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Mesmerizing and colorful crystals hang on students' necklaces or dazzle on their hands as rings, but these crystals are more than just a fashion statement — for some, they're spiritual.

The trend of crystal healing, an alternative healing technique where certain crystals and stones are used to cure ailments, is catching the attention of some UCF students.

"It's just like any other belief. It's what you perceive. It's a matter of what works for you," said Haleigh Mooney, a sophomore emerging media major, who is interested in the metaphysical properties of crystals. "Bloodstones take away stress and anxiety, while rose quartz give you self-love and amethyst rids of negative energy."

Although it's becoming a popular holistic practice today, the use of crystals dates back to the Ancient Egyptians who used lapis lazuli, turquoise, carnelian, emerald and clear quartz in their jewelry. It was also used by Greek soldiers who "would rub hematite over their bodies before battle, purportedly to make themselves invulnerable. Greek sailors also wore a variety of amulets to keep them safe at sea," according to Crystalage.com.

Mooney said she thinks healing crystals are popular among students because of multiple new-age religions and yoga, which can be associated with many stones used for meditation and cleansing.

Currently, Mooney uses her crafting talent to create products with crystals, such as pendants, bracelets, rings and sandals that she sells.

Mooney's boyfriend Nik Sidella, a senior English major, believes in crystal healing and is a certified Reiki practitioner. Reiki is defined as "a system of hands-on touching based on the belief that such touching by an experienced practitioner produces beneficial effects by strengthening and normalizing certain vital energy fields held to exist within the body," according to Merriam-Webster.

"Crystals amplify certain energies, and if you're drawn to it, you're open to it," Sidella said. "I use malachite to help me with creative expression."

In terms of how he chooses which crystals to use, Sidella said he collects stones that he thinks would help him at that particular moment.

"I was getting random waves of depression, so my mom gave me jet, also known as black amber. It is fossilized wood believed to protect and purify. I find with the jet pressed in the center of my palm, I can feel the energy," Sidella said.

While some use the crystals themselves, others are mere proprietors of the crystal creations.

John Federico, a senior English major, works with healing crystals in his wire-wrapping art, but he doesn't necessarily believe in the metaphysical properties.

"To me it's like anything else. How much are you willing to believe? The history is more interesting to me," Federico said. "Bloodstones were used by Vikings in their swords and armor to represent courage."

Federico has been wire wrapping crystals for three years using silver, copper and gold wires, and sells his jewelry through Facebook and festivals.

On average, his rings range from $20 to $30, and $40 for pendants.

He gets his crystals from various websites and at Ancient Artifacts and Treasures located in Winter Park.

The store has been operated for more than 15 years by owner and UCF alumnus John McIntosh, who earned his master's in electrical engineering in 1979.

Whether people believe in crystal healing or not, McIntosh said there's a connection between crystals and energy.

"Quartz is well-known as a transformer of energy; it was used in the first radios and is used to create the sound in microwave ovens," McIntosh said. "Others in the quartz family include amethyst, citrine, rose quartz, smokey quartz and others."

McIntosh sells dozens of different 1-inch polished crystals for $2 each, and said he thinks the popularity is growing due to the expensive nature of modern medical practices and procedures.

"Alternative medicine has become popular in recent years. As modern medicine has become more and more expensive, with not a commensurate increase in effectiveness, people have been looking for other alternatives that may have been used in previous times," McIntosh said. "That is why acupuncture and other alternative medicines also have become popular."

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Veronica Brezina is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future.

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