What is the difference between a crystal and a gemstone?

What is the difference between a crystal and a gemstone?

Feb 15th 2014

In the world of alternative healing, there are two words that are commonly used and have been tossed about interchangeably – gemstones and crystals. Though one may use people use these terms with regard to healing, the two are very different. Just to understand how –

A gemstone by definition is called a ‘gemstone’ because it is

a) Beautiful
b) Rare
c) Durable

It has to have these three attributes to qualify and be categorized as a gemstone. A gemstone is cut, faceted and polished to be set in jewelry or to decorate or accentuate the luxury quotient of any product. For instance, the multitude of gemstones used in this Bvlgari watch not just justify its notional value but actually add real value to it aside of making it a striking piece.

However, quite differently, the word crystal refers to a pure solid substance that has an orderly repeating arrangement of atoms and molecules in the three spatial dimensions.

A crystal is not a gemstone. Take for instance, rock salt or common sugar crystals. While they are both crystals, they are not by the farthest stretch of the imagination close to being gemstones! Neither are they rare nor are they durable. They are simply crystals with orderly pattern of constituent atoms and molecules.

Crystals like rose quartz, amethyst, citrine, agate, tiger eye etc. are used by mystics for energy healing. Stronger, pure gemstones are also used in gem therapy by individuals for achievement of personal well-being as well as material and spiritual objectives in life.

Some ‘crystalline’ minerals, viz. Rubies, sapphires etc. that are durable as well as rare along with being beautiful may be termed as gemstones. However, not all gemstones are crystals either. Gemstones of organic origin – Amber, Jet, Coral, Turquoise, Pearl – are not crystals at all. Neither are some gemstones like Lapiz Lazuli or Sunstone which are certain types of rocks!

Gemstones are more precious and expensive than crystals.

Interestingly, the word crystal was derived from the Geek word ‘kyrstallos’, ascribed by the ancients to clear quartz. They thought that clear quartz was ice that had been eternally frozen off by the Gods!

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