Aruj Shah, the proprietor of a small store in Manhattan’s Union Square crammed with crystals, aromatherapy oils, and singing bowls for sound meditation, wrapped my small selection of crystals carefully in white tissue while she detailed the virtues of every stone. “You want to hold this one in your hand so that you feel nurtured. Like a hug,” says Shah, picking up a smooth, pinkish rock. With the certainty of a doctor prescribing antibiotics for a chest infection, she picked up a different shiny mass—agate—and recommended I carry it with me every day to “open up my communication.”
While everything Shah told me sounds just lovely, I’ve always believed myself to be way too practical to buy into this kind of stuff. To me, agate is a translucent variety of microcrystalline quartz. It’s a semi-precious stone formed in the cavities of igneous rocks, period. I’ve never really thought about stones—even those of the semi-precious variety—having life-enhancing properties. But you know who does? Kylie Jenner, Miranda Kerr, Jaden Smith, and a league of other celebrities and non-famous people across the world who are carrying shiny rocks in their bags, meditating with them each morning, and basically swearing by the virtues of crystal therapy.
Proponents like Jenner and company believe crystal healing is a legitimate type of therapy centered around vibrations. Azalea Lee, an LA-based crystal healing facilitator, told me that the practice is an “ancient metaphysical art” that can help bring balance and prosperity to your life through vibrations. She did some explaining that I’m not even going to attempt to paraphrase: “The vibratory harmonics of individual crystals and stones are used to help calibrate the vibrations in an individuals psychic aura, much like a tuning fork can help one find the correct pitch.” Basically, the vibrations of crystals are supposed to help with your own out-of-whack vibes stuck in your “auric field.”
Lee also said her clients turn to her—and her rocks—for a range of reasons like anxiety, bad breakups, or to try and find a deeper purpose in their lives. “The healing is different for everyone and depends on what they most need to shift in their energies,” says Lee.
Intrigued, but with my skepticism fully intact, I spoke with both Lee and Shah to find out exactly how carrying different crystals will make your life better. For the full effect, you’re supposed to carry one with you, or meditate while holding it or sitting the stone on the floor in front of you. Or, if you, like me, just enjoy the way a shiny quartz looks on your bookshelf and aren’t too worried about the good vibes, you could keep it there, too.
This stone I like a lot—it’s the one Shah was talking about when she said I should carry a crystal that will “help me open up.” It’s the communication stone and is also supposed to help connect you with nature. Personally, I just think it’s quite cool to look at.
When a fellow editor casually pulled a phallic-shaped rose quartz crystal out of her bag on a recent press trip, I nearly spit out my wine laughing. “It’s for love,” she told me while waving her pink talisman about, which did not help.
Apparently rose quartz is, indeed, for love, which Lee told me is the highest vibration of the universe. When in its geode form (the cavity-style of crystal shown above in the agate photo), the stone combines the properties of rose quartz (unconditional love) with those of the geode, which are all about “looking within.” The end result is a crystal that, in the words of Justin Bieber, will help you love yourself: “Rose quartz geodes want you to look within yourself and understand the ways you have not loved yourself and the many, many ways you can be kind to yourself,” says Lee.
This almost-clear green stone is called prehnite, and it “bridges the energies between the navel and solar plexus chakras.” For those of you who have not yet completed a 101 in chakra healing, that sentence means that you will gain better understanding of how the emotions play a role manifesting your dreams.
“Prehnite is also a wonderful stone for those dealing with low self-esteem and self-worth,” says Lee, explaining that it can be helpful for people recovering from addictions to gain encouragement in believing in themselves.
There seems to be some kind of very convenient theme between the color pink and properties of love in crystal therapy, so I wasn’t surprised to learn manganoan calcite radiates vibrations of nurturing and love, allegedly.
According to Lee, manganoan calcite is helpful if you’re finding it difficult allowing others to love you. “Perhaps one is good at giving love but not so good at allowing someone to love you back, leading to unbalance in circulating love between one another,” says Lee. This makes the crystal (allegedly) good for mothers, those who are imbalanced relationships, and singles who want to avoid imbalanced relationships.
This is the stone of calm, trust, and acceptance and is supposed to bring a relaxing, balancing and calming energy to your life. “Lepidolite, with its lithium content, helps balance the mind and is a ‘chill pill’ in energetic mineral form,” Lee told me. “This is the stone I use often in crystal healing for people who have a hard time making decisions because of the unhelpful anxiety questions like ‘what if’ create.”
Can’t decide on a stone? Go for hematite, the biggest crowd-pleaser in the crystal family. Also known as root chakra stone, Lee says that hematite is the No. 1 stone she recommends, and that it’s useful for everyone.
“Hematite helps ground one’s energies and keep them connected to the supportive energies of Mother Earth; especially useful living in our modern world where we spend so much time in our heads and very little time actually touching the ground,” says Lee.
If you’re trying to make up your mind about a tough question, this could help—I mean, as much as a colored stone can help with that kind of thing. Apparently, green flourite creates with mental order and clarity and is said to help with decision-making. And really, it can’t hurt to try.
I’d be lying if I told you I wanted to include amethyst for any reason other than the fact it’s so damn pretty. In saying that, it does serve a purpose in crystal therapy to promote physical and emotional healing, and spiritual growth.
Green calcite is for money and prosperity, but can help with all kinds of success in areas like your career, business, and fertility.
PSA: You should not put too many of these in your hand at the same time! They have a high frequency, and if you’re super sensitive, it may make you feel unbalanced. I carried several at once and felt a normal amount of balance, but this is what the crystal experts say, so consider yourself warned.
This quartz is characterized by the complex interior that has many windows, chambers, and pockets of air. Light reflects through all of these little windows, making the crystal literally sparkle in your hand. They’re said to support the evolution of your spirit, helping you vibrate at a higher level, and restore balance and energy flow.
Another crowd-pleaser, Lee recommends black tourmaline to many of her clients to help keep them ward off bad vibes and negative energy. The thinking here is that the crystal gains a charge through squeezing or temperature change, developing electromagnetic poles in the process. This ability to polarize is significant to crystal healing as this process allows the energy to shift. Essentially that means bad energy is transformed into neutral energy and can be shifted to positive energy.
“Black tourmaline is exceptional in dealing with recycling negative vibes directed toward you from other people, or even yourself and making the negative energy into something positive into your life,” says Lee, prompting me to consider carrying one every time I use the subway.
To buy some crystals for your own stash, check out Namaste Bookshop, who supplied all the stones for this story.
A version of this article was originally published in May 2016.