Crystals and Light • The Fascinating Science

Since the days of Aristotle and Plato right into our modern times, there are lots of theories about crystals and light. But, one thing is for sure, all through the ages and today, everyone absolutely loves crystals.

In fact, the first mention of the use of amulets and talismans goes back to the first days of humankind. Although we have no way of knowing how our ancestors put these items to use, they still hold a strong fascination for many.

Several of these pieces are organic in nature. Beads made from mammoth ivory were found in a grave in Sungir, Russia. These beads date back to 60,000 years. The very first historical references of the use of crystals come from the Ancient Sumerian era, where they were used for rituals.

Similarly, Ancient Egyptians used carnelian, clear quartz, lapis lazuli, emerald, and turquoise in their jewelry pieces. The ancient Greeks connected several properties with crystals. In fact, many still use that same knowledge from the Greek era in modern times.


In ancient China, jade was a highly valued crystal and several ancient Chinese figures wore jade beads. Interestingly, around 1,000 years ago, musical instruments in China were also made from jade.

Crystals and Light • The Fascinating Science

What Happens When White Light Hits a Crystal?

When a ray of white light hits a crystal, there occurs a beautiful phenomenon called ‘dispersion of light’. You might also see some rainbow-like occurrences in crystals which happens because of the dispersion of the white light.

Let’s explain this phenomenon in a simpler way! A crystal has several angles inside it. So when a ray of white light passes through it, it has to bend at different angles.

That, in turn, causes the white light to split into its seven colors at various frequencies and various angles. The end result is a beautiful rainbow or the spectrum of different colors or simply VIBGYOR (Violet–Indigo–Blue–Green–Yellow–Orange–Red.)

Reflection & Refraction in Crystals

A crystal is known for its sparkle or brilliance. It is nothing but an optical property and is directly related to a crystal’s BRI or brilliance refractive index. The brilliance in crystals is the light that is refracted in the interior of the stone, not the one reflecting off the surface.

When the light hits the surface of a crystal and reflects back, you can clearly see a vivid prism of colors and sparkle. Many also refer to this phenomenon as the dispersion of light.

When a ray of white light enters a non-opaque object such as a crystal, the light breaks down into different wavelengths, which are further refracted by the internal facets. The overall result is the rainbow spectral like effect.

How Do Crystals Get their Colors?

We adore crystals for their beautiful colors, but do you know that these colors are the result of impurities? Usually, the presence of certain minerals in crystals gives them a specific color.

The mesmerizing greenish hue of jade is due to chromium and iron impurities.

The Color of Emerald

Similarly, the color of emerald is due to the chromium ion replacing aluminum in certain locations of the structure.


Sapphire’s Sky Blue

Sapphire’s sky blue hue can be attributed to titanium and iron ions replacing aluminum ions in some locations.


Garnet’s Deep Red

Garnet’s color is due to iron 2+ ions replacing magnesium ions in some locations.

In similar ways, colors of other crystals are either due to impurities or diffraction of light passing through the crystal structure. Want to know more about these wonderful creations of Mother Nature? Then, I invite you to look below for other fascinating articles in this series.

Other Posts in the Crystal Healing Series:

Scroll to Top

Subscribe to Newsletter • Grab Your Free eBook