Just Plain Crystals – Not Fancy Ones

Making crystals with my kids

was so fun that I had to write a short little post just about crystals (cuz my boys don’t listen when I start jabbering about the details).
I think my favorite crystal would have to be the one in the engagement ring from my husband. One of my facebook friends posted a pic with her new Swarovski crystal skechers (I admit that I was jealous). With those in mind, it might be a little anti-climactic that my crystals are just made of Epsom salt and borax. So it is my duty to spruce up these seemingly lame crystals so that everyone knows they are just as amazing as carbon in a tetrahedral crystalline structure (that’s diamond by the way. Like you didn’t know).

Let’s start with epsom salt

Epsom Crystal Structure
Epsom salt
orthorhombic crystal structure – kinda like long flat crystals. Oh wait, I can show you because I grew them and they are so great that you can see the orthorhombic shape. It isn’t a cube because the sides are all different lengths but you can see that it is like a long rectangular crystal that doesn’t have a pointy end like you think of with bedazzling crystals. Hmmm, I wish they had a name for this shape, oh wait, they do, it is orthorhombic, what a great name. Epsom salt is also known as Magnesium Sulfate Heptahydrate.

Now For Borax

Borax – sodium tetraborate. This name is a bit of a bore, haha, chemistry humor. They dig it out of the ground. (That is the same as with magnesium sulfate heptahydrate …aka epsom salt.) Have you ever read the side of the borax box? It tells you all about how they dig it out of the ground in Death Valley. (Now, That seems boring – or maybe just deathly hot. Oh dear, no more puns, please. Am I right?) It has a monoclinic prismatic structure. That basically means that it looks kinda like a prism. Check out the pic to get an idea of what monoclinic prismatic looks like. I found this website and I love it. They have really great explanations that aren’t full of jargon so you can actually learn something useful. I like their pics too.

The cool thing about these crystals is that they are truly crystals. Right down to the individual molecular structure, they are the same shape. So if you broke down big crystals into little crystals they would just be smaller versions of the larger one. If I had a higher-powered microscope, then I would smash my crystals (with a hammer of course) that I grew just to see their mini forms under the microscope.

3 Types of bonds

There are lots of different chemicals out there but really only 3 ways that they can be formed. They share their electrons, give away their electrons or don’t really care where their electrons are or end up. Respectively, that is covalent bonding, ionic bonding and metallic bonding.  Chemicals with each of these types of bonds can form crystals. Diamonds are covalently bonded carbon atoms. Borax and Epsom salts are ionically bonded substances and any kind of metal that you can think of has a crystal structure (all metals are metallically bonded).  Check out my periodic table post to learn more about metals and nonmetals
I don’t know the bonding occurring in terrigen crystals but I’m thinking it is ionic (I think only marvel fans will recognize this reference)

How can you grow your own crystals?

There are about a million (I didn’t actually count them but I think I’m still close) posts on how to grow crystals. I think you could choose any of them and have success. I’m including my version here so you don’t have to go searching. Have fun! Remember to always use good lab techniques and safety when performing any experiment, including this one.

• Fill a microwave safe cup with hot tap water. Dump in your ionic substance of choice.(honestly, you can’t go wrong with borax or Epsom salts. The others can get a bit tricky.) Stir until you don’t think you can dissolve any more and then add a little more so there is some of your chemical sitting on the bottom of the cup.

• Stick it in the microwave and push the beverage button to allow your mix to warm. I used 2 beverage cycles but Pipe cleaner shape for growing crystalsthat much time in the microwave can make it really hot. So if you try that, be sure to use oven mitts and set our cup on a heat safe surface when you get it out of the microwave.

• Now that it is nice and hot, stir and add more of your chemical until no more will dissolve. You can tell because there will be a little on the bottom of the cup that won’t dissolve no matter how much you stir.

crystal growing apparatus pic
• Set your pipecleaner contraption (check out the pics for details) in and leave your cup in a safe place overnight.

• Voila! Crystals.

Comment below and let me know how your crystals turned out.

Disclaimer: I assume no responsibility or liability for any of your actions or the consequences thereof. You are on your own

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