• Safety goggles
    • Five charcoal briquets
    • Hammer
    • 2-quart glass bowl
    • Clean, empty glass jar
    • 1 tablespooon ammonia
    • 6 tablespoons salt
    • 6 tablespoons of Mrs. Stewart's Liquid Bluing (available from the grocery store, or visit
    • 2 tablespooons water
    • Food coloring

    Wearing safety goggles, break up the charcoal briquets into 1-inch chunks with the hammer, and place the pieces in the bowl.

    In the jar, mix the ammonia, salt, bluing, and water thoroughly. Pour the mixture over the charcoal in the bowl.

    Sprinkle a few drops of food coloring over each piece of charcoal.

    Let the bowl sit undisturbed in a safe place for 72 hours.

    Fluffy, fragile crystals form on top of the charcoal, and some climb up the sides of the bowl. To keep the crystals growing, add another batch of ammonia, salt, bluing, and water.

    As the ammonia speeds up the evaporation of the water, the blue ion particles in the bluing and the salt get carried up into the porous charcoal, where the salt crystallizes around the blue particles as nuclei. These crystals are porous, like a sponge, and the liquid below continues to move into the openings and evaporate, leaving layers of crystals.


    • All solids have an orderly pattern of atoms, which is repeated again and again. This orderly pattern, called crystallinity, can be seen in simple crystals because their shapes reveal their particular atomic structure to the naked eye.
    • Some New Age enthusiasts believe that wearing a crystal—usually an amethyst, rose quartz, or clear quartz--around the neck attracts good vibrations and can be used to better arrange a person's spiritual and physical energies. There is no scientific evidence to support this pseudoscience.
    • Crystals grow by attracting the atoms of similar compounds, which join together in an orderly pattern. Impure atoms can invade the atomic structure of the crystal and create mixed crystals of dazzling hues.
    • Some scientists theorize that birds have a tiny magnetic crystal in their brain, enabling them to navigate during migration by detecting the earth's magnetic field.
    • Crystal gardens became popular during the Depression and are still known to some as a "Depression flower" or "coal garden."
    • In 1921, Henry Ford, eager to find a use for the growing piles of wood scraps from the production of his Model Ts, learned of a process for turning the wood scraps into charcoal briquets, and one of his relatives, E. G. Kingsford, helped select the site for Ford's charcoal plant. In 1951, Ford Charcoal was renamed Kingsford Charcoal.
    • Mrs. Stewart's bluing, a very fine blue iron powder suspended in water, optically whitens white fabric. It does not remove stains or clean the fabric, but merely adds a microscopic blue particle to white fabric that makes it appear whiter. The brightest whites have a slight blue hue which, unfortunately, washes out over time. Adding a little diluted bluing to the rinse cycle gives white fabrics this blue hue again, making them look snow-white.
    • Freshly cut carnations placed in a vase with a high content of Mrs. Stewart's Bluing in the water will by osmosis carry the blue color into the tips of the petals quickly.

    On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, spoke the first words on the moon: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." The second thought he expressed was: "The surface is fine and powdery. It adheres in fine layers, like powdered charcoal, to the soles and sides of my foot."

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WARNING: A responsible adult should supervise any young reader who conducts these experiments to avoid potential dangers and injuries. The author has conducted every experiment and has made every reasonable effort to ensure that the experiments are safe when conducted as instructed; however, the author does not assume any liability for damage caused or injury sustained from conducting these projects.

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