New-age stone age: Why are millennials and Gen Z so into crystals? – The Straits Times


SINGAPORE – Every Monday evening, Ms Shanice Sa turns into a live-streaming whiz. She sets up four studio lights and a table full of quartz, citrine, aventurine and other stones, and hawks them over Instagram Live.

The 23-year-old started home-based crystal business Soleil Crystals (@shopsoleilco) in July 2020 while working at a social media agency and pursuing a degree in communications.

Soleil quickly gained traction and, earlier in 2021, Ms Sa quit both her job and her studies to cater to the demand and scale the business.

She introduced crystal bracelets, priced from $15 to $60, which have been popular and “a gateway for beginner crystal enthusiasts to get into the community”.

Ms Sa, whose grandmother sparked her interest in “spirituality and energies”, also attracted new customers when she created a TikTok page to share her wares and how she prepares for a live sale.

Her customers range in age from 16 to mid-40s, with the bulk being young, working women. An equal mix of customers buy the crystal products for both the supposed healing properties and aesthetics.

“In the past, crystal accessories were deemed the tacky fashion choice of superstitious aunties or uncles. But these days, people are not looking for a ‘lucky’ bracelet.

“I think many are drained and looking for alternative methods to cope,” Ms Sa says. “I believe it has to do with the younger generation being more in touch with their emotional needs as well.”

Soleil Crystals is among a growing crop of home-based crystal-selling businesses. Once the domain of “aunties and uncles”, crystal jewellery and crystals are finding new shine among millennials and Generation Z.

In the West, American celebrities like model Bella Hadid, 24, and media personality Kylie Jenner, 23, have been instrumental in driving the trend – after being photographed in 2020 in quartz bracelets layered casually with luxury watches.

British jewellery expert Carol Woolton called crystals “the season’s most magical style trend” and a grounding, “post-pandemic treat” in a time of anxiety.

Already valued as a billion-dollar industry before the pandemic, the mineral market is gaining new ground as coronavirus-related anxiety has pushed more to embrace spirituality.

According to Google Trends data from March 2020 to May 2021, searches for “crystal healing” spiked by 262 per cent. In May 2020, Bloomberg wrote that the market for gems and healing crystals was set to outshine the diamond market in the pandemic.

Crystals have long been a polarising commodity. Some believe they can cure ills, soothe anxiety and increase luck, while others write them off as superstitious mumbo jumbo.

But whether as a fashion statement or a therapeutic object, in a pandemic age focused on self-care and wellness, crystals have found their way into many a young shopper’s budget.

Advertising executive Fang Si Ying, 24, buys crystals and bracelets from Instagram live sales once a week, spending $200 to $300 a month.

Ms Fang Si Ying’s crystal bracelets. PHOTO: COURTESY OF FANG SI YING

She got into the stones in October 2020, after a friend started a small crystal jewellery business.

“I got curious about the metaphysical properties and how they are formed. Then I went down the rabbit hole of Instagram crystal stores,” she says.

Her collection quickly grew to about 100 crystals and 50 bracelets.

She is drawn to “how nature can create such beautiful crystals and how each one is unique”.

“I’m not a very spiritual person, so I just buy what attracts me appearance-wise,” she says. But she readily admits she is partial to stones which supposedly bring wealth and luck.

Instagram store Komi Crystals’ (@komi_crystals) bestsellers are crystal accessories and pocket-size crystals – sourced from around the world – that people carry to work or school, says co-founder Belinda Tan, 28.

Crystal bracelets from Instagram store Komi Crystals. PHOTO: COURTESY OF KOMI CRYSTALS

She set up the home-based business with her former colleague Isabel Ho, 28, in November 2020 after leaving her job in the social services sector. They are both avid crystal collectors.

“We believe crystals helped us pull through our darkest times, so we thought we would share this positivity. We started branching out into selling crystal jewellery as we saw a demand among our customers for crystal accessories,” says Ms Tan, whose bracelets are priced from $18.

Crystaltok and new love for old stones

In Singapore, the growing demand has trickled down to a handful of bricks-and-mortar bead and crystal stores.

Crystals Cube and Secret Crystals at The Adelphi and Beads.Etc at Orchard Gateway say they see younger customers and more students walking in the door these days to inquire about crystals.

Popular purchases include single gemstones and crystal bracelets, which can range from $20 to a few hundred dollars, depending on the quality of the stones.

Customers shop at Crystals Cube, which sells crystals and jewellery at the Adelphi. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Stores interviewed say they give disclaimers on their wares, that any healing properties mentioned are to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Many point to social media as the main catalyst for this new-age wave of interest – specifically, TikTok.

On TikTok, #crystaltok has racked up more than 500 million views globally. Users share clips of their crystal hauls and tips on identifying crystals and their properties.

Closer to home, #sgcrystalshop has a more modest viewership of 21,200 views – a mix of teens showing off their stash and small businesses advertising their wares.

It is such a lucrative marketing ground that Crystals Cube created an account for its store to “connect more with Gen Z”, says its owner Rave Wong, 37.

After all, her customer base has become younger since she opened in 2008. Her business was then named Memories Echo, with a clientele between the ages of 27 and 45. Today, almost half her customers are students aged 12 to 25.

Some buy bracelets (from $15) and palm stones (from $30), with rose quartz a popular choice. Many students buy tumbled or polished crystals, which are priced as low as $2. Many of her customers see crystals as a form of holistic healing, Ms Wong says.

Crafts store Beads.Etc also reaped the benefits of social media after it was featured in a few TikTok videos recommending places to buy crystals in Singapore. The store founded in 1997 carries bracelets (from $18) as well as strings of crystal beads (from $8 a string).

Owner Sally Chin, 53, says do-it-yourself jewellery has always been popular with all ages. But thanks to TikTok, she has noticed a pronounced interest of late in crystal jewellery, with young teens coming to buy crystal beads.

Store owner Mdm Sally Chin at Beads.Etc, on July 19, 2021. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

“There has been a sudden surge in new creators of handmade jewellery ever since the circuit breaker. I think many Singaporeans grew bored at home and decided to pick up new hobbies, including jewellery-making.”

Beads.Etc store assistant Joyce Chong, who has worked there for 24 years, sees many students requesting stones that help with “focusing” and their exams.

The rise of Instagram stores

With social media the new frontier, especially for home-based businesses, the crystal business has caught on to live streaming.

Komi Crystals hosts live sales weekly, reaching 50 to 100 viewers and about 100 orders a live stream. Up to 300 new designs are launched each time.

A live sale requires a lot of “preparation work and mental rehearsals” to go smoothly, says Ms Tan. Afterwards, there is packing, delivery and responding to customers’ queries.

“It’s a very engaging way to interact with our followers. This personal touch allows us to understand them and their interests better, to procure crystals closer to their needs,” adds Ms Tan, whose customers are aged from 17 to 55.

She has plans to launch a website soon.

Soleil Crystals’ Ms Sa says a live format returns the “tactile element” to virtual shopping.

Ms Shanice Sa left her full-time job at a social media agency to focus on her Instagram store Soleil Crystals. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

“Especially for crystals, because every single piece is unique, it gives buyers the opportunity to see the crystals at various angles and get real-time answers to their questions.”

She adds: “My favourite thing about live sales is when I notice regulars become friends and interact freely during the sessions, (which would be less possible) if this were a physical store.”

Ms Fang, who recently bought from Soleil Crystals, says she enjoys interacting with fellow crystal lovers in the community during live sales and has forged friendships “with teenagers, other young working adults as well as mothers” through them.

That said, physical crystal retailers are not banking on interest from youth to keep the trade going. Some believe that, like most trends driven by social media, the crystal craze will fade and the stones will appeal once again only to a niche audience.

Despite its healthy walk-in sales, Beads.Etc will close at the end of 2021 so Madam Chin can concentrate on a new venture – a wellness spa that focuses on essential oils and taps her love for natural remedies.

“For now, we will treasure the last moments with our beloved beads shop and then move on to the next big thing.”

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