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Time4Learning Demos

Crystal Making At Home

Crystal Ornament Directions

Here’s a fun project for Christmas, but you’ll need to start right after Thanksgiving, as the crystals take about 3 weeks to form. As this requires boiling water, adult supervision is highly recommended.

You’ll need:

  • Box of Epsom Salts, usually found at a pharmacy
  • Colorful pipe cleaners
  • Straight-sided, container that can hold about 2 cups liquid
  • Old pencil or stick long enough to go over the container

While stirring a cup of boiling water, slowly pour in Epsom Salts, adding about 1/4 cup at a time. It will hold quite a lot. As soon as the solution won’t turn clear with stirring, it is time to stop.

Take one or two pretty, colorful pipe cleaners. Bend it into some holiday shape at one end, leaving the other for a “hanger.” Hang it over a pencil suspended over a STRAIGHT SIDED container, or you won’t be able to get your crystal out. (I learned this one the hard way, obviously.) Pour the Epsom Salt solution over the pipe cleaner in the container. Set it in the warmest room in your home where it won’t be disturbed.

In about 3 weeks, the water will have evaporated, leaving long, lovely crystals behind on the pipe cleaner, just in time to hang up as an ornament.

Don’t try to save for next year: this is very fragile, and moisture in the air will dissolve it over time.

Note the sizes and shape of the crystals. The shape is similar to the shape of the molecule of the salt. Computer chips are made from slices (wafers) of huge silicon crystals.

You older “chemists” might enjoy making crystals of other substances.

Other Crystal-Making Web Pages

An Amazing Crystal Garden….and so easy to Make!
This is a classic crystal-growing project. You use charcoal briquettes, cardboard or a sponge, ammonia, salt, bluing, and food coloring to grow a crystal garden. The components of the garden are not edible, so adult supervision is recommended.

Crystals on a String
This one uses baking soda.

Rock Candy Recipe
When you make rock candy, you can see the shape of sugar crystals on a giant scale. The key is giving them lots of time (about 7 days) to grow. As the water evaporates, sugar crystals form on the string or stick, and the shapes that they form reflect the shape of individual sugar crystals.

Crystals Explained

Crystals: More Than Meets the Eye
It is the purpose of this unit to acquaint the student with the intriguing world of crystals, their structure, formation, and uses. An advanced explanation from Yale University.

What is a Crystal?
When we grow crystals we are separating all the building block molecules into individual units in water and letting them fall naturally into their appropriate place in the repetitive structure as the water evaporates. Chemistry & New Zealand.

Snowflake Crystals Explained

Snowflakes and Snow Crystals
This site is all about snow crystals and snowflakes — what they are, where they come from, and just how these remarkably complex and beautiful structures are created, quite literally, out of thin air.

Yes, Virginia, some snowflakes can look the same!
The old adage that ‘no two snowflakes are alike’ may ring true for larger snowflakes, but it might not hold true for smaller, simpler crystals that fall before they’ve had a chance to fully develop. Poster of The Crystal Chemistry of Snowflakes.

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