Crystal Structure • The Form Behind the Sparkle

Welcome to another in a series of posts about crystals with this post being about crystal structure. Of course, the dazzling thing about crystals is their spectacular sparkles. And, they have dazzled us throughout all the ages.

Do you know that the ancient Greeks gave the name “krystallos” to the rock they thought was frozen so hard it could never melt? That was the name they attributed to “quartz”. In fact, the name “crystal” derives from the Greek word “krystallos”. Interestingly, that myth about “frozen and can’t melt” in regard to quartz was only dispelled in the 18th century.

Crystals have been defined by scientists throughout history. Some of the definitions have been remarkably close to what is known today. I say “remarkably” because they had no instrumentation as we do today to take such measurements.

The delightful thing is, all crystalline materials have one thing in common. That is an internal structure of regularly repeating three-dimensional patterns. In addition, every crystalline from any source, even the most irregular or misshapen shares this atomical crystal structure.

Crystal Structure • The Form Behind the Sparkle

The Right Conditions for Crystal Structure

As we’ve said in previous posts, the absolute right conditions have to be in place for any type of crystal to form. In addition to that, it takes the right combination of ingredients although the variety is endless, for the crystal to form in just the right conditions and environment.

All these factors such as the crystal’s external shape and growth are a result of the available chemical ingredients, the prevailing conditions, and how the atoms link together. The variety of shapes that might come from that process include form cubes, needles, fibers, plates, or masses.

Although theoretically, there are 230 different three-dimensional crystal lattices that can form in nature, there are actually only 14 different, regularly ordered patterns in which crystals grow. These are the “space lattices” and are seen in diagrams as “balls and spokes”. To clarify, the balls represent the atoms and the spokes represent the ionic bonds that hold them together.

Self-Replication of Crystal Structure

Crystals self-replicate as their external layer provides an atomic template for the next stage of growth. Then, it continues to add layers that match the original layer all the while being affected by the conditions of growth in their environment.

Septarian Geode Crystal Bear Sculpture

Crystal Symmetry

Crystal lattices first separate into seven crystal systems. Then, those systems are further separated into 32 classes of crystals. This is also the number of different combinations of centers, places, and axes of symmetry possible.

To learn the class of a crystal, first, imagine a line going through the center. A “plane of symmetry” divides an object in half so that the two halves are mirror images of each other. On the other hand, an “axis of symmetry” is how many times the crystal appears to be the same when it rotates 360 degrees.

For example, a two-fold axis of symmetry is repeated every 180 degrees, while a three-fold repeats every 120 degrees.

The Seven Crystal Systems

As I mentioned before, there are seven crystal systems. Following this table, you will see a few examples of the crystals listed here. But, first, here are the seven systems of the crystal structure.

CrystalCommon FormsSymmetry
Cubic/Isometric: e.g. Diamond, GarnetCube, Octahedron9 planes of symmetry, 13 axes, a center of symmetry
Hexagonal: e.g. Emerald, AquamarinePrism, Bipyramid7 planes of symmetry, 7 axes, a center of symmetry
Tetragonal: e.g. Zircon, RutileFour-sided Prism, Tetragonal Bipyramid5 planes of symmetry, 5 axes, a center of symmetry
Trigonal: e.g. Quartz, SapphirePrism, Rhombohedron3 planes of symmetry, 4 axes, a center of symmetry
Triclinic: e.g. Turquoise, SunstonePinacoidNo planes of symmetry or axes, a center of symmetry
Orthorhombic: e.g. Peridot, TopazRhombic Prism, Pyramid, Dome Terminations3 planes of symmetry, 3 axes, a center of symmetry
Monoclinic: e.g. Jadeite, MoonstonePrism, Pinacoid1 plane of symmetry, 1 axis, a center of symmetry
VIA The Book of Crystal Healing

Here are a few examples from the table above.

Garnet and Diamond Pendant
Turquoise pendant
Topaz earrings

I hope you find inspiration and guidance from learning more about the world of crystals and how they fit into your lifestyle. If you have any questions or have a suggestion, please contact me right away.

Other Posts in the Crystal Healing Stones Series:

Scroll to Top

Subscribe to Newsletter • Grab Your Free eBook