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Healing Gemstones: Could Gems Have Special Powers?

The belief that gemstones have special healing powers goes back centuries and is associated especially with the Vedic astrological tradition in India. Practitioners from that tradition claim to offer ways to utilize the power stored in gems to maximize physical and psychological balance and well-being. Many people believe in the healing powers of gemstones and offer personal accounts of how their lives have been changed for the better by using the right gemstones.

Yellow Sapphire from GemSelect

For example, yellow sapphire is thought to attract wealth and bring prosperity to the home. It is said to stimulate the intellect and improve overall focus, enhancing wisdom. It is believed that those who face obstacles in the progress of their educational field, or suffer loss of property should wear yellow sapphire. Also, many believe that a girl who wears yellow sapphire will get married early. It is also alleged to draw impurities out of the body and stimulate the lymphatic system. Astrologists recommend yellow sapphire to treat problems with the liver, gallbladder, spleen and stomach.

The belief in the healing power of gemstones is historically important. Perhaps the gemstone industry even encourages the idea out of self-interest. In the modern world this belief in magical powers just seems quaint to most scientifically-minded people. The skeptic would say that the idea of gaining some therapeutic value from a gemstone held close to the skin is very doubtful, especially to the degree claimed by many practitioners of "gemstone healing".

As far as we know, no scientific studies have examined the claims of gemstone healing. It would seem that the scientific community does not take the idea seriously enough to expend the effort needed to test these claims. But is this level of skepticism justified?

Natural Blue Topaz

Consider the idea that a gemstone mineral held close to the skin is extremely unlikely to have any affect on the body. This has actually been a much discussed topic in scientific circles in recent months, having to do with the practice of treating clear topaz with irradiation to produce blue topaz. Rumors and misinformation in the trade led some sellers to stop selling blue topaz altogether due to potential radiation danger. The American Nuclear Regulatory Commission found it necessary to issue a factsheet on irradiated gemstones to clear up misunderstandings. They resassured the market that "The NRC has no reason to believe irradiated gemstones currently on the market are unsafe". This recent controversy certainly demonstrates that gemstones worn close to the body could have significant effects on our well-being.

It is not only irradiated minerals that been discovered to have special properties. Science has discovered some marvelous properties of crystals that have led to important practical applications. For example, the piezoelectric properties of quartz were first discovered by Jacques and Pierre Curie in 1880. Piezoelectricity is the ability of some materials to generate electricity or electrical polarity in response to applied mechanical stress or voltage. This discovery eventually led to the development of quartz oscillators that were used to build highly accurate quartz clocks. Until the adoption of atomic clocks in the 1960s, these were the most accurate timekeeping devices in the world. With the introduction of cheap semiconductor digital logic, quartz clocks have become ubiquitous in consumer devices.

Natural Blue Sapphire

Another gemstone mineral with unique electrical properties is tourmaline. Tourmaline has both pyroelectric (electric charge generated by a change in temperature) and piezoelectric properties. Tourmaline has been used in pressure-sensitive gauges, beginning with submarine applications during the Second World War. It has also been discovered that tourmaline immersed in water has certain ion generating properties, and a number of patents have been filed for cosmetic and cleansing applications using tourmaline. The latest invention is the tourmaline hairdryer which is said to dry hair more quickly with less damage.

In fact many gemstone materials have found industrial applications due to their special properties. Kyanite has been widely used in the manufacture of spark plugs, heating elements and high voltage electrical insulators, due to its high melting point and low thermal expansion. Fluorite has been used in place of glass in some high performance telescopes and camera lenses. Sapphire crystals doped with titanium ions are used to produce tunable lasers that can produce ultrashort pulses.

New applications for gemstone materials continue to be found. This suggests that human understanding of the potential of these materials is still fragmentary. Certainly there is already good reason to think that many gemstones are rather special. But any claims for special healing powers need to be evaluated, like any scientific claim, by careful testing through controlled experiments.

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