By Ana Chauhan, Chief Editor, The Pawprint
Fueled by celebrity endorsements and various advertisements on social media, the demand for crystals has surged recently. They have been increasing in popularity especially on websites such as Etsy.
Though crystals first became popular in the ’70s, the target audience for these gems is in their 20s and 30s. Crystal Matrix shop owner, Patricia Bankins, said that her demographic has recently transformed from, “middle-aged women”, to now, “primarily only young people.
Millennials aren’t typically known for being religious, with only 4 out of 10 saying they believe in religion. However, spiritual practices such as crystal healing are becoming increasingly popular amongst them.
According to folklore, the Ancient Egyptians are believed to have used lapis lazuli, turquoise, topaz, and quartz as jewelry, protective amulets, and decoration.
New Ageism is credited for the rise in the popularity of spiritual practices. Though New Ageism is typically associated with the George Bush and Ronald Reagan era of America, it encompassed all non-Western spiritual practices by questioning consumerism, materialism, and/or industrial technologies. It has strayed from the political movement it was intended to be and is now a “clever marketing strategy”, said Carl Raschke, a professor of religious studies at the University of Denver. Astrology, paganism, meditation, and yoga all became iconic features of the movement.
As New Ageism grew, crystals surged in popularity. In a New York Times article from 1986, ‘New Zeal for Gemstones’, they reported that the price of a volume of quartz valued at $1 had increased to $10-$12. “It’s hot stuff”, said the article.
By the ’90s, those seeking out crystals were likely to find them atop velvet tablecloths in patchouli-drenched shops. But today, the commercial prospects for gems are again mainstream, if a bit pricey. Labradorite gemstone towers are Etsy bestsellers, as are quartz earrings; Allure, Nylon, and Vogue have all touted the metaphysical merits of beauty products that include $58 frequency-raising mists infused with moonstone, rose quartz, and amethyst, $44 tourmaline-charged hydrating cremes, and emerald-gemstone face oils just shy of $90, which are designed to stimulate the heart chakra (while conveniently fighting acne). Members of younger generations are still charging their quartz in the light of the full moon — but many are also turning to the stones to help make their skin look flawless.
Today, shopping has become its spiritual practice, according to Matthew Hedstrom, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia. As younger generations increasingly identify with multiple faiths, “Religion becomes another one of those things you consume because you find it enjoyable or useful in some way, rather than feeling like religion is something you help make,” Hedstrom says. He notes that, in an organized religious community, “Everybody has to show up every week.”
In a 2014 study of New Age retail stores in The Service Industries Journal, two researchers from the University of Stirling wrote that buyers of New Age goods shop in what they called a “spiritual supermarket” — they handpick spiritual and religious elements to form their own beliefs, rather than subscribe to a single faith. Today’s market-driven economy, unprecedented access to spiritual guidance online, and abundance of spiritual books, podcasts, retreat centers, and workshops, have all liberated the “pursuit of a customized spiritual pathway,” according to the study’s authors.
Younger generations aren’t necessarily so self-involved that they don’t believe in forces larger than themselves: Millennials may be less religious, but they are just as likely to be as spiritual as their elders. More than 40%, “feel a deep sense of wonder about the universe at least once a week,” according to Pew Research Center.
Students in Dubai are no different. Visit Ripe Market on the weekend, and you’ll see metaphysical stores filled with teenagers. In Dubai American Academy specifically, many students can be seen donning crystals in the form of necklaces, rings, and bracelets.
This spirituality is what’s fueling sales for crystals and all things metaphysical and what will continue this infatuation.