If you see a large hunk of white gemstone in a jewellery design, the chances are that it’s rock crystal. This clear quartz has been winning favour with luxury jewellery designers of late due to its versatility and, should you believe in the power of stones, its healing properties.
The term rock crystal is applied to the purest examples of quartz; a material that has been used in art, jewellery and tableware for millennia. The Ancient Greeks called it κρύσταλλος (krustallos), a name deriving from a word that translates as ice or icy cold. Their legends told that the gods had cried for men on earth and when their tears fell they turned to ice and rock crystal is their eternally frozen tears.
Jyamiti rock crystal ring by Flora Bhattachary
Later uses for rock crystal were as faux diamonds. While technology has moved on and rock crystal would no longer pass for diamond, it can be used alongside them when a designer wishes to create scale without adding the sort of mark-up that would be required of a diamond of the same size. Lebanese jeweller Christina Debs shows this off beautifully with her Crystalline earrings that have large rock crystal drops faceted in the style of diamonds hanging from floral-inspired gold and diamond earrings.
Crystalline rock crystal earrings by Christina Debs
Other rock crystal jewellery designs use the optical properties of the quartz to create visual illusions. The stone is transparent but will magnify objects below it, leading brands like Pasquale Bruni and Carrera y Carrera to place gemstones beneath rock crystal to draw attention to extra details in the design.
Bon Ton crystal rock bracelet by Pasquale Bruni
Océanos rock crystal ring by Carrera y Carrera
Some jewellers, like Boucheron, will even place miniature jewellery inside rock crystal pendants, trapping their creations between layers of quartz. This can work well with lockets too, keeping moving parts safe and secure.
Peacock rock crystal medallion by Boucheron
One of the benefits of using rock crystal rather than glass is that it adds an extra element to the story of the jewellery. For those who believe in the healing power of crystals – US jewellery designer Temple St Clair included – rock crystal is believed to be one of the most powerful, with its champions proclaiming its ability to increase self-confidence among other benefits.
Owl rock crystal amulet by Temple St Clair
Whether for spiritual reasons, magnification purposes or the chance to supersize a design, this ancient gem is definitely enjoying a comeback.