For a variety of reasons, many crystals may need special treatment when in your care. It is good to be informed about these, so you don’t damage any of your precious tools, and also so they don’t damage you.
Some crystals are water soluble, and should not be immersed in water or other liquids, others are soft and easily damaged, or affected by sunlight.
There are also a number of crystals and minerals that are potentially toxic. Although the chance of poisoning yourself through handling of the crystals, or even using them to prepare a gem elixir or crystal water, is very slight, it is worthwhile to take note of them and to use particular care. When creating a gem elixir, if in doubt, use the secondary method of preparation (see Gem Elixirs and Crystal Waters).
Sensitive to exposure to acid – an unlikely occurrence in crystal healing, but worth taking note of.
Amethyst is photosensitive, and the colour will fade if left in bright sunlight. Therefore, amethyst should be kept out of the sun, unless for short periods when cleansing or preparing a crystal water or gem elixir.
Calcite can be affected by water, so it is best not to immerse it when cleaning or cleansing. Rough calcite will often have a smooth, waxy texture, indicating it has been resined. This can be immersed without harm, and is often used in crystal waters. Some varieties, particularly honey calcite, will fade when exposed to sunlight over a period of time. Calcite is also soft and easily scratched.
Fluorite is very soft (hardness 4), and therefore scratches easily and eventually becomes dull in appearance. When carrying, it is best kept separate from other stones. It is photosensitive, and the colour will fade when left in sunlight. Fluorite also has very strong cleavage planes, which will fracture easily when struck, so care when handling is recommended.
Gypsum: Selenite, Satin Spar, Fishtale, etc.
All gypsums are hydrous (containing water). They will absorb water and are water soluble, especially satin spar. If immersed in water, crystals will initially go dull. If left in for a period of time, they will eventually disintegrate. Do not cleanse under running water, and clean either by dusting, hoovering on the lowest setting, or wiping with a slightly damp, very rung-out sponge or cloth. Although not toxic, use the secondary method when preparing a gem elixir or crystal water, in order to protect the crystal.
Halite is a salt crystal, and therefore extremely water-soluble. Do not cleanse under running water, and clean either by dusting, brushing, or hoovering on the lowest setting. It can even disintegrate if left in damp conditions, such as in a cellar.
Sensitive to pressure – unlikely in crystal healing, but you never know.
Malachite is very soft (hardness 31/2 – 4), and therefore scratches easily and becomes dull in appearance. When carrying, it is best kept separate from other stones. It is also sensitive to heat, acid, ammonia and hot water. In addition, malachite is potentially toxic. If used in crystal waters or gem elixirs, it is unlikely to be poisonous, but the secondary method of preparation is strongly recommended, and if you ever happen to carve or drill it, do not inhale the dust particles.
It was long believed the play of light in precious opal was caused by included water, and that opals went dull when the water evaporated. The dullness was temporarily remedied by saturating the gemstone with water, oil, or epoxy resin. We now know that this play of light is caused by microscopic spheres of the mineral crystobalite included in a silica gel within the gemstone, but the above corrections still work on a temporary basis.
Some rose quartz is photosensitive, and will fade in colour if left in bright sunlight. As it is difficult to know which rose quartz will be affected, it is probably best to keep all rose quartz out of the sun, unless for short periods when cleansing or preparing a crystal water or gem elixir.
Turquoise is soft and very porous. It will react adversely to oil, light, perspiration, cosmetics and household detergents. Always remove turquoise rings before washing hands or doing washing up, and cleanse turquoise using a method other than running water.
Keep out of direct sunlight. Commonly effected are: Amethyst, Fluorite, Rose Quartz, and some Calcites
Water Soluble or Affected by Water
Do not immerse in water. Commonly effected are: Gypsum, Halite, Pyrite, Optical Calcite
Consult your Moh’s Hardness Scale. Any mineral below the hardness of 5 is easily scratched by quartz. Commonly effected are: Celestite, Fluorite, Malachite, and Chrysocolla
Establishing mineral toxicity is complicated, and requires a good understanding of chemistry. However, most poisonous minerals will not be harmful when handled, and probably not even when used in a gem elixir, as so little of the substance actually enters either the skin or the water. Ingestion over a period of time, or by large quantity, is usually required before there are harmful consequences. However, it is advisable to avoid direct contact with potentially toxic minerals, especially when using them in a gem elixir. This is particularly true when creating elixirs for clients. Use the secondary method of preparation: place the crystal in a separate glass, and place that inside the bowl or jug of water, without the water coming into direct contact with the contents of the glass, then proceed as normal. A more detailed description can be found in the Crystal Waters and Gem Elixirs section. If unsure of toxicity, consult the chemical formula. Most mineral guides will give the chemical formula with the information on the mineral. As a general rule, avoid carbonates, halides and sulfides, as these are the most chemically reactive minerals, and therefore the most soluble.
Potential toxicity varies according to the solubility of a mineral, which will effect how readily it can be absorbed into the human body. Solubility is subtle, and a minor variation in chemical formula can mean the difference between solubility and non-solubility. For example, Baryite (BaSO4 – Barium Silicate) is so insoluble that it can be ground up and ingested in fairly large quantities with no ill effect, and is used in this way for body imaging (barium meal), while Witherite (BaCO3 – Barium Carbonate) is easily soluble in HCl (hydrogen chloride, the main constituent of stomach acid), so that ingesting even a small amount can be fatal. Some minerals, such as Villiaumite (NaF – sodium fluoride) are potentially toxic, as it is a metal fluoride (fluorides added to drinking water are organic). It can react with moisture on the hands and be absorbed through the skin. Some collectors will not handle it without gloves, although I have handled it many times without knowing how toxic it could be, and even tasted it once (to see if the sodium was discernable – it was), with no apparent ill effects. I will be more careful in future, in case its toxicity is cumulative.
Below is a rough guide to some potentially toxic minerals, as well as related minerals that are safe:
- Barium (Ba)-containing minerals that are easily soluble, such as witherite (as stated above, baryte is not soluble, and therefore safe)
- Beryllium (Be) is toxic, although the beryl species are not soluble, and therefore there is no danger of absorbing beryllium through aquamarine, emerald or morganite
- Copper (Cu)-containing minerals that are easily soluble, such as malachite and azurite (dioptase, chrysocolla and other copper silicates are safe)
- Fluoride (F)-containing minerals, such as villiaumite (fluorite is not easily soluble, and therefore safe)
- Lead (Pb)-containing minerals such as Cerussite, Wulfenite, Crocoite, Anglesite and Vanadinite
- Mercury (Hg) -containing minerals such as Cinnabar
- Arsenic (As)-containing minerals such as Orpiment, Realgar, and Arsenopyrite
- Antimony (Sb)-containing minerals such as Stibnite
- Sulphur (S)
Silicates are safe, so you may use any member of the quartz species without concern, giving you a wide range of crystals to work with when creating elixirs.