The Greeks in antiquity called frost and ice “krystallos”—hence the
word “crystal.” It was originally only used for clear rock-crystals whose
transparent, symmetrical surfaces and mysterious geometric shapes have
fascinated man since he began to wonder about nature.
Today we know that all matter—including rocks, trees, stars, mountains,
and men—is made up of tiny invisible building blocks—atoms and
molecules. If these are set up in a strict geometrical order they form
We live in a world full of crystals, though not all of them have
sparkling surfaces and geometric shapes. The sand on a beach, the rocks in
your garden, the ice on a pond: all these substances are “crystallized,”
which means that their inner structure is that of a crystal.
You eat and drink crystals: look at sugar or salt through a magnifying
glass. In the wintertime, crystals even fall from the sky! In order to study
their fascinating structure take a frying pan with a dark coating, put it into
your freezer for half an hour, and then hunt for snowflakes.
Water molecules are their building blocks. Snow crystals start to
grow on a dot of microscopic dust, and as they fall through the air they
pick up other water molecules and thus continue to grow. Use a magnifying
glass to study their structure.
Crystals inside the Earth’s crust normally do not have enough space
to develop freely like snowflakes. They grow into each other and form a
rock which is made up of a large number of small crystals.
Inside rock-cavities, however, crystals grow without disturbing each
other, and they can therefore form their fascinating sparkling surfaces and
geometric shapes. Thus a mineralogical treasure chamber is created, waiting
to be discovered by a lucky mineral collector.