Just Shelley


Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

As some of you know, I collect rare minerals, in traditional crystalline habit, thumbnail sized, and with matrix.

All of which is just a fancy way of saying that I collect crystals.

I started the collection years and years ago with a watermelon tourmaline cross-section, soon joined by dioptase, azurite, rhodochrosite, barite, cinnabar, and so on. I now have what is a fairly impressive collection for an amateur.


Now collecting crystals isn’t as easy as it might sound; the crystal collector is faced with two major obstacles – the Rip-off Artist and the Mystic.

The RO-Artist is the person who solemnly assures you that Herkimer Diamonds are the Real Thing, when you know that they are nothing more than a commonly occurring variety of quartz. They’ll sell you glass and call it topaz, or push lab-grown crystals as natural.


My favorite RO-Artist experience was at the 2001 Tucson Gem & Mineral show. I forayed into the small sideshows held in the motels throughout town, an experience not for the neophyte collector as anything goes — anything — in the sideshows.

In one motel room, I was negotiating for a nice rhodonite crystal when a man appeared in the doorway with a small micro-mount containing, as he assured one and all, a piece of the Moon. He then entered into spirited negotiations with mine host of the rhodonite for the price of the specimen.


After a bit of haggling back and forth, mine host had to decline the $1500.00 asking price with a sad comment about “…it being worth ten times the price”. At which point both gentlemen fell into an expectant and hopeful silence.

Excuse me, but do I have rube printed in big bold letters across my back? I bought the rhodonite and left.


Of course, I wasn’t always the victor in these little encounters, and I have several specimens of dubious heritage in my collection. However, I’m particularly fond of these little mistakes, because each is a celebration of my willingness to take a chance, to explore outside the safe confines of the main show – to risk possible failure in the hopes of finding that one special gem, that one important piece.

If the RO-Artist is a unique and interesting challenge, they at least entertain rather than irritate, and that brings me to the Mystic.

In one rock shop, I was examining a lovely rose quartz cluster when a woman next to me started telling me about the mystical powers associated with rose quartz.

“Rose quartz will strengthen the bonds of love.”

It’s a rock.

“Rose quartz also has healing energies, particularly if your illness results from a loss or special sadness in your life.”

It’s a rock.

“I have a special rose quartz crystal that I keep beside my bed at night.”

It’s a …. lady, you need to get a life.

Rose Quartz

For the most part, I tolerated the Mystic because they had the best intentions at heart, however there was one encounter with a Mystic that left me cold.

A friend of mine, Joan, was (and is) into every New Age gimmick in the world – crystals, astral photography, pyramids, the whole bit. Because she is my friend, I also supported her in these little adventures because they were harmless and brought her joy. What’s a little mystical power of crystals between friends?

However, several years ago, events took a darker turn when Joan was diagnosed with breast cancer.

In the midst of her traditional medical treatment, including chemo-therapy and surgery, Joan discovered a Mystic who recommended a retreat, fasting, and several unusual and potentially dangerous sounding treatments. In alarm, I insisted on going with my friend the next time she met with this “miracle worker”.

The Mystic seemed ordinary enough and at first she didn’t say anything unusual or harmful – the necessity of peaceful surroundings, extra sleep, spring water, eating more of certain types of foods known to be high in anti-oxidants. However, as the conversation progressed, she started getting into the need for Joan to undergo unusual procedures such as daily colonics, week-long fastings to achieve a “pure” state, and so on. At that point, I intervened.

“Why must Joan fast for a week?”

She must rid her body of the pollutants that are interfering with her healing process.

“Isn’t it dangerous for Joan, already in a weakened state, to go without food of any form for a week?”

She would be given herbal teas, and participate in group meditation, which would give her strength.

“What’s contained in the teas?”

Various healing and soothing herbs.

“What herbs, and how will the group meditation give her strength?”

At this point, the Mystic, sensing an unbeliever answered with the response all charlatans have used since the dawn of time: the experience is spiritual one and I, as an outsider, couldn’t possibly understand.

I pulled an Older Sister/Close Friend routine and got my friend the hell out of there. When I got home, I took my favorite dioptase crystal – the beauty of my collection and my pride and joy – and put it into a small, hand-painted wooden box lined with cotton. Giving it to Joan, I told her that this crystal had special powers. In the darkest moments of fear, I told her to take the crystal out of the box and to hold it tight and remember that it represented the most healing power of all – love.

Several months later Joan gave me back the dioptase, telling me that she no longer needed it. She was going to be just fine.


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