Crystal Persuasion:A lucrative market in crystals is cashing in on consumer fear

There are over 100 crystal shops in and around Los Angeles, many of which sell black tourmaline, a crystal that purportedly wards radiation from cell phones, cell towers and other sources that people are exposed to every day, according to Russell Bowman, owner of Thunderbolt Spiritual Books in Santa Monica.

Bowman’s shop carries a wide range of crystals and does a brisk business, selling 50 to 100 stones each day. Black tourmaline is by far the most popular.

“I probably sell one a day, maybe as many as six,” Bowman said. “It’s a natural part of the earth. "What people don’t realize is everything we have from our cellphones to our cars to everything is made out of what we get in the earth.”

A tourmaline crystal at Thunderbolt can be bought for around $60 depending on its size. Bowman said he knows there isn’t any scientific evidence to back up the belief that crystals ward off radiation, and, for the most part, his customers do, too. Instead, he said, for many people simply believing that it works is enough.

Susanna Larriva, a customer at Thunderbolt, said she doesn't believe in crystals and would not purchase one. Instead, she visited the store to purchase a water bottle.

“I think it’s like a little bit kind of like the placebo effect,” Larriva said. “I’ve been gifted crystals and I feel like sometimes I’m like ‘oh wow, maybe this did work’ but I didn’t come to the store because I necessarily believe that like I need the crystals in my life.”

To see what your phone might be doing to you, click here

Studies have raised some concerns about radiation from technology such as cell phones, but of the dozens of conducted, most conclude by saying the tests are inconclusive. Over time, and with additional research, scientists say that concerns over exposure to elevated radiation levels could be substantiated--if you are reading this on an electronic device, your body is being exposed to one quintillion times more electromagnetic radiation today compared to a decade ago.

Whatever the concerns about radiation exposure, there is universal agreement that, scientifically speaking, using crystals to fend it off is useless—and potentially expensive.

Olle Johansson, former head of the Experimental Dermatology Unit, Department of Neuroscience, at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden and world-leading authority in the field of EMF radiation and health effects, said the only benefit from crystals is to the seller.

Buying crystals as protection from radiation will “rip you off your money,” he said.

“When I was at the Karolinska Institute and the Royal Institute of Technology, we tested a huge number of stickers you would put on your phone of crystals,” Johansson said. “We had cardboard moving boxes, many of them filled with gadgets like that. No one ever proved to do what they claimed to do. They just don’t work.”

The gap between reality and widely shared misinformation is all too familiar, with social media platforms perpetuating unsubstantiated claims. In this case, there is a widespread of misinformation about crystals and their power to ward off radiation; a claim that has been tested and debunked by researchers around the world.

Claims on the internet in general and social media in particular ignore these facts, and the crystal market is booming.

The Instagram account @zennedout, for example, has more than 57,000 followers and promotes spiritual guidance, mood rings that are powered by the energy of the moon, and guides on how to protect yourself from negative energy. People comment with’ thank you,’ ‘amazing,’ ‘needed this,’ etc. Recently, the #blacktourmaline hashtag linked to 132,350 posts on hundreds of Instagram pages hawking the crystal.

Liz Oakes, the founder of an online crystal-selling site called Healing Crystals For You , based in Australia, said she believes in the healing power of crystals. Interviews with Oakes for this story were conducted via direct messaging on Facebook because she said she is unable to use her phone as a result of her electromagnetic hypersensitivity.

This is a term used to categorize the symptoms that come as a result from confrontation with electronic devices or radio towers. Symptoms may include dizziness, waking up tired, sensitivity to light and noise, memory loss, etc.

“Once I took steps to change my home, and completely stopped using mobile devices and wi-fi, my health got somewhat better,” Oakes wrote.

The crystals Oakes wears every day to protect herself from radiation includes a shungite bracelet, bead necklace, and pendant.

“There are quite a few stones that are potent to help EMF’s,” she said. “I often wear my Aegirine pendant as well as Amazonite. I have lots and lots of Black tourmaline including big chunk six-inch cube that sits on the bedside. Great to give me a good night's sleep. I actually have lots of other stones in the bedroom particularly a few big rose quartz chunks.”

Crystal Collection

The following are the different crystals mentioned in this article, including black tourmaline, the crytals used to protect against EMF radiation.

Electric and magnetic fields

Electric and magnetic fields are invisible areas of energy (also called radiation) that are produced by electricity, which is the movement of electrons, or current, through a wire, according to the National Cancer Institute.

There are higher-frequency EMFs and low to mid frequency EMFs. High includes x-rays and gamma rays, which can arise from the decay of an atomic nuclei. Low to mid frequency EMFs includes static fields such as power lines and appliances, radio waves, microwaves, infrared radiation, and visible light.

Non-ionizing radiation consists of a whole spectrum of a lower part of the electromagnetic spectrum. At the top end would be x-rays and gamma rays, which are ionizing. Below that we are microwaves and all the way down to extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields are what one gets from exposure to powerlines.

(The infographic above shows the different electromagnetic fields that are emitted from different devices)

John Bucher, senior scientist and former scientific director and associate director of the National Toxicology Program was part of the 10-year, multi-million-dollar experiment on the question of whether cell phones cause cancer.

Bucher said the rats were exposed over the course of 18 hours a day at 10-minute on and 10-minute off exposures so that the exposures were a little over nine hours total every day. There were three different exposure levels, all of which were below the maximum that’s permitted in a cell phone or cell phone exposures.After two years of exposure, in male rats we found increases in tumors of the heart and the brain of a type that would traditionally be seen in some of the early human studies with cellphone radiation, which came out of Scandinavia where they began using cellphones earlier than we did,” Bucher said.

The male rats demonstrate clear DNA damage, as well as the production of heart tumors. But critics of the study contend that the findings are rat-specific and irrelevant for humans.

Bucher is now researching the possibility that repair systems for DNA damage are inhibited through radiation exposure. He said they already have some evidence that suggests proof.

A thirty-minute phone call on a smart phone held directly to the ear can heat the brain temperature by 4.5°C (40.1°F), according to a 2018 study. This has the potential to damage brain tissue, thus changing the DNA structure, which may result in long-term negative health effects.

As a result, Johansson said a phone should be kept somewhere between five and 10 kilometers (3.1 to 6.2 miles) away from the body to be considered at a “safe” distance.

“But in my world, coming from science… you cannot play around with the words like ‘safer’. They have no meaning and therefore it’s very strange, or maybe not, that the radiation protection authorities seem to protect themselves as well as the radiation much more than the citizens,” Johansson said.

The newest concern researchers have, are 5G networks, which is the upgraded version of 4G wireless technology expected to fully launch in 2020. The main concern comes from the prediction of an increase in radiation that will be spread around.

Regardless, already more than 20 states have introduced mobile 5G and small cell-related legislation that forces the authority of local governments over the deployment of wireless small cell equipment in public right-of-way. Each state has its own detailed legislation, but the general laws include “streamlined applications to access public rights of way,” “caps on costs and fees,” and “streamlined timelines for the consideration and processing of cell siting applications.”

U.S MAP: The red states ALLOW the deployment of the new 5G cells. The yellow states recently introduced Small Cell Bill.

They take into consideration the unique circumstances of their state and local environment, but baseline principles can be established and are consistent with wireless industry standards, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

John Bucher, senior scientist and former scientific director and associate director of the National Toxicology Program said the movement to 5G happened so fast, many researchers weren’t able to keep up with the actual effects of 3G and 4G.

“We’re well into 4G and we’re on the cusp of 5G and all of these are using slightly different technologies, different frequencies... none of that is well studied,” Bucher said.

Professor Olle Johansson

But the 5G market isn’t the only one that results in millions of dollars being spent on so-called alternative therapies like crystals.

The hub of the crystal market in the US is located in Tucson, Arizona. Each year, since 1946, the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show brings together around thousands of minors and sellers around the world come together to present and sell/purchase a variety of mineral, fossil, jewelry, lapidary crafts and many more.

In 2014, the event held 40 different shows throughout the metro area and generated an estimated $120 million in direct spending, according to a BizTucson article. That’s $20 million more from the 2007 event and $76 million from the year 2000.

Bowman, the owner of the Santa Monica crystal shop, maintains that his belief in the protective power of crystals stems from their elemental nature. Ariel Serene, a student at Santa Monica College and customer at Bowman’s Thunderbolt Spiritual Books store “100 percent” agreed.

“Everything is energy,” Serene said.

"I feel like each crystal - the shape, size, color, all of that texture – really does have its own energy - It’s Earth.”


Serene said the crystal market in Los Angeles can often be too commercial.

“The way I shop for crystals is if I feel called to one, I know I need it. Even when I came in, I can feel drawn to certain colors or shapes and then it’s always interesting because when I read the passage, it’s what I need right now,” she said. “I know somewhere like this, for example, I can feel the energy and the space and the intention behind it whereas if you find crystals at a mall, you know, it could just be money-making.”

On this day, she felt drawn to Labradorite, a crystal known to help against fear, something she said she is currently feeling due to her anxiety about finals coming up.

For her, the price isn’t an issue.

“I definitely am willing to spend the price if I feel called to a certain crystal,” she said. I think when you shop for crystals that like, price doesn’t really matter because you know, it’s energy.”