History of Quartz Crystal Singing Bowls
Quartz crystal singing bowls are a modern invention. It was not until the 1980s that the silicon industry began to use quartz crucibles to grow single crystal ingots from silicon metal for use in the production of high quality silicon wafers--i.e. computer chips. These chips are found everywhere and still are made using the same methods. In fact, the smart phone or computer you are using to access this article may have silicon grown in a fused Quartz crystal bowl. Quartz crucibles are bowls made of quartz used in a laboratory setting. They were never designed as musical instruments, nor were the manufacturers of quartz crucibles generally concerned with their sound. Fused quartz glass is the only material that provides the temperature stability and other properties stable enough for the manufacture of single crystal ingots. It was undoubtedly someone in this industry who figured out that these crucibles (bowls) produce a resonant tone when "sung" or struck. This discovery, created a whole new use for these bowls in the world of sound. Nevertheless, the current manufacturers of quartz crystal bowls are generally the same manufacturers that continue to make quartz crucibles and other fused quartz glass products for industrial applications. These are not manufacturers who set out to create sound therapy instruments, though they now realize the value in this market.
One common myth is that quartz crystal bowls are made from precious crystals. In reality, quartz crystal bowls are made from silica sand, which is naturally occurring broken down quartz. Silica sand is essentially the product of erosion--water, wind, etc. The silica sand is fused at very high temperatures into the shapes required for crystal bowls. Because sand is composed of tiny particles, there is no need to crush large quartz crystals in the manufacturing process. Also, silica sand is quite plentiful and not a rare or precious stone, though it does have remarkable qualities making it ideal for use in crystal singing bowls. It's best to think of crystal bowls as glass products, with incredibly high resonance.
Some sellers market bowls made of "American" quartz. However, the source of silica sand is of little relevance in determining the sound of a bowl. Whether the silica sand comes from the United States, South America, India, or China, it will exhibit the same qualities. Bowl sellers that claim their quartz is from the United States are largely taking this information from the factories overseas that make the bowls and market them to the wholesale market in the United States. Some makers have gone to extremes to advertise their bowls as "American" in an attempt to set them apart. Nevertheless, it would be difficult to verify the source of quartz used in making any particular bowl because simply put: quartz is quartz. This is not to say that the sound of every bowl is the same because some manufacturers are able to make bowls that resonate longer and with different harmonic overtones. These properties do not, however, appear to be related to the source of the quartz.
In other instances, claims of "American Quartz" may be coupled with claims implying or stating that the bowls are made in the U.S.A. While it's certainly possible to make a bowl in the United States (the United States has fused quartz product manufacturers), sellers currently making such claims generally do not provide any evidence of this occurring. One would expect to see pictures of these American factories or further information as to their location. One might also expect that tours of these factories would be offered to buyers. The sellers advertising their products as "Made in the U.S.A." see this as a reason to charge exorbitant sums for bowls. And, on the flip side, some sellers seek to hide the country of origin altogether, making no claim as to where the bowls are made. Under United States law, country of origin is a required label on imported products but almost no seller in the states seems willing to comply with this law. Our advice is to just assume that every bowl is made in China (even the ones that say "Made in U.S.A."). The point is, the place of manufacture is simply not relevant to the quality or sound. Take any claims of "made in the U.S.A." with a grain of salt--or a grain of sand--and look to other measures of quality.
The sale of "Chakra sets" has become the standard configuration for bowls, but it is important to understand what these sets are. Generally, a chakra set is a set of 7 bowls in the key of C-Major. That is, the notes C, D, E, F, G, A, B are assigned to the 7 major Chakra, starting with C as the root (muladara) and moving up the scale. While this system creates an easy to use set of bowls, it is more a configuration of convenience than actual historical method of working with the chakra. The Eastern systems from which the chakra understanding come did not use the same equally tempered scales as the west, making it very unlikely (more like impossible) that these systems would have placed a Western C-Major scale alongside the chakra in their practices.
This is not to say that the notes of the C-Major scale cannot be used to work with the chakra where that is the intention of the practitioner and the recipient. It simply means that practitioners should not fixate on particular notes as being the only way to work. For example, during our travels in Asia we have studied with master bowl players (of the Tibetan variety) and heard numerous times that this C-Major system is not historically correct. The Tibetans use an entirely different system: F, C, G, D, A, E, B moving up in 5ths. Because the perfect 5th harmony is universally resonant and not based on equally-tempered ratios, this system sounds much more natural and works well in sound therapy. If historical accuracy is important, the Tibetans (and other cultures along the Himalaya) were using metal bowls well-before the invention of quartz sing bowls, so some deference might be paid to their system of rising 5ths.
One will also encounter other notes outside of the C-Major scale now being sold to work with particular glands and organs. There is no historical basis for these so-called glandular tunings either, though there may be some evidence that certain frequencies will vibrate different tissues. Unfortunately, we do not have the means of evaluating the claims that accompany these types of bowls. They may well do what is advertised, but as of now it is not possible to verify the claims. Just like working with the chakra, perhaps it's the intention that matters most along with the actual experience of the recipient. This is not to discount the value of bowls in working with the body (including subtle body), but practitioners need not feel constrained by the idea that only one note will work when many notes might also work well.
Frosted Crystal Singing Bowls
There are now several types of quartz crystal singing bowls in the marketplace. The most common are the "frosted" singing bowls. These types of bowls are the largest, heaviest, and loudest of the quartz singing bowls available. They provide the most vibration because of their thickness and size, which allows them to sustain a lot of vibration. Frosted singing bowls also tend to be the most affordable.
Clear Quartz Singing Bowls
One step above frosted bowls are clear quarz bowls, which are not as voluminous as frosted bowls, but produce much clearer tones. In general, clear bowls will be small and thinner in their construction. They can also more difficult to play than frosted bowls. As a result, clear bowls are used primarily by sound therapists and professionals who value their pure clear tones and who know how to properly use them. Unlike the frosted bowls, clear bowls produce harmonics similar to the newer Himalayan bowls. When sung, clear bowls emit a lower tone and when struck, a higher harmonic is heard. Clear bowls also sustain their sound for much longer than frosted bowls.
Gemstone Style Bowls
Moving away from clear bowls, are bowls infused with metals and other gemstones. These are often referred to as "alchemy" bowls because of the alchemy produced by the combination of gemstones, minerals, or metals with the pure quartz. "Alchemy" is a trademark of Crystal Tones and should only be used when referring to their specific branded bowls. Nevertheless, we have seen many sellers other than Crystal Tones advertising "Alchemy" bowls. We prefer to call them Gemstone or Fusion bowls. There are two types of gemstone bowls on the market. Some combine metals and minerals with frosted quartz bowls and others combine these metals and minerals with clear bowls. The sounds of these bowls comparable to their pure quartz counterparts, but because of the infusion of minerals, they take on nuanced voices.
How to Buy Quartz Singing Bowls
Most of the sales of these types of bowls occur online making it difficult to hear the actual bowls being purchased. Even where sound files are available online, it's impossible to get a true-to-life sense of the way a bowl feels and its energetic properties. In an ideal world, you would play and hear the actual bowls you are purchasing in person. We work exclusively with trusted suppliers of bowls located in the United States and can order nearly any bowl for any need at the best available price, with guarantees of quality. Although we have pre-configured sets available on our site, we can custom configure nearly any set in any type of bowl.
We hope you found this article helpful. Let us know if we can be of help in your crystal bowl search!