(Not rocks, not gemstones, just the pointy bits…)
Where did they all come from?
It all happened a long long time ago. Before, during and after the dinosaurs roamed the earth, this planet was buzzing with chaotic activity.
Meteorites smashed into the earth, volcanos spewed lava, tectonic plates shifted dramatically and whole continents drifted apart.
We see lots of evidence of a changing earth all around us, the Grand Canyon, Iguazu Falls, The Naica Caves, the Sahara Desert and the Great Barrier Reef.
What we don’t see is what happened beneath the earth’s crust.Lava flow created bubbles, tectonic plate shifts left vugs and receding oceans left an abundant marine life abandoned.
Now, we know the earth is rich with ore and minerals and we can accept that 59% of the earth is made up of silica, mostly in the form of rocks and beach sand.
So, with lots of cavities full of silica left completely undisturbed for a few million years, the silica grew into spectacular crystals. Add copper and you have Dioptase or Malachite, add iron ore and you have pyrite or hematite. Some crystals are square, some are triangular and some are even round.
Different crystals grew in different regions depending on the available minerals.
Fast forward to today. The crystals that formed millions of years ago are now mined, always underground and often surrounded by solid basalt or another hard rock. They typically are not found in caves.
The value of crystals is often determined by availability, rarity and aesthetic value.
So, how do we buy them?
There is no international standard for buying and selling crystals. The most common way is through trade shows. These are hosted by various countries all over the world. The biggest is in Tucson, Arizona. Here, twice a year thousands of exhibitors from all over the world congregate to sell their wares. Some are massive companies that buy in bulk from many suppliers, some are the suppliers that buy from the mines, and some are miners themselves. René has been attending the Tucson Gem Show since the early 80’s. Over the years, we have built relationships with reputable suppliers all over the world and have been direct to many mines to see how these crystals are extracted from the earth.
You have to appreciate the work that goes into mining crystals; this is not like an open cut copper mine or gold mine. Many small mines are operational on farm land, where a farmer leases a portion of his land to a small mining operation who sells their goods to a supplier. We buy from this supplier. But bear in mind that stocks are not always available. Sometimes certain crystals simply run out and remember that these were created millions of years ago, more are not being made. Sometimes all the supply of one type of crystal is bought up in one go by a large company. They can then control the price.
Do crystals continue to grow? No, once the available silica and minerals have crystallised, the process is complete.
Do crystals grow today? Not the stone variety that we are talking about. However, common elements crystallise constantly. A snowflake is a crystal; a grain of sugar is a crystal, even rust has a crystalline structure.
Which crystals are mined in Australia? Due to the labour intensity and the relatively low cost of crystals, there are very few commercial crystal mines in Australia. Having said that, some crystals do occur in Australia, for example, amethyst occurs in Australia, it is often found in conjunction to copper mines, but the amethyst is destroyed in the process of copper mining.
Will the crystals run out? Eventually, yes. But new sources are found every day and new techniques of mining make it easier and environmentally safer to extract them. And if you consider that a crystal lasts forever, everything we take out of the ground remains on earth.