MANY EVERYDAY OBJECTS in the home are crystalline. There are ice crystals in the freezer, salt and sugar crystals in the food cupboard and in food itself, crystals of vitamin C and aspirin in the medicine cupboard, tartrate crystals in the wine bottle, and silicon crystal chips in the fridge and washing machine. The TV, telephone, radio, and camera work because of crystals, the house is built of materials which are mostly crystalline, and outside, bikes and cars stand slowly rusting crystallizing!
Crystal collecting can be enjoyed without spending too much money. Crystals can be collected in the field, bought, or exchanged with friends and dealers. They are usually fragile and should be carefully stored. Those found in the field should be curated with details of where they were found and, if possible, their host rock.
In ancient times, the Persians thought the Earth rested on a giant sapphire and that the blue of the heavens was its reflection. Others thought the sky was a sapphire in which the Earth was set.
Sapphire-blue is a colour associated with the qualities of harmony, trust and loyalty. This is the reason why women in many countries choose sapphires as the stones in their engagement rings.
The name 'garnet' comes from the Latin tor pomegranate, a fruit which has bright red, garnet-like seeds. In fact, the colour of garnets varies from violet-red to the deepest wine.
Diamonds are sometimes found under the sea. People trawl for diamonds off the coast of Namibia in southern Africa. The latest techniques involve large offshore ships pumping gravel containing diamonds up to the surface.
Since diamond was discovered in kimberlitic rock, it has been extracted on a massive scale. Over 25 tonnes of rock have to be blasted for every finished carat - 0.2 g (0.007 oz) - of diamond mined.
In medieval times, people who could =!'' afford it wore a diamond jewel to protect them from the plague. The Ancient Greeks thought that diamonds could protect people from poisons.
People once thought that a moonstone's opalescent luster waxed and waned just like the moon, so moonstones have always been worn by worshippers of the moon.
Topaz crystals can be up to a metre (3.28 ft) long and weigh several hundred kilos. The name 'topaz' is thought to come from the Sanskrit word tapas, which means 'fire'.
The Ancient Greeks thought that amber was the hardened rays of a sunset and it was considered sacred to the sun god Apollo. Amber can produce an electric charge when rubbed. In fact, the word 'electricity' comes from the Greek word for amber, elektron.
Tortoiseshell doesn't come from a tortoise at all, but from a turtle. It is made from the shell of the rare Hawksbill turtle, which is now a protected species. Most 'tortoiseshell' in jewellery nowadays is made of plastic.
Six-rayed star sapphires were once thought to provide the best protection from evil. The three crossing arms of the star were meant to represent faith, hope, and destiny.
To the Egyptians, the intense blue of lapiz lazuli meant that it was a heavenly stone. They often used it on statues of their gods and in burial masks, to protect them in the next life.
The Arabians thought that pearls were the tears of gods. Although cultivating pearls (making them grow by putting irritants into oysters) is much faster than waiting for natural pearls to form, it can still take a very long time - up to 4 years.
Writer - Dr.R.F. SYMES and Dr.R.R. HARDING