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Growing Crystals As A Hobby

Have you ever wandered into a store and found some beautiful crystals that they had on display? Crystals come in all shapes, colors, and sizes and – amazingly enough – are naturally occurring. The process of growing crystals can take many years in nature, but with a little know-how and a small amount of patience, you can speed the process up by growing your own crystals. Yes, you heard right, it is possible to grow your own beautiful crystals in a relatively short amount of time.

In modern times, crystals are all around us: from LCD video displays to jewelry to silicon chips used in computers. Without crystals, our modern, electronic age would not exist at all. This makes crystal growing a hobby that is not only fun, but also useful and practical.

History Of Growing Crystals

Humans have known how to grow crystals since ancient times. Anthropologists have discovered evidence that prehistoric man made use of salt that had recrystallized from the evaporation of seawater. During Roman times, several historians make reference to various salts and minerals that had been derived from crystallization to make medicines and other useful substances like the cement used for the construction of Rome’s great monuments.

Growing CrystalsDuring the Middle Ages, knowledge about growing crystals was widespread across Europe and throughout the Middle East. Arabian traders and scientists as well as European alchemists have been well documented to have vast knowledge about the subject of growing crystals.

It was not until the 17th century that the term “crystal,” from the Greek word “crystallos,” meaning “ice” was first used. Prior to the 17th century, crystals were referred to as condensations and coagulations of various substances. The famous astronomer Kepler became interested in crystals after a snowflake landed on his sleeve.

It was not until the invention of the microscope when real work in modern crystal growing theory began. Robert Hooke and Robert Boyle pioneered the way, forming the basic ideas and principles behind crystallography. Later in the 19th century, French scientist Louis Pasteur made advances in microscope technology and crystallography by determining that crystals had polarizing (light filtering) properties.

In the early 20th century, the study of growing crystals was in its golden age. One of the most important discoveries about crystals came about through the field of X-ray crystallography, which is a method of determining the crystal structure of a substance using x-rays. This technique has been used to decode the structure of thousands of important chemicals and materials such as DNA.

Getting Started With Growing Crystals

Various minerals and chemicals can be used to grow crystals, but for people getting started with growing crystals, Epsom salts or regular table salt are the minerals of choice.

Supplies you’ll need include:

  • Water
  • Epsom or table salt (or other minerals)
  • Glass container
  • Spoon
  • String
  • Paper Clip
  • Heat source

Growing Crystals – Key Terms

  • Crystal: A substance whose atoms are arranged in an orderly fashion
  • Solution: A mixture of two or more substances that is homogeneous
  • Solute: The substance that is dissolved in a solution
  • Solvent: The material that dissolves another substance (the solute)
  • Solubility: The maximum amount of solute that will dissolve at a particular temperature
  • Saturation: The point at which the solution’s concentration is the same as its solubility
  • Supersaturation: The point at which a solution has a higher concentration than its saturation point at the same temperature
  • Seed Crystal: A small crystal in a supersaturated solution that can grow into a larger crystal
  • Habit: The shape of a crystal

The cost of growing crystals is relatively inexpensive and only costs as much as the minerals and chemicals that you want to use for your solution. Most common crystals can be made for a few dollars in supplies, while more exotic crystals may cost more. Overall, crystal growing is an inexpensive hobby.

Once you have learned the basic principles of growing crystals, you can begin your new hobby immediately. Purchasing chemicals and minerals to use for your solutes may take a while, but you can usually find them in pharmacies and chemical supply stores.

The Steps For Growing Crystals

Step One

Make a Solution. This is the first step in crystal growing. A solution is a mixture of two or more substances in which one substance dissolves into another. When you are making crystals at home, you will need to dissolve a mineral of your choice into a certain volume of water (the solvent) till it reaches the saturation point, the point at which no more of the mineral (the solute) can be dissolved into the water.

The easiest way to know when the solution has reached the saturation point is when the mineral no longer dissolves into the water. You can also supersaturate your solution by heating it gently, but be careful about what chemicals you heat since some can release toxic fumes when exposed to a flame.

Step Two

Crystallize. Crystallization is the process in which the dissolved minerals come out of solution when evaporation occurs and deposit into the solvent. You can facilitate crystallization in two ways. First, you can use a rough piece of material like a piece of charcoal to enhance crystallization. To do this, place a piece of charcoal into a dish and soak it with your solution. The water will slowly evaporate, leaving you with crystals that have grown over the piece of charcoal.

The second way to start crystallization is to use a seed crystal. To do this, place your solution into a clean, glass container to which you have affixed a string that dangles in the middle of the solution. A seed crystal will form on the string, which will grow into a large crystal.

Step Three

Wait. Crystal growing is a slow process. You will have to wait for the water to evaporate slowly over time to see the fruits of your labor. Once the crystal has grown to the size that you like, remove it from the solution and allow it to dry completely. In order to store your crystal, keep it away from moisture, which can cause it to dissolve again.

Step Four

Document. One of the best ways to enjoy your effort of growing crystals is to document your results. Find new ways to take photos and label your collection. Use jars, magnifying glasses, tape and microscopes to further investigate the uniqueness of your crystal artwork.

Tips and Tricks

The following tips and tricks can help you get the most out of your hobby of growing crystals…

  • Make sure everything is clean in the glass jar!
  • Do not supersaturate your solutions.
  • Make sure your chemicals and solvents are pure. Use purified water and good quality chemicals.
  • Have patience! Naturally occurring crystals take many years to form. You can afford to wait a few weeks for your water to evaporate.

Ways To Grow The Hobby

Once you have gotten your feet wet, you’ll undoubtedly want to start growing bigger and better crystals. Here are some tips to help you expand your hobby of growing crystals…

  • Purchase different minerals and use them in larger quantities in larger volumes of water. You can also experiment with growing your crystals in different temperature conditions and at different saturation levels to see what produces the best crystals for you.
  • Check out your local library or the Internet for hints and tips about crystals and geology.
  • Share your collection with others! Maybe you can start a crystal club.
  • If you’re really good at growing crystals, try your hand at making crystal jewelry and even selling your products at local fairs and farmer’s markets.

Related YouTube Videos

Check out the following videos to learn even more about starting this hobby.