Natural v Manmade Crystals … What You Need to Know

When it comes to crystal healing, I'm sure you've wondered whether you should use raw crystals or tumbled crystals. Or if dyed crystals are ok to use?

And what about manmade crystals? Are they any different to laboratory grown crystals or fake crystals? Isn't it all the same thing?

Understanding the different ways crystals can be processed and treated can be mind boggling. You need to know how your crystals have been treated before they end up in your hands.

Resonating with your crystals energetically and spiritually is the first step when it comes to your crystal healing journey and we hope this blog makes choosing crystals much easier for you.

Natural crystals

Natural Quartz Crystals

If you are a crystal purist then most likely you are going to prefer your crystals to be in their natural form. That is a crystal that hasn't been dyed or polished, nor subjected to heat or any other treatment.

You can't go wrong choosing raw crystals - they can really pack a punch. Their colours and patterns are beautiful and they have such amazing energy. They are an everyday reminder of how brilliant Mother Nature is.

Altered crystals

Crystals can be altered from their natural state in several ways such as:

  • Polished or carved
  • Dyed
  • Heat treated or artificially irradiated
  • Reconstituted or stabilised
  • Bonded with various metals

Crystals that are polished or carved

Carved Crystal Hedgehogs

Tumbled or polished crystals are perfect for putting in your pocket and carrying with you as they are nice and smooth. Raw crystals are placed in a tumbler machine and gradually polished into their tumbled form. This process can take a week to a month, depending on what type of tumbler is used and how perfectly polished the tumble is. Usually the rougher the tumbled stone is, the less amount of time it has spent being polished.

Carved crystals, regardless of whether they are polished or not, may have their crystal structure / direction changed during the carving process. For example, Clear Quartz forms in a strict pattern that begins at the base of the crystal and continues to its point where the energy is directed from. Whilst this might not have a huge effect on a crystal that has been carved into the shape of a heart, it can make a big difference to a carved crystal wand or generator. This is because the carved or manmade point of your wand is not necessarily facing the way the crystal was naturally growing.

Dyed crystals

Howlite Crystals

Crystals are sometimes dyed to enhance their colour or to make them look like another crystal altogether. Enhancing the colour is done purely for commercial purposes as the prettier the colour, the easier it is to sell. Commonly dyed crystals are Howlite, Magnesite, Onyx, Aventurine, Clear Quartz, Rose Quartz, Lapis Lazuli, Chalcedony and Agate.

There are several different processes used to dye crystals such as boiling the crystals in bicarb soda, then soaking them in various chemicals (different chemicals are used for different colours). Another way to dye crystals is by heating the crystal with the flame of a butane torch and then dropping the crystal into a bucket of cold water that has had the dye added to it.

Dyed Agate

Dyed Agate Crystals

Agate is probably the most commonly dyed crystal and you'll find it in crystal shops, souvenir shops or even craft shops. The majority of Agate in its natural form is usually a grey to brown colour and is often overlooked by consumers for being 'bland'. Because of this a large percentage of Agate is dyed to make it more appealing and to enhance the stone's banding. There are a few variations of Agate that naturally have pretty colours - some examples are Blue Lace Agate, natural Pink Agate, Moss Agate and Crazy Lace Agate.

Dyed Rose Quartz

Dyed Rose Quartz Beads

Rose Quartz may be dyed to make lower grade Rose Quartz look a deeper pink, to mimic the appearance of higher-grade stones. This is often done with Rose Quartz beads, and if you look closely at the Rose Quartz beads above, you will be able to see a build-up of dye in the little cracks or where the bead has been drilled.

Dyed Howlite and Magnesite

Dyed Blue Howlite with the Colour Faded

Other commonly dyed crystals are Howlite and Magnesite and it is usually to make them look more appealing or to resemble Lapis Lazuli and Turquoise. Howlite and Magnesite are usually white crystals with grey ‘veins’ running through them, they are not naturally blue, green, orange or purple!

Turquenite is a great example of a crystal trying to mimic Turquoise, it is usually dyed Howlite or Magnesite and it has a name very similar to Turquoise. When dyed crystals are left outside in the sun or rain, the colour will fade and run (as you can see in our picture above).

Heat treated and irradiated crystals

Heat Treated Citrine Cluster

If you look at images of Citrine clusters on Google you will notice that most of them look like an Amethyst cluster, except for their yellow/orange colouring. To put it simply, they look like Amethyst clusters because they actually are Amethyst clusters! Natural Citrine is quite rare and hard to source so Amethyst clusters are placed in a kiln and baked until the purple clusters change colour. Baking Amethyst at these high temperatures can lead to a weakened crystal that breaks easily.

If you prefer natural Citrine, however are unsure if the Citrine has been heated or not, have a look at the crystal to see if it looks similar to an Amethyst cluster. Natural Citrine doesn't grow in a geode so it doesn't have the white base and yellow/orange points that you see with heat treated Citrine (natural Citrine is usually a honey/white wine colour).

Other crystals that are commonly heat-treated are Apatite, Red Tiger Eye, Tanzanite, Sapphire, Ruby, Aquamarine, Blue Topaz and Tourmaline. Choosing between natural or heat-treated crystals is very much a personal preference (and often comes down to affordability). The most important thing is that you are informed by the seller that you are buying a heat-treated crystal and that it has been altered.

Another way that crystals can be altered is by irradiation in a laboratory - for example this could be done to make a pale coloured Smokey Quartz look darker and more appealing. There is a rare variation of Smokey Quartz called Morion Quartz, which is naturally a very dark brown, almost black colour. Some of the dark Smokey Quartz on the market has undergone unnatural irradiation to make it resemble Morion Quartz. As with heat-treated crystals, it is important that you are informed if a crystal has been altered in this way.

Reconstituted and stabilised crystals

Turquoise Crystals Australia

Crystals that are low on the Mohs Scale of Hardness tend to be fragile, porous or crumbly and are often stabilised (made harder) so they can be polished, carved or used in jewellery. The coating used for stabilising crystals is normally a type of plastic or epoxy (a strong glue). Crystals that are commonly stabilised include Malachite, Opal, Jade and Turquoise (apparently 90% of Turquoise on the market is stabilised).

A reconstituted crystal is one that is made up from dust particles or small pieces of the crystal and basically glued together. Whilst it does contain fragments of the crystal, I'm very sceptical that it would provide any healing benefits. Crystals that are often reconstituted include Turquoise, Malachite, Amber and Hematite (and yes that includes Hematite rings and beads).

Crystals that are bonded with metals

Aura Crystals

Did you know that Aura Quartz doesn't occur naturally? It's actually Quartz that has been bonded with precious metals such as Gold, Silver, Platinum, Iron, Titanium, Magnesium, Nickel or Indium. Aura Quartz crystals are made by placing Quartz into a vacuum chamber that is heated to over 800°C (1600°F). A vapor of precious metals is then added to the vacuum chamber, and these metals then meld onto the Quartz's surface. Examples of Aura Quartz crystals include:

  • Angel Aura (aka Opal Aura) - Quartz bonded with Silver and Platinum
  • Aqua Aura - Quartz bonded with Gold
  • Champagne Aura - Quartz bonded with Gold and Indium
  • Rainbow Aura - Quartz bonded with Gold and Titanium
  • Rose Aura - Quartz bonded with Platinum
  • Tangerine Aura - Quartz bonded with Gold and Iron
  • Tanzine Aura - Quartz bonded with Gold and Indium

Manmade laboratory grown crystals

Laboratory grown crystals

Now let's look at manmade crystals - crystals that have been grown or made in a laboratory by scientists. Examples of laboratory grown crystals include Diamonds, Quartz, Sapphires, Rubies, Emeralds, Opals plus many more. These crystals are often used in the jewellery industry and are sometimes considered more ethical than crystals that have been mined from the Earth. Other well-known lab grown crystals include Bismuth and Goldstone.

Bismuth Crystals

Bismuth is a naturally occurring chemical element, however it is grown into a crystal structure in a laboratory. This is done by melting Bismuth into a liquid form and, as it slowly cools back down, it will produce crystals.

Manmade Goldstone Crystals

The very pretty and sparkly Goldstone above is a combination of glass with flecks of Copper. Some people feel that Goldstone is just glass and that it does not have any healing benefits. Nevertheless, you may be able to feel a connection with Goldstone as it does contain Copper which is an excellent conductor of energy. Try holding a piece of Goldstone to see what you can personally feel!

Ethical crystals

I'll leave it to you to decide whether manmade or laboratory grown crystals are for you or not ... There is no right or wrong, as long as you are aware that they are manmade and not made entirely by nature. In fact, in some circumstances laboratory grown crystals can be more ethical - you don't have to worry about Diamonds being mined in conflict zones ('Blood Diamonds'), or young children being exploited for cheap labour. Your choice depends entirely on what you feel and what makes you happy.

Fake crystals

Fake Crystals

Fake crystals are obviously manmade however they are a whole different ball game to those with natural elements! Fake crystals, or 'The Imposters' as one of our wholesalers calls them, are completely synthetic. They do not mimic nature and do not have the same chemical composition as a natural crystal. Fake crystals are usually produced to deceive the buyer. Let's take a look at some of the worst offenders!

Obsidian

Fake Obsidian Crystals

Real Obsidian occurs naturally from volcanos and is commonly black or brown coloured, however it can also be mahogany or dark green. Obsidian does not come in bright green, blue, purple or orange (and there is no such thing as Smokey Obsidian). The gorgeous bright blue 'Obsidians' that can often be seen in crystal shops are glass. Just glass. Just fake blue glass. Not a crystal at all.

Opalite

Opalite Crystals

More glass. Just glass. Glass that is trying to pretend it is an Opal. You can even see an air bubble in the above Opalite!

Malachite

Fake Malachite Crystals

Plastic Malachite ... I hate to say it but it does exist and I have a piece here to show you! The Malachite on the left-hand side is real ... The Malachite on the right-hand side is fake - it has patterns that are too precise and the colours are just perfect. Mother Nature isn’t known for growing plastic crystals!

Smelt Quartz

Smelt Quartz Fake Crystals

Another misleading crystal on the market is Smelt Quartz. This is glass that has been melted down and had vibrant neon colours added. Glass does not have a crystal lattice structure and this certainly isn't a Quartz crystal.

Amber

Fake Amber Crystals

Real Amber is the result of millions of years old tree resin that solidified, and eventually fossilized, often with plant particles and insects trapped inside. You would be excused for thinking a piece of Amber with a bug in it was the real deal, however this is not always the case. Fake Amber can be made from synthetic or natural resin, plastic or glass, with modern-day plants and insects such as ants added to the mix. The Amber in the photo above is fake - you can see how you could easily be duped.

Andara

Andara Crystals

Finally we arrive at the highly controversial Andara crystals. Many people have claimed that they have amazing energy and vice versa, many people have said they have never felt anything from Andara crystals and that they are just chunks of glass.

Andara crystals were originally discovered by a Native American woman called Lady Nellie who was born on the Choctaw Indian Reservation in Oklahoma. Lady Nellie suffered from polio and poverty throughout her childhood and as a young mother moved to California with her children. It was here in the Californian mountains that Lady Nellie discovered Andara crystals. It is claimed that Andara crystals are high vibrational crystals that have healing powers from another world.

The opposing view is that Andara crystals are a manmade product called 'slag' glass which is the left-over product from glass factories. The area that Andara crystals were discovered was said to originally be a dumping ground for a glass manufacturer.

Adding to the controversy is that Andara crystals have been trademarked, and that the two main sellers of Andara crystals dispute who actually has authentic Andara. If you search for Andara crystals on Mindat's website (the go-to database used by geology experts) you will see Andara crystals listed as 'A variety of Glass. An artificial green glass sold as a gem material.'. Oh and the price tag? Be prepared to part ways with your wallet!

Manmade Crystals, Lab Grown Crystals and Fake Crystals

If you are unsure whether your crystals are real or not visit our blog identifying and testing crystals at home. You'll be able to see how you can test your crystals yourself and how to easily put together a crystal test kit. You can also check out our How to Spot Fake Crystals blog for more tips on what to look out for with dyed or fake crystals.

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