Recently, a model and social media star posted a photo of herself squatting next to a giant amethyst stone, her red manicure stroking its purple spikes. For the model and many others, the adoption of supposedly calming and detoxifying amethyst stones, clarifying quartz crystal balls and stress-reducing aquamarine, can help shift the holder's energetic makeup. Whether or not those crystal stones actually provide healing powers is up for debate, but that hasn’t stopped Hadid from adopting the latest mineral obsession. This past summer, stacks of crystal beaded bracelets were spotted on celebrities and influencers like her, ushering a new trend of wearable healing stones.
In 2020, Bloomberg reported that the market for “near gemstones” like malachite, amethyst, citrine and rose quartz, was booming — so much so that it was encroaching on that of diamonds, an unaffordable luxury during lockdowns and recessions. But it’s not only the lower price tags that have consumers scrambling for crystal jewelry. During times of strife, stones with supposed healing properties become talismans for the ill and anxious, and the COVID pandemic is no different. With stones like tourmaline promising to protect the wearer against negative energy, these amulets offer solace in the same way that a religion might — only rather than joining a church, all one has to do is click “buy now.”
The current crystal trend can be traced back to the 2010’s, when astrology-adjacent jewelry designers like Pamela Love had felted hat-wearing celebrities adorned in sterling silver bird skulls and quartz stones. And in many ways, it seems like crystal jewelry never actually went out of style — especially when a lot of it looks timeless in the same way that most hippie-adjacent aesthetics do. But not all semi-precious stone adorned jewelry is handmade by occultists or aspiring astrologers. Brands like Parts of Four give near crystals an edge with heavy silver accoutrement, while Prounis turns vintage stones into modern baroque pieces.
Still, most of today’s trending “near gemstone” jewelry caters to Gen Z, and as a result, fits with the trending childlike aesthetic. TBalance, a crystal jewelry brand seen on both Hadid and Jenner, promises to “raise your vibration with crystals.” Not only does the company sell crystal bracelets, anklets and necklaces adorned with letter beads to spell out words like “manifest” and “magic,” but they also offer self-help courses with titles like “self love” and “balance.” The resulting vibe is a cross between a Mattel jewelry making kit for 6-year-olds and a suburban mom’s home reiki studio — both naively optimistic and serious about feeling good.
Some brands are even taking their positivity one step further, by giving back to the community as part of their practice. The jewelry label Ren, founded by Crystal Ung, has established its mission to keep East Asian traditions alive through the production of jade jewelry while donating 10% of their sales to Apex for Youth and Asian Youth Center (they claim to source their jade responsibly).
In an era of global pandemics, global warming, debt and jobless markets, it makes sense that people — both young and old — are interested in brands that elicit good feelings. After all, desirable jewelry is almost always imbued with meaning, so what better than a necklace that spells “shine” and features citrine crystals that promise to enhance your motivation and self-confidence, and help you overcome your depression and fears. But good intentions don’t always have good results. Not only is there an ethical grey area when it comes to promoting the healing power of crystals on direct-to-consumer websites (there’s no scientific evidence that crystals have healing powers), but there are also pitfalls to mining positivity-inducing minerals (many crystal mines have been called out for poor labor practices and toxic run-off).
As a result, it’s easy to pass off healing crystal jewelry as an oxymoronic trend rife with snake oil salesmen and wasteful production practices, but in the end, every consumer item has a negative impact on our planet in some way or another. In fact, crystals are more likely to be mined ethically than other stones, and though many question their energetic properties, minerals have real meaning for some — regardless of whether or not you believe in them. This is not to say that everyone should stick to their birthstones when it comes to deciding which minerals to rock, but that the trend toward crystal jewelry is deeper than draping a string of minerals around your neck, at least if you want it to be.