Every Friday night, local artists, chefs, screenwriters, fashion designers and the odd indie celebrity like the French singer, Soko, file into the Sweat Spot, a dance studio in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, for a crystal meditation session. As they enter, Mark Phillips, co-owner of the nearby crystal shop Spellbound Sky, offers each one a stone, the properties of which will dictate the evening’s theme – anything from developing self-love with rhodochrosite, to transforming negative energies with black tourmaline. Phillips originally held these meditations at his vine-covered storefront, but they quickly outgrew that space. Even after adding a second session, “we were sending people away,” he recalls. The Sweat Spot’s owner, Grammy-winning choreographer Ryan Heffington, was already a friend and customer. So far, nobody’s been shut out, but major astrological events like a recent lunar eclipse do tend to pack the house.
Of course, crystals have long been associated with life in “Hollyweird.” When Stevie Nicks drawled seductively about seeing “crystal visions” on Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 hit, “Dreams,” she helped inspire the L.A. stereotype of a New Age witchy woman who speaks in affirmations and always has a cleansing quartz on hand, as if it were a bottle of Purell. Today, however, a new generation of healers, dealers, designers and collectors are elevating both the science and the aesthetics beyond that cliché.
Jewelry designer Adina Mills, who works out of a studio in Landers, in the high desert, has been crafting her chunky geode cocktail rings and crystal wand power pendants for so long that she remembers having to convince buyers that there was a market for raw stones. These days, her unique, sculptural pieces are carried at chic boutiques like Roseark in West Hollywood and Maryam Nassir Zadeh in New York, and she counts Lena Dunham among her fans. “There’s definitely a movement happening,” she says. “It’s interesting to see how huge it’s become.”
Like Phillips and his partner Martin Anguiana, who left careers in the fashion industry to open Spellbound Sky, many modern practitioners discovered this passion after making their mark in other fields – and have found that L.A. still shines on reinvention. Sameer Reddy, who’d been a journalist in New York City before developing a healing modality that incorporates tarot, reiki and stones, felt drawn to the cultural openness and expansive sense of time and space here. “I’d always felt like I should live in L.A.,” he says, “but I never did anything that made sense. One day I woke up and I was like, wait a minute, I’m an energy healer!” Since March, he’s been happily ensconced in Laurel Canyon, where he sees clients in a jewel box-like treatment room at the top of his house.
Azalea Lee was working as a wardrobe stylist when she decided to make a line of metaphysical fine jewelry incorporating one-of-a-kind gems cut by Jean-Noel Soni, a master of the craft. Unwilling to rely on parroted information about the properties of the stones, she took a hands-on healing course in Hawaii with Katrina Raphaell, whose Crystal Trilogy books are widely credited for instigating the ‘80s boom. To Lee’s surprise she had a knack for it: placing this highly vibrational material on a person’s chakra points to open energetic pathways (she calls it “metaphysical chiropractic work”) felt completely intuitive. “It was as if somebody handed me a guitar and I just started playing it,” she recalls.
Historically, stones have been used as tools and talismans for millenia. The first documentation of their medicinal use dates back to 1600 BC in ancient Egypt, where lapis lazuli, malachite and red jasper beads were said to pull disease from the body. Turquoise is sacred to many Native Americans, for whom this “sky stone” is a protector and aid, and the Chinese value jade for everything from blood purification to generating abundance. Contemporary crystal healing modalities draw from these and other cultures, and Lee has refined it to an art.
Last fall, she opened Place 8 Healing, an all-white aerie overlooking Downtown L.A. where she sells rare crystals and conducts healing sessions for a clientele that includes music producers and art dealers. Lee will use up to 100 stones per two-hour session, creating intricate mandala-like patterns on the skin. “When we start the crystal session I have no idea where we’re gonna go,” she admits. “I’m looking for signposts and symbols as they’re happening. There’s a cognitive side but there’s also a very intuitive side, where I feel something going on in a certain chakra, and it needs the support of a certain stone.”
The sessions can be extremely emotional and surprisingly visual. An image of another time period or a foreign landscape might very well be a past life encounter, she suggests matter-of-factly (and in fact, Lee believes that her knowledge of this “crystalline information” came from a past life in Atlantis). “I can totally understand when people are like, ‘where did you get this information from?’” Lee says with a hearty laugh. “To me, if you can walk out of this door feeling happier…who cares if this is hippy dippy woo woo stuff?”
With 4000 known varieties, there truly is a crystal for every need. Spellbound Sky’s proprietors encourage newbies to follow their instincts and their attractions. Unlike shops with locked display cases and “a lot of rules,” their wares are arranged on open shelves that invite handling. “We want everybody to get in on the energy,” says Phillips, conceding that they do smudge the space with sage twice a day.
And while the current market has created a niche for “crystal curators” who deal in very large specimens or pieces with a specific provenance, some priced in the tens of thousands, Spellbound’s Anguiana points out that small crystals — many priced at five dollars or less — are perfect for meditation or carrying with you “to access the energy at all times.”
It seems like The Elder Statesman designer Greg Chait had the right idea when he stitched tiny moonstones and fluorites into a few sweaters for last year’s Holiday Collection, “just to see what would happen.” Chait doesn’t wear his spirituality on his sleeve, but his quartz-dotted boutique reveals a man who knows his way around a gem show. And he’s happy to drag along whoever might be with him. “Maybe they’re a banker in London and they’ve never thought about this stuff before, and it doesn’t hurt!” he says. “What I like about it all is I don’t think you can prove that it doesn’t work for you.”