The need for protection loomed large on the fall 2020 runways – from the apocalyptic background of Balenciaga’s flooded floors to Thom Browne’s Noah’s Ark-themed show, where the models came out two by two. Anyone would think designers had peered into a crystal ball to see what lay on the horizon. In any event, the trends foretold a difficult period, using dramatic black as a recurring theme. ‘Saintly’ Joan of Arc silhouettes featured at Paco Rabanne and, elsewhere, there were sacred-looking styles, with chains and crystal necklaces fused into dresses. The clear message about salvation and safeguarding was emphasized by large pendants and totemic forms swinging on leather above chests like protective breastplates, and metallic frames housing crystals chosen for their symbolic meanings. Jewels now have grander intentions than being mere accessories, because they form part of a new chic in crystals and stones with spiritual properties.
I call this ‘the new stone age’ because, all around, colorful crystals and stones are being stylishly incorporated into wardrobes, homes, beauty regimes and beyond. The fashion world was first to embrace the look: Victoria Beckham was vocal about relying on them to calm nerves backstage before a show, while Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen gifted them post-show at The Row. And now, the style is mainstream. Art collectors are searching for vast natural sculptures to display on plinths or amassing old-style mahogany kunstkammers of mantlepiece minerals. Others, like the novelist Santa Montefiore, are ‘prescribed’ amethysts for the home by crystal ‘cleaners’ – to improve the energy flow – in a sophisticated union of feng shui and a house doctor. Lady Gaga is a big fan of the work by artist Marina Abramovic, exploring the influence of crystal on the mind and body, which may have influenced her rumored plans for a rock-crystal-studded entrance hallway in her LA home.
On a recent Vogue shoot, makeup-artist supremo Val Garland took out a small linen bag from her pocket, clacking with tumbled rose quartz, agate, tourmaline and rhodochrosite, before setting to work on the face of model Duckie Thot. “When you walk into a room and meet a celebrity for the first time as a makeup artist, you have to go right up to them and make them feel safe and comfortable in your hands.” She added: “It’s a really big ask. It can feel invasive and too intimate for a first meeting, so these stones help.” Indeed, rose quartz and jade rollers also kick-start fibroblasts to improve sluggish skins in a similar way to early rose-quartz face masks discovered in Egyptian tombs.
Jewels now have grander intentions than being mere accessories, because they form part of a new chic in crystals and stones with spiritual properties”
The belief that stones are silent protectors and benefit our lives has echoed down the centuries – not surprising, when you consider they are the result of upheavals in nature, vast geological shifts, volcanic activity and the erosion of mountains, all of which gives these crystal survivors an aura of magic. “Turquoise is beautiful, and it just comes up out of the earth”, says the artist Damien Hirst, explaining the ancient’s powerful belief in stones. “If you were trying to make sense of that somehow, of course you would think it was divine.” We don’t use crystals like our predecessors, to cure a snakebite or bag our place in the afterlife, but they do give us a comforting connection to something greater than ourselves. They also give a sense of the earth’s perseverance, which many of us – from adults to Gen Z – are seeking in the era of fast-paced technology and email overload, which can make life in the 21st century feel exhausting. “Mobile phones are the reason we’re so busy,” makeup and skincare authority Charlotte Tilbury emphasizes, who uses amethyst, rose quartz and crystal bowls. “They are the reason we can’t switch off. Time is so speeded up that we need an antidote to calm down; the world has never needed more healing or being in touch with nature more than now.”
When I was writing this book, much like the designers of the winter shows, I had no idea about the tumultuous times approaching. Anxiety-inducing current events such as climate change, coupled with political and economic insecurity, seemed reason enough to seek sources of strength, comfort and meaning in crystals as purposeful shields for daily life. So, I’ve learnt to switch off my phone, to stop and look at the crystals as a mindful and quieting exercise. Fortunately, chiming with the current mood, designers have created myriad compelling crystal jewels to make it easy. Enough to provide a jewelry editor with a healthy daily dose of minerals.
The New Stone Age by Carol Woolton is out now