How Crystals Became A Multi-Billion Dollar Industry

March 5, 2020

Crystals are big money. Huge money. $22 million in a single
sale kind of money. And their value is only
growing due to increased interest in alternative
healing methods bolstered by celebrity
endorsements. So, how did healing crystals
go from a holistic cottage industry to
mainstream markets? Our fascination with healing
crystals goes back centuries. Lapidaries can be
traced back to antiquity. There were
remedies for grinding crystal into powder and
putting it into breast milk. Or if someone
was suffering from thirst, they would drink like
crystal powder in honey water or something
like this. So the idea that crystal
is this medicinal remedy has always been there
too, associated with something kind of spiritual
or transcendent as well. But the recent
crystal craze started taking off in the late
’70s with quartz. As time went on, it
expanded into more and more species of minerals. The Tucson Gem and
Mineral Showcase is the nucleus of the mineral
trade in the U.S. Thousands of miners and sellers
from all over the world descend on to Tucson
to buy and sell crystals of all types,
sizes and values during the showcase. Experts say
some $5 billion worth of crystals are sold in
a three week period. It’s everything from giant
open parking lots with people with piles of agates
to extremely high end motel rooms where you have
to go through security to get in. And there’s
a small fortune of high quality gems or minerals for
sale in those rooms. Crystals are priced
more subjectively than gemstones. Size, color and
clarity play a part, but the overall aesthetic can
give a specimen a huge price bump. Two Tucson’s ago, a three
and a half foot gemmy, red tourmaline crystal was on
offer at the Tucson show for $22 million. Traditionally, there have been
two types of buyers at the showcase:
mineral collectors and high end gem retailers
like Tiffany and Cartier. But there’s a new wave
of consumers causing a sort of mania in the
gem and mineral market. I love all crystals. The ones that I’m working
with a lot these days are Jade, selenite, smoky
quartz is particularly strong for me. People come
into the store and you’ll see them and they’ll
pick up two stones and hold them and close
their eyes to try to decide which one is
calling out to them. I’m certain there’s a number
of people who are collecting because they believe
in the healing powers. And they’ve affected
the market for certain minerals species
very strongly because they sort of determine
that a particular mineral species is good for
something, and it becomes fashionable within that belief
system, and the demand for that goes
up very dramatically. Cavano says demand is
increasing so much, crystals that sold for $20
in 2010 are selling for at least $100 today. If I put this in the
store and we posted it on Instagram, within a few
hours somebody would be in the store to get
it. For me it’s just unbelievable. There has been
a 65% increase for the search term crystal
healing over the last decade. So why exactly
are people ignoring science and turning
to crystals? Better yet, do crystals
actually have healing properties. Now, the one
thing that is really interesting about crystals
from a science perspective is there’s
something called the piezoelectric effect. And if
you take a crystal like amethyst, which is
the purple form quartz, or clear quartz like this,
and you squeeze it under pressure, it
actually generates electricity. Now, can humans
squeeze in and feel it? I don’t know. I’m not going to say
no, but I certainly can’t. While the commercial crystal
market is rising in popularity, so are
crystal treatments. My sessions are an
hour and a half, and for that
I charge $155. At Maha Rose, I’m
affectionately known as the Little Tangerine Quartz. I
have been a healer five years, but I’d argue
that, you know, we’ve all been healers our
whole entire lives. Sadie focuses on chakra
realignment and Reiki. She gets between three to
10 clients per month. Crystals are interesting in
that they have a perfect vibration. They’re at a
constant state. And so, you know, when we
use them for craft for healing, the way that they
help heal the body is to encourage the body
to match that same resonance. I think clients
fall into a deep relaxation. You can see
their bodies slowly start to release tension and
their breathing is less labored. Not everyone is
sold on the healing powers of crystals. Crystals are wonderful. They are beautiful. They’re really interesting from
the point of view of chemistry and physics and
even just to look at, but the claim that
they have healing powers is, I’m afraid,
total B.S. University of London
psychologist Chris French conducted a placebo effect
study on crystals. His team of researchers
asked participants to do a five minute meditation
exercise with crystals. What they didn’t know was
that half the crystals were made of glass. What we found, which was
pretty much what we expected to find, was
it didn’t make any difference whether people
were handling real crystals or fake crystals in
terms of how many of them reported these kind
of sensations that we’re talking about. But whether
or not the crystals have scientifically proven
metaphysical powers, people are pouring large sums
of money into them. I think the psychologists
probably should pay a little bit more attention. I
mean, we are dealing here with something that
worldwide is is a multi-million dollar
industry. So, if nothing else, there’s
a kind of consumer protection element to some
of these findings. There are several tiers
of crystal sellers. At the low end, are
online retailers who mainly deal in good-looking,
but inexpensive stones, ranging in price from
$5 to $1,000. In the middle are galleries
and high-end internet sellers. Those crystal sell
for $1,000 to $10,000. Anything above $10,000
is at the very high end of the market. There’s a whole group of
people who have come in who treat mineral specimens
like fine art. You know, you can’t buy
a Rembrandt, you can’t get one. You can get
the mineral equivalent of a Rembrandt for a
mere $10 million. I say I’m the opposite
of a car dealership because when you leave
my place, your crystal immediately starts
to appreciate. Lenise Soren owns Serenity
Rocks Malibu that serves as both a holistic
healing center and as a super-premium crystal
retailer. This is one of my babies. But we have the
largest collection of large, crystal angel wings. Lenise is a sought
after collector and says between their rise in
value and their healing properties, there doesn’t seem to
be a limit to how much your clients will
spend on a crystal. The combination of people
seeing the result and that there’s literally not
as many available, it’s going to affect
the market, of course. But she says the
healing properties trump all else when it
comes to value. The value and the result
of crystals, I think will start to change in
that crystals will become more of a necessity
versus a luxury. And so when that happens,
you’re going to see a drastic appreciation. Online retailers also make
up a significant market share. It’s common
to see private sellers taking advantage of platforms
like eBay and Etsy. Dana and her husband Leland
are the owners of Ruby’s House of Crystals. Dana started out selling
hemp wrapped crystal necklaces on Etsy, and business
was so good that in 2014, she and Leland
opened a brick and mortar store. Leland and Dana
sell well over 1,000 crystals per month, and
the price of their crystals ranges from
$4 to $1,000. Since 2014, the only thing that’s
really changed is the demand. I don’t know that
the price has changed. And I always say if
somebody comes into the store and they really love
something, price kind of takes a backseat.
But scarcity trumps spirituality when it comes to
the supply side of the equation. Crystals are
a natural resource. So what happens if we
keep mining and buying at the rate we are? The
reality is, is that large crystals grow very, very quickly
in the matter of days, weeks, or perhaps
a few years. But it will take tens
of millions of years for erosion to get down
to those crystals. And that scarcity factor has
a major effect on price. It’s shocking. It’s
really almost shocking. Not only of the
increased demand and the lowering of supply, obviously,
but the price, let’s say, for Amethyst has,
from when I started to what I purchase
Amethyst for, is remarkable. Interest in crystals doesn’t
seem to be slowing down, which is shining a
spotlight on the way crystals are harvested. What’s really interesting about
the whole mineral business is a lot of
this stuff comes from the third world. Is it
being legally mined? I don’t know. It’s showing
up in Tucson, and some of it’s really,
really beautiful. But there’s mines all over
the world and who knows how well they’re
being regulated and how sensitive those people are
to the environmental regulations. There are
crystals that aren’t sourced ethically, so you
want to be very particular. Even if you don’t
know a lot about crystals, you can use
your intuition than you when you walk
into a shop. Do the people
seem grounded? Are they knowledgeable? Do you feel there’s a hustle
or a sale, or do you feel like it’s relaxed? You’d think that if
people who were producing those crystals were doing
so under conditions of abject misery, that that
would somehow cancel out the positive energy
of the crystal. And that doesn’t seem
to be something that’s entering the minds of the
people who are using the crystals for
healing purposes.

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