The Finest Cabochon Gemstones in the World

The Crystal Blog

Electric Gems

For thousands of years human beings have had a close affinity with gemstones, minerals and crystals for many reasons. Adornment is the reason that first comes to mind. I can imagine the colours and hues of many gemstones and crystals totally fascinating early man. But of course there would've been more practical reasons for early man to love gemstones and minerals. The use of Flint and obsidian for cutting tools and for igniting flames for fire are just a couple of examples.

High priests, shaman, witch doctors and druids used certain minerals and crystals to perform what would probably have looked like feats of magic. But it's the properties of these crystals when heated and then cooled, or struck, properties I might add that are firmly based in science, that cause such phenomena to occur.

Crystals exhibit the properties of both piezoelectricity and pyroelectricity. These 2 forms of electricity cause crystals to do many strange and wonderful things, and make them invaluable in many everyday household objects, such as watches, audio equipment and even our microwaves.

Piezoelectricity, also called the piezoelectric effect, is the ability of certain materials to generate an AC (alternating current) voltage when subjected to mechanical stress or vibration, or to vibrate when subjected to an AC voltage, or both. The most common piezoelectric material is quartz. Certain ceramics, Rochelle salts, and various other solids also exhibit this effect. Certain types of mechanical stress can cause quartz to glow or emit flashes of light. Very useful for a Bronze Age shaman with a point to prove. Although by then, using crystals in this way may have already become old hat.

Pyroelectricity is the quality of electrified state, or polarity, which is produced by, and changes with, variation in temperature. The pyroelectric state activates expansion of the inherent energy when the crystal is heated. Subsequently when cooled, the energy contracts and remains within the structure. It has been known for centuries in India and Sri Lanka that tourmaline when heated in the embers of a fire, first attracted ashes and then repelled them. Other crystals will attract or repel bits of lint, paper or thread. This phenomenon is due to the electrical charges which accumulate on the surface of the crystal. (I.e., heat producing an evident electrical charge). The crystal will hold the electrical excitation for several hours.

If you want more information on the science relating to these facts click on the link for The University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

The effects of these 2 types of electricity on crystals and gemstones, and the crystals subsequent effect upon us is what I am interested in. We generally think we're drawn to crystals for aesthetic reasons. But I think there may be more to it than that. Certain energies can cause some crystals and gems to emit light and vibrate, while others repel or attract energies. It’s almost as though they’re alive. I find all off this completely fascinating. I look forward to exploring these gemstone phenomena with you in future blogs.

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