Eagle-eyed royal watchers noticed a new addition to Meghan Markle’s bookshelf in her Californian mansion this week. Along with flowers and feminist books there was a giant crystal, thought to be an amethyst.
Of course, Markle, 39, might just be attracted to the rock for its colour and beauty, but there is currently a rise in those who believe in the healing power of crystals. On Instagram, there are nearly 30 million hashtags around #crystal, #crystals or #crystalhealing. Meanwhile, celebrities from Victoria Beckham, who sews crystals into secret pockets into some of her clothing line, to Gwyneth Paltrow and fashion designers the Olsen twins, who gifted those attending a (pre-Covid) fashion week party a “black tourmaline [crystal] to keep negative energies at bay”, are all said to believe in the stones’ magical properties. The singer Adele even once attributed hiccups during a performance to the fact that she had lost her gems.
To their believers, they really are powerful tokens. Amethyst, as seen on the Duchess of Sussex’s shelves, is thought to be able to boost immunity, while black tourmaline is said to help relieve stress. “Different crystals have different healing properties,” explains Alexandra Lisiecka, head of wellbeing at Gazelli House, a spa and event space in London. “We use them in certain treatments and have them around the House just as a quiet presence.”
Crystal healing falls under alternative or complementary medicine and the practice of using crystals to cure ailments or protect against disease dates back millennia; the ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia and Ancient Egyptians were fans. But the modern use to affect our “energy” is perhaps more associated with Eastern wellness practices.
The crystal trend has been on the up for a while: forecasting company WSGN heralded their ascent at the end of 2016, albeit mainly amongst millennials. But recently interest has spread wider. “It’s not a brand new trend, but we’re definitely seeing more clients coming in who are knowledgeable about them now,” Lisiecka says. “We hear from people who say they carry crystals around with them, who definitely wouldn’t five years ago.”
She admits that as a trained physiotherapist with a background in science: “It did take me a while to get used to the idea of crystals, but I do really feel a difference from being around them.” She adds: “We’re all more open to alternative ideas now”, which have seen an acceptance in other wellness techniques that have their roots in Eastern healing practices, such as acupuncture, yoga, meditation and even the hit of last summer, gong baths.
But does the increasing belief in the power of crystals also have something to do with the worrying period we currently face? “In times of uncertainty and stress, all kinds of magical thinking – from a belief in astrology and psychics to crystals and conspiracy theories – seems to rise,” says Professor Christopher French, head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit in the Psychology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. According to Pew Research Center data, more than 60 per cent of US adults have at least one ‘new age’ belief and 42 per cent think physical objects, including crystals, have some spiritual energy.
While some complementary wellness practices, such as meditation and acupuncture, now come with solid scientific backing, crystals have yet to get the same seal of approval. In fact, in a 2001 paper presented at the British Psychological Society Centenary Annual Conference, French and colleagues showed that they only produced a placebo effect.
Their study involved 80 participants who were asked to meditate using either a real quartz crystal or a convincing fake that they were told was real, and report whether they felt any effects, ranging from feelings of warmth or tingling sensations. “Those who said they did feel something; it didn’t matter if they were holding a real crystal or a fake,” recalls French. Those who believed in the power of crystals were twice as likely as non-believers to report feeling effects.
He agrees, however, that “some people do feel the benefits – otherwise they wouldn’t be so popular. But do they have mystical powers? I don’t think so. But I could be wrong.”
French warns against any claims that crystals can cure serious diseases such as cancer. “We do see hundreds of people die each year by trying to treat illnesses that can, in their early stages, be treated by medicine, and that’s a huge worry,” he says.
Several brands have been reported for advertising false claims about their product’s benefits. In 2018, Paltrow’s Goop settled a lawsuit after claiming that the brand’s jade vaginal egg crystals could regulate menstrual cycles. Meanwhile this summer, a necklace advert was banned on Facebook after the jeweller claimed that its “seven powerful crystals” combated radiation from 5G.
But despite his scepticism in their healing claims, French says crystals could still help. “For the average person wearing a crystal around their neck to promote inner calm, I don’t think there’s any harm in that. In fact, anything that gives people some sense of security, even if it is illusory, I can see that there could be psychological benefit in the short term.”
5 crystals and their supposed benefits
Clear quartz – believed to be a master healer; it is said to protect against negativity and amplify any personal intention
Rose quartz – another popular stone; is thought to open the heart to feelings of love, self-love, friendship and peace
Amethyst – the stone seen on Meghan Markle’s shelf is considered to have immunity-boosting properties
Green aventurine – called a ‘heart healer’ for the emotional calm it is said to provide
Yellow topaz – thought to provide mental clarity, as well as helping to ease insomnia
‘Crystals aren’t woo woo’
A year ago if you’d asked me about crystals I would have tutted. Pretty to look at, yes, but effective? Hell no.
That was until I met Emma Lucy Knowles (@your_emmalucy) clairvoyant, author and crystal healer to Victoria Beckham no less...