The use of healing crystals and gemstones is a practice that spans many centuries, religions, and continents. Found in historical tomes and religious texts around the world, the history of crystals and healing is lengthy and complex.
Many beliefs held by certain religious groups or during specific historical eras were later incorporated into other spiritual systems. As you’ll see, many of these philosophies regarding healing stones and crystals still stand to this day.
The History of Crystals and Healing Across the World
The history of crystals and healing dates back several millennia and is thought to begin as early as 4000 BCE. Some of the earliest documentation of using crystals and gemstones as healing elements dates back to the ancient Sumerians in Mesopotamia.
Using softer crystals, such as gypsum and hematite, ancient Sumerians created cylinder seals that could be inscribed with images and phrases in cuneiform. These seals often featured carved depictions of one’s station in life, important events such as birth and marriage, and religious ceremonies.
Because gypsum and hematite were thought to have protective properties, these cylinders were often placed in temples and used during spiritual ceremonies.
Perhaps the most well-known use of healing crystals throughout history dates back to ancient Egyptian times. Ancient Egyptians held a complex polytheistic belief system. Their religion featured multiple deities, each in control of a unique worldly element.
Royalty or individuals in high social standing often adorned themselves with certain crystals and stones in honor of their revered gods and goddesses. Royal ladies, for instance, often donned jewelry featuring crushed lapis lazuli stones, which were associated with Isis, the goddess of the sky.
People still favor lapis lazuli jewelry to this day due to its powers of intuition and spiritual enlightenment. Stones and crystals were also placed in crowns and amulets in order to stimulate and open the third eye chakra.
Some ancient Egyptians were even buried with quartz crystals on their foreheads. This was meant to provide safe travel as they moved into the afterlife. Quartz was also used to balance the Ba and Ka energies within one’s soul.
The Ka is one’s individual life force, something everyone is believed to be born with. The Ba, on the other hand, represents unique aspects of one’s individual personality, such as their humor, kindness, or charm. Carrying quartz helped ancient Egyptians combine these two aspects of their soul and find balance within themselves.
Ancient Greek beliefs and mythology play a large role in our modern understanding of healing stones and crystals. The word “crystal” is actually derived from the Greek word krustallos, meaning "ice." The ancient Greeks believed that clear crystals such as quartz were eternal ice sent down from the heavens.
Additionally, amethyst stones got their name from an ancient Greek myth involving the goddess Diana and Dionysus, the god of wine. Due to its association with the oft-inebriated Dionysus, amethyst was used as a means of maintaining sobriety, and it’s still used in this way today.
The practical use of healing stones and crystals persisted well into the Middle Ages. During this time, which spanned from roughly 300 CE to 1500 CE, crystals and stones became more heavily researched.
Lapidaries, or tomes that explained the properties and uses of various stones and gems, began to emerge. The oldest remaining lapidary can be traced back to Theophrastus, an ancient Greek successor of Aristotle. Though his lapidary predated this era by several hundred years, Theophrastus’ tome was still widely referenced throughout the Middle Ages and well into the Renaissance era.
The lapidaries of this time spoke not only of the physical properties of certain stones—such as their reaction when exposed to fire—but also of their metaphysical and spiritual properties, including their abilities to ward off certain diseases and promote particular mental states.
The Middle Ages also brought about a rise in Christianity throughout Europe. Though this religious shift did discourage some ancient spiritual beliefs, the use of healing crystals can still be seen throughout the Bible. The priestly breastplate, for example, was said to include twelve jewels, each representing a different tribe of Israel.
First mentioned in the Book of Exodus and appearing in both the Christian and Jewish religions, this element was believed to determine God’s will. Though the exact name of each of these jewels has been subject to some contention over the years, some defining characteristics have helped historians determine what these stones may have been.
Most authors agree, for instance, that the first stone was a red color—most likely sard, a stone commonly found in other cultures during this time. The identities of the other stones, however, are not as definite. The bareketh stone is described only as shimmering, and although it’s often believed to have been emerald, it could’ve also been onyx.
As the world moved into the 20th century, so too did the use of healing crystals and gemstones. During the early 1900s, there was a slight decline in the use of healing gemstones.
However, as the century pressed on and the emergence of New Age culture sparked to life in the 1970s and 80s, healing gemstones saw a rebirth of their own, growing again in popularity as people drew on the many ancient traditions and beliefs.
During this time, crystal therapy emerged as a means of healing physical, mental, and spiritual ailments, and people continue to practice it widely to this day.
Healing crystals and gemstones have a long and storied past throughout history. Used for medical healing and metaphysical enlightenment, crystals have brought peace and protection to many people for hundreds of years. The use of healing crystals continues to this day, spanning cultures and religious beliefs.
At Cosmic Cuts, we offer healing gemstones, crystal cathedrals, and large whole geodes for sale. Many of the gemstones and crystals offered at Cosmic Cuts are the same as those used throughout history, and they can bring you peace just as they did for so many people so long ago.
* Crystals and stones should not be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Please read our full disclosure notice here.