Amethyst and rose quartz crystals.
Amethyst and rose quartz crystals.
Image: 123RF / pamwalker68

That minerals are being traded at auction houses and special fairs as highly valuable investments, should come as no surprise when you learn that “their investment status is compared to fine art”, says Guardian writer Eva Wiseman. And, if you look at auction house sites such as Christie’s, there are prices that might make the knees buckle — where violet amethysts, quartzes and rose-coloured rhodochrosites have recently fetched between R100,000 and R500,000 per formation.

Helping blow up the crystals bubble on the lifestyle or so called “wealth wellness” end are celebrities who are quickly outnumbering their early adopting Bohemians. Gwyneth Paltrow sells quartz crystal-infused water bottles in the mindfulness section of her online goop shop for R1,200. Erykah Badu sells similarly priced ones on her Badu World Market — the performer, doula and Reiki master, is a champion of their frequencies, transmissions and vibrations. Jhene Aiko released her latest album called Chilombo in 2020 and, according to Dazed, incorporated “the vibrational hum of crystal alchemy sound bowls, also known as singing bowls, into every track” for sound healing.

It’s big business, with an industry valued at a multiple billion rand.

A CBNC video explainer says that in 2019, there had been a 65% increase for the search term “crystal healing” since 2010 and that “Mine owners have seen the price of amethyst crystals increase fivefold over the past 10 years. While it has been part of ancient practice across many continents (Asia and Africa), cultures and beliefs, crystal healing and other spiritual traditions go through cycles of being stitched into fashion trends and layered into beauty routines.

So why are we all (again) adding rose quartz and jade rollers to our shopping carts or toting gemstones around our necks, arms and in our bags? What are these minerals supposed to do for our mental, physical and spiritual health?

Quartz crystal-infused water bottle from goop.
Quartz crystal-infused water bottle from goop.
Image: goop

Dazed breaks it down for novices in a recently published fashion-focused piece. The writer says, “For the unacquainted, the idea behind crystal healing is that different minerals contain unique energy properties that can work with our own energies to draw out negativity, hold onto certain intentions, and provide desirable qualities like calm and strength.” The fashionable set lap up articles in their favourite style bibles about which ones do what rose quartz for love and balance, amethyst for mental clarity, jade for fertility and so on.

And beauty experts love talking about how jade and amethyst rollers are a chemical free way to improve your skin care routine ... if you roll them over your face, you get the benefits of a massage to help with circulation and inflammation, a way to push product into skin and boost lymphatic drainage. But couldn’t something wooden do the same trick? Or if you just used your fingers? Many dermatologists answer yes.

And what of its renewed appeal? 2020 brought along with it a heightened sense of mortality, brutality, racism and political turmoil, which resulted in financial, physical and mental woes and stresses. We needed all the help we could get to balance our chakras, attract positive juju, start a new hobby to keep lockdown boredom at bay, and increase our resilience to cope with the constant barrage of bad news.

Everything felt and still feels upside down for many. While scientists on the whole reject crystal healing, it seems we’re going through a time where the truths we used to rely on, are being questioned with a renewed interest in metaphysics. And rock hounds around the globe are driving prices up each year, meeting each year at expos like one of the most famous: the Gem and Mineral Show in Tucson, Arizona, where buyers fly in from around the world including countries like Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand. The crystals can come from mines in Brazil, Madagascar and tend to come from other embattled countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Rough Rhodochrosite crystal.
Rough Rhodochrosite crystal.
Image: 123RF / vvoennyy

At the end of the day, no matter how you feel about crystals and their supposed superpowers, the journey from mine to market is one that needs close attention paid to it especially with caches of horror stories of minerals and crystals reported as the new “blood or conflict diamond”. Not only are they a nonrenewable source, but mineworkers are usually exploited and placed in dangerous situations to dig them up — with their sellers rarely providing any real provenance.

A few places to shop locally

If you’re planning on investing money on stones, remember to check their authenticity, and whether they have been ethically sourced.

1. Mineral World, Western Cape

One of the most famous and biggest is Mineral World in Simon’s Town, which opened in 1970.

2. House of Isis, Gauteng 

Another popular destination is House of Isis in Rosebank Mall, Joburg, which opened in 1988.

3. Enchanted Earth, KwaZulu-Natal

Enchanted Earth is said to be the largest of its kind in the province and opened in 2012.

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