The name crystal is derived from the Greek word "KRYSTALLOS" meaning ice or frozen water. Ancient belief, from the works of Pliny, is that rock crystal is formed by the action of extreme cold upon water over long periods of time in mountain caverns. The ladies in Rome carried rock crystal spheres in their hands to cool themselves in summer.
To the Japanese people, rock crystal symbolized purity and the infinite patience. To them it was the perfect jewel. To the Western Church, crystal represented the desire to keep oneself free from stain and to have a pure faith.
Rock crystal (quartz) is silicon dioxide (SiO2) grown into a single crystal. The atoms of the crystal are arranged in a helical pattern along with a vertical crystal axis. This helical pattern may be right-handed or left-handed. The right-handed crystal shows a pyramidal face on the top right hand corner of the prism face below the rhombohedral terminations. The left-handed crystal shows this face on the top left corner. The hardness of this material on a Moh's scale of 1 to 10 is 7. Specific gravity is 2.651 and the refractive index is 1.544 to 1.553. Crystals are found in nature as hexagonal prisms having rhombohedral terminations. Crystal is a trigonal quartz system, developing an electric current when heated. Quartz is also piezo electric, meaning it will generate an electric current when subjected to mechanical pressure. This property is used in pressure gauges, cigarette lighters and gas lighters found in many homes. When electric current is passed across a quartz crystal, it becomes strained or deformed. This property is used in the movement of quartz clocks and watches.
The fire used in Eleusian Mysteries was produced by laying rock crystal on wood chips so that the sun would shine through the crystal. The wood would first smoke and then burst into flame. This, claimed the Keepers of the Temple, was the best type of fire and most appreciated by the Gods.
The Cherokee considered rock crystal to be a most powerful talisman that insured a successful hunt. Small crystal stones are utilized by the Australian aborigines in the preparation of talismans and amulets which they feel have the power to protect them from the demons which dwell in the bush and from the evil eye.
Sir Walter Scott relates that the Highlanders call rock crystal the Stone of Power.
In 1669 Nicolaus Steno, a Dane, wrote De Solido Intra Solidum Naturaliter. He rejected the rock crystal ice theory. He realized that crystals grew by the addition of new layers, the particles of which came out of a solution.
The largest recorded single crystal is about 20 feet long, several feet thick and weighing about 40 tons. (Ed. note: as of 1985).