Jessie Oatman was suffering through a break-up — she thought that she had just lost the love of her life — when she first decided to give healing crystals a try. The 34-year-old’s heart felt blocked, she says, like it had cracked into a hundred thousand pieces. Her shoulders began to hunch forward under what she believed was heartache’s heavy load.
And so Oatman’s friend, who was studying shamanism at the time, placed a series of stones along her chakras, a string of seven linear energy portals. The vibrations and healing properties of crystals, some believe, help to cleanse the chakras of lingering negative energy and right both body and mind again. The friend placed a pale pink piece of rose quartz, the “love stone,” alleged to open and soothe an aching heart, upon Oatman’s chest.
The experience was transformative. “I was able to move some of the stuck energy that was there,” Oatman says. “I remember that weight that was once on my heart being lifted with a real focus on the heart chakra, using that rose quartz.” While Oatman has married since her first chakra cleanse, rose quartz remains her favorite crystal.
Demand for crystals has surged in recent years, fueled by celebrity endorsements and a New Age resurgence in major cities and the fashion and beauty industries. Crystals have been a “mounting trend” on Etsy over the last decade, Etsy merchandiser Emily Bidwell told Refinery29 last January (the popularity of gemstone druzy jewelry, beginning in 2007, “gave way” to consumer demand for quartz rock crystals, pendants, and geode motifs, Bidwell said). Last December, international trend forecaster J. Walter Thompson noted “mystic beauty” — a category that includes spirituality-themed beauty products infused with crystals — in the company’s 2016 Future 100 Trends Report.
Though crystals first became a hot item during the 1970s, the new target consumers for crystal purveyors are in their twenties and thirties. Brands are “repackaging the cues of mysticism and gems, connecting them to well-being products for a hip Millennial audience,” Lucie Greene, worldwide director of trend forecaster JWT Innovation, told the Huffington Post last year. And they’re reaching a hip, urban, and diverse clientele along with young celebrities like Kylie Jenner, Katy Perry, and Miranda Kerr. In 2016, L0s Angeles’ Crystal Matrix shop owner, Patricia Bankins, said that her predominant demographic has become “a lot of young people” (30 years ago, “middle-aged women and a few gay guys” were the most likely patrons to attend metaphysical classes, Bankins told the Los Angeles Times).
Though Millennials aren’t exactly known for being religious — just half born between 1981 and 1996 believe with certainty that God exists, while only four in 10 say religion is very important in their lives, according to a 2015 Pew study — crystals aren’t purely a material trend. According to some experts, younger generations are opting for spiritual practices like crystal healing because it allows them to mix elements from multiple faiths and ancient traditions into an individualized spiritual practice.
Healing crystals date back thousands of years, according to crystal folklore. The Ancient Egyptians are believed to have used lapis lazuli, turquoise, quartz, and topaz to anoint the tombs of the dead and to wear as jewelry and protective amulets. Ancient Greek soldiers used hematite as protection before battle and amethyst to fend off hangovers, some lore claims; in other practices like Ayurveda, gems like sapphires and rubies are allegedly linked to righteousness and vitality. The current market for crystals, however, was born from marketing tactics born nearly 40 years ago: In the ’70s and late ’80s, the New Age movement — a collection of holistic-based therapies and philosophies that emphasized self-healing — brought crystals into the limelight.
Baby Boomers approaching middle age were almost exclusively attracted to the New Age movement. New Agers sought to preserve ’60s countercultural values in George Bush- and Ronald Reagan-era America, and unite old members of the New Left (devotees of radical grassroots politics) and hippies (devotees of self-exploration), says Carl Raschke, a professor in the department of religious studies at the University of Denver. But instead of evolving into a purpose-driven, political movement, New Ageism became more of a “clever packaging and marketing strategy” for preserving the fractured values of ’60s and ’70s counterculture, he says.
New Ageism became more of a “clever packaging and marketing strategy” for preserving the fractured values of ’60s and ’70s counterculture.
“The phrase New Age was deliberately indeterminable, and by its own testimony did not have a set of core beliefs or doctrines,” Raschke says. “Broadly speaking, something could be called ‘New Age’ if it encompassed some kind of non-Western spiritual practice, or called into question all forms of materialism, consumerism, or industrial technologies.” Astrology, paganism, meditation, and yoga all became iconic features of the movement.