that is grey black, and light brown is called Picasso stone, but it can be mislabeled as any of the other jasper names. Chrysocolla jasper is a dyed form of jasper; it is not chrysocolla. With so much confusion, it is necessary to view a stone before buying it to know what you're getting, and even then you may only be sure that it's jasper, not which type.
Likewise a stone I know as Chinese writing rock, a darker caramel brown stone with inclusions and line markings of orange or gold, is called golden lace agate by some sources. African jade is not jade, but is another form of jasper, as is yellow turquoise, which is not turquoise at all. New jade is not jade but serpentine, though higher quality serpentine jade does have healing properties similar to those of traditional jade (which is nearly extinct and therefore much harder to find and more expensive).
Some of this may be attributed to confusion about definitions of similar stones, but other examples are plain dishonesty. When man-made, lab-created, or synthetic stones are not plainly identified, it can only be dishonesty. Hemalyke is an example of a synthetic material often confused for the natural gemstone hematite. Magnetic hematite is also synthetic; the natural form is not magnetized. Swarovski crystal is not natural quartz crystal but is man-made lead crystal. It can be easily distinguished from natural quartz crystal as it glitters in rainbow colors where natural quartz does not. Cinnabar is red lacquered wood, or machine-carved layered lacquer. It is sometimes added to reconstituted (heat melted) quartz and called cinnabar quartz. Goldstone and blue goldstone are ceramic materials and are not natural gemstones. Larimar, a lovely and increasingly rare gemstone from the Dominican Republic, is found only in light robin's egg blue, sometimes with reddish inclusions. Pink larimar is not real larimar but is made from pink conch shells.
Some turquoise is not natural turquoise but dyed howlite, a white stone that absorbs dye colors easily. Turquoise, by the way, is usually stabilized with plastic since turquoise is soft and crumbles easily when used in jewelry. (As previously mentioned, yellow turquoise is a variety of jasper.)
Another of the more egregious of these deceptions is the recent appearance of rainbow moonstone in a variety of garish primary colors. Rainbow moonstone is mottled clear and white, and it is actually white labradorite rather than moonstone. It is being sold today in a variety of dye treatments - purple or amethyst rainbow moonstone, sapphire rainbow moonstone, ruby rainbow moonstone, red onyx rainbow moonstone, and aqua rainbow moonstone. The blue rainbow moonstone found in jewelry pendants is created by placing a piece of black electrical type between the setting and the stone. The natural stone does not come in any of these colors.
Be wary of stones that are dyed glass, dyed quartz crystal or even plastic, usually dyed to bright unnatural colors. These can include cherry quartz, pineapple quartz, and some of the colors of serpentine, or new, jade. If a gemstone's color is improbable, it is likely not a natural stone. If you suspect that the material is glass or plastic, look closely for seams or bubbles in it. Natural gemstones do not have either. "Reconstituted" means that gemstone scraps have been heated until they melt together, sometimes with plastic added as a binder, and then molded. Reconstituted quartz with cinnabar, called cinnabar quartz, is an example of this. A less suspect example is copal amber, which is melted amber formed into beads or often used as incense. Amber is soft, and it is a resin rather than a stone, though it is generally known as a gemstone, and copal is considered an honest use of it.
Some precious stones today are being grown in laboratories, and they are called lab-created gemstones. Most of the sapphires and faceted rubies and many commercial opals with "fire" are created in labs. So are such stones as alexandrite (which is extremely rare and expensive as a natural stone) and Siberian quartz. Whether to consider these stones or any of the other previously mentioned variations - except those that are synthetic, glass or plastic - as valid for healing is very much up to the individual user. Lab-created stones are beautiful, and they definitely have energy. Misnamed stones are still gemstones with valid healing properties. Unnaturally dyed stones, in my opinion, have been artificially altered and are less effective for healing. Synthetic and reconstituted materials are worthless, as are glass and plastic; they are not gemstones.
Also be aware of natural gemstones that have been altered or changed in other ways. If your smoky quartz specimen is shiny but completely and deeply black, it is quartz crystal that has been turned black by irradiation. The life force in the stone is probably dead, certainly wounded, and not a good energy for healing work. Natural smoky quartz is not black; when held up to the light it is a translucent, beer-bottle brown. The only natural smoky quartz that is truly black is from Colorado and has a rough matt finish, rather than the shiny glassy finish of irradiated quartz crystal. Citrine may be altered amethyst, heat-treated to turn the color from purple to yellow. Most heat treated citrine is an orange color, while natural citrine (from Brazil or Scotland usually) is a very pale shade of yellow. If the stone feels dead, burnt, or wounded, it is not suitable for healing work.
An interesting use of irradiated gemstones is turning quartz crystal into aqua aura crystal by irradiating it with gold. Opal aura crystal is irradiated with zircon, and rainbow aura irradiated with titanium. These stones are beautiful, and the healing properties seem to be enhanced rather than diminished by the treatment process. Again, it is up to the individual as to whether to use them for healing work or healing jewelry and on what occasions.
Choosing Gemstones for Healing
We choose gemstones for healing by how they feel. If the stone feels wonderful, it doesn't matter what its correct name is or where it comes from. A material that feels dead, uncomfortable, or inert is not good for healing, no matter what it is, and you won't choose it. You may pick a stone, decide that you like how it feels and then ask, "What is it?" People often ask me, "What's the right gemstone for me?" I always tell them, "It's the one you are drawn to, the one that feels so good you don't want to put it down." How a stone feels, or how it makes you feel while holding it, is the first criteria for what stone is best for you to use for healing. It is important to note that what feels good to you may not feel good to someone else. We all have different energies and needs.
How are gemstones used for healing? They can be used formally or informally. It can be as simple as selecting a stone that feels wonderful and carrying it around in your pocket. It can be as simple as choosing a pendant, earrings, or a string of beads that you are drawn to and wearing them often. Anything that brings the stone into your aura is the beginning of gemstone healing. A stone across a room from you is mostly outside your aura and not likely to be useful unless it is a large specimen that could effect the energy of the entire room. Larger stones are often good healing tools in a room where you spend a lot of time. Put the stone close to where you usually spend time in the room. For example, to help with peaceful sleep, place a larger (four inches or more) chuck of amethyst under your bed or on your nightstand.
You can use gemstones as altar objects as wands (or at the end of a wand) to cast a Wiccan ritual circle, or as objects to hold in your hand while meditating or doing psychic work. Use a crystal sphere, a raw piece of clear quartz, or another translucent colored gemstone, natural or polished, for scrying. (Scrying is the art of seeing psychic pictures by using a crystal to focus the meditation.) Gemstones can also be placed in a glass with a few ounces of filtered water on a windowsill overnight; after removing the stone, the water can be consumed as a gemstone essence. Do not do this with malachite, chrysocolla, or cinnabar as they are poisonous to ingest. Also, do not do it with angelite, halite, or other very soft gemstones as they may melt in the water. If you want the essence to last longer than overnight, add a teaspoon of brandy or vinegar to preserve the energy. For more information on making and using gemstone essences see my book Healing with Gemstones and Crystals (Crossing Press, 1996).
Gemstones are also used for making pendulums. They are traditionally placed at both the weighted end and the holding end of a pendulum, whether you make your pendulums at home or buy them in a store. Although gemstones are superior for a pendulum's energy-conducting ability, they are fragile.
They break easily and can become "dead" after dropping them or after a long period of hard use. Gemstone pendulums, and any pendulums, have to be kept energetically cleared to work effectively, as do all gemstones used for healing. (See my book Pendulums and the Light, Crossing Press, 2004.) More information on clearing gemstones and crystals follows.
Another use of gemstones is in laying on of stones for healing. In this case, the person receiving the healing lies flat on her back on a floor or massage table, and the healer places gemstones and crystals on her body. The color of the stones usually matches the color correspondences of the chakras they are placed on. For example, orange or brown gemstones (such as carnelian, brown jasper, or redaventurine) are placed over the belly chakra since orange (and alternately brown) is the color for that chakra. The stones are placed along the center line of the front of the receiver's body. Stones are also placed in the receiver's hands, between her feet, and above her head. The stones shift and fall off when they have done their work, which is to balance the body's chakras and entire energy system. More information on chakra colors follows.
Dedicating and Clearing Gemstones
All gemstones and crystals, no matter what uses they are put to, must be dedicated to the Light and kept energetically cleared. This is essential. Quartz crystals and most colored gemstones absorb energy, and they will carry that energy until it is released. If you carry a stone in your pocket, it will absorb from you your discomfort, illness, emotional distress, tiredness, and other negative energies, while giving back to you the support you need. However, if you do not clear the stone, it will become overloaded with what it absorbed. It will then give back to you all the negatives it took from you, or it may shatter or even disappear from your pocket or room. Beads break, a stone that was on your dresser when you went to bed is gone in the morning, the pendulum won't work well or at all, and the crystal or colored gemstone cracks, disintegrates, or chips.
Clearing is a simple thing to do. The most common crystal clearing technique is to place the crystal, beads, pendulum, or other stone in a bowl of dry sea salt overnight or soak it for an hour in a strong sea salt-and-water solution. Salt can be too harsh for jewelry, however, as it will eventually rot the cord the beads are strung on and turn silver black. Placing jewelry or pendulums under a pyramid works beautifully, but it can take as long as three days to clear them. Placing stones in sunlight or moonlight, under running water, on a clean patch of ground outdoors, or passing them through incense smoke are other clearing methods. Avoid direct sunlight for amethyst, citrine, kunzite, and rose quartz, as they will fade. Avoid water (with or without salt) for angelite or halite, as they melt. Stones should be cleared after every use, and if you wear or carry them aura all day they should be cleared every night.