Power of the crystals
''AMBER is the symbol of wealth and fortune, while amethyst, the glittering purple crystal, improves your health. Pinkish-rose quartz determines your love life and transparent white crystal is best for calming your emotions.'' This is what you are told if you pop into one of the ''semi-religious'' crystal shops sprouting all over Hong Kong. These crystals are fast becoming the most popular jewellery and ornaments of the New Age.
Sparkling and eye-catching, crystals, in all colours, are made into fashionable and stylish pendants, bracelets, chokers and earrings. Other than the accessories, there are crystal balls, beads, cylinders, animals and even Buddha statues.
The use of precious stones as charms has a long history, while Chinese have associated jade with fortune and health for thousands of years.
Nevertheless, under the New Age theories, the power of the gems is more than symbolic or spiritual. They are alleged to have energy-emitting effects which can soothe your mind and increase your body energy and confidence.
But not every stone fits into your body chemistry or ''your energy field'', an assistant in one of the crystal shops in Causeway Bay told the Sunday Young Post.
''Before buying a crystal, you can conduct a little experiment to test whether the crystal keeps in pace with your energy field. This is crucial as it will bring out the best effect from the gems,'' said the saleslady.
Customers are told to relax and stretch out their hands, while the shop assistant gently places the crystals on to their palms.
She then rubs another larger white crystal block with her thumb right above the chosen crystals but the crystals do not touch.
If a crystal suits a customer, he or she will feel a very mild electric shock on the palm, which is said to be a reaction between the crystal and the body. According to the saleslady, the gems are emitting energy which fits into the body's energy field.
Teruo Takahashi, a Grade 12 student from Hong Kong International School, believes in the crystal power. ''I guess crystal can increase your energy and it can help you to relax,'' said Teruo. ''Besides, it is a perfect gift because it's both fashionable and economical.'' Prices of the crystal accessories vary from around $100 for a pair of earrings, to more than $1,000 for a necklace made of high-quality gems.
Lillian Lee, an upper sixth former at King George V School, is another crystal lover.
''I bought quite a lot of crystal accessories as they look nice and match my clothes,'' said Lillian. ''I heard of their relaxing effect in one of my psychology lessons. I think the crystals work if you think they work, though I am not buying them on health grounds.'' However, Dr K. K. Cheung from the University of Hong Kong's Department of Chemistry explained that it was not possible for ordinary crystals to emit energy unless they are radioactive.
''If a crystal can release energy by itself, it means that radiation has taken place and that crystal must be radioactive,'' said Dr Cheung.
''Under normal circumstances, the only energy emission from the crystal is fluorescence - a process in which a material absorbs energy and then emits energy at a lower energy level. This is a feeble energy throw and cannot be detected by the body.'' Dr Cheung explained that the electric shock experience may be due to ''piezoelectricity'' - a phenomenon in which some crystals, while under the influence of a mechanical stress like a compression imposed by a heavy weight, become electrically charged. In that case, the electric current will be felt.
''But piezoelectricity is not likely to occur just by holding the crystals tightly,'' he said.
But while the magic of the crystals might be a psychological reaction more than a chemical one, many still swear by the delightful colours that they add to a wardrobe.