What is Crystal Structure?

What is Crystal Structure?

By Ana Paula Fleck de Almeida

What is Crystal Structure?

I’m hearing you.

Wow Ana, crystal structures sounds sooo interesting.

Before you start having flashbacks to high school science class, understand that the structure of a crystal is very beneficial for you in your healing journey. Once you understand their structure on a physical and atomic level, you will realise just how powerful these gifts from the Earth are!

Crystals are formed when identical atoms bind together in a regular pattern, ‘growing’ into a crystal large enough to see with our eyes. This is usually a reflection of the shape of the very first cell. This process of ‘growth’ can take billions of years or a few hours, depending on which mineral elements are involved. The structure of each crystal is also dependent on these mineral elements.

Different Crystal Structures

An excellent example of how structure within crystals is important, can be found in the comparison of graphite and diamonds. Both of these crystals are formed from one element, carbon, but their structure is completely different. Graphite is found in pencil lead: it is soft, dark and opaque and will break away smoothly to mark a page. Diamonds on the other hand, are often transparent and colourless as well as one of the hardest gemstones we can find. How can two crystals formed from the same element be so different in their completed form? Structure!

The carbon atoms are bound together into two different crystal structures. Graphite is composed of carbon atoms formed loosely together in the hexaganol crystal structure. This makes it easy to break it apart, or write with on paper. Diamond is composed of carbon atoms gathered very tightly together in a cubic crystal structure. This makes it extremely strong and difficult to break apart.

What is a crystal lattice?

When we talk about the way in which atoms ‘stick’ together or grow to form a crystal, we are referring to the way in which the pattern of these atoms are systematically repeated on a three dimensional lattice. 

On these lattices, there are seven different kinds of crystal systems: triclinic, monoclinic, orthorhombic, tetragonal, trigonal, hexagonal, and cubic.

Whilst a crystal might ‘grow’ (or have atoms added) it will always ‘grow’ on this latticed pattern. This means the atomic structure is constant and unchanging.

Why is crystal structure important?

Very simply, the structure of each crystal affects the way energy moves within and around it. Remember- everything is made of atoms, atoms are energy and energy cannot be created or destroyed, only altered. For this reason, the very nature of crystals at an atomic level means they are constant and unchanging in their energy. Each structure therefore determines the differing kinds of energy the crystal transmits, holds or alters. 

For example, trigonal crystals such as amethysts, agates and blood stones have triangular inner structure and are the most energising of the structures. They are ideal for balancing subtle energies and providing clarity. 

Depending on the structure type, crystals will protect or alter, attract or sustain the energy around and within you.