Before anyone asks, no the title isn't a typo. The Crystal Beast theme, a favorite of some and the butt of many jokes to others, has its share of transgressions to say the least, both in duels and in design flavor. After seeing Doug Zeeffs most recent Crystal Beast deck, I decided to pull this one out and dust it off. While the Crystal Beasts were created to flesh out the animated series of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, their journey as an archetype, being derived from a Roman lithograph and eventually traveling into the hands of Jesse Anderson are a real mishmash of history and mythology.

In truth, many of the Crystal Beasts themselves are based upon the stones found commonly in Roman jewellery: emerald, sapphire, topaz, amber, carbuncle and Amethyst were all used in jewellery then as they are still today. All of you Crystal Beast lovers out there, grab your decks and follow along as we take a trip through time and crystals to expose some of the misnomers and misinterpretations that have plagued the Crystal Beasts through the years!

Amber's Confession - "It's True. I've Been Amorphous All My Life..."
When it comes to the naming of the Crystal Beats, I prefer their Japanese name of Gem-Beast, not because I'm a die-hard fan of the series but because not all of the Crystal Beasts crystals are actually crystalline in structure. Scientifically, in order for something to be classified as crystalline it must consist of an orderly arrangement of atoms. Crystal Beast Amber Mammoth is part of the amorphous group of gemstone materials; they have a disorganized arrangement of atoms and aren't actually considered crystalline. Other materials such as glasses (like obsidian and tektite), opal and amber itself are considered amorphous. That said they're considered "gem material" which is a term used to cover substances including amorphous and crystalline substances.

The Crystal Beasts' origins are based in Rome. The Romans used many materials in their jewellery due in part to the abundance of natural resources spreading through Rome and the Mediterranean, which was under the empire's dominion. They had considerable networks of trade giving them unparalleled access to many unique and unusual materials and gemstones that came through the Silk Road, from places like Persia and India. Stones such as emerald, carnelian, lapis lazuli, jaspers, onyxes and ambers were all at the hands of the Roman Empire.

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In fact, amber was said to be very popular in Rome, so popular that a route of trade regularly used for amber that went from the Baltic between the Northern and Southern Europe was called the "Amber Road." It was the ancient trade route of amber from the the coast of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. Other gemstones such as (blue) sapphire and topaz were also imported from India and Sri Lanka. At this time cabochon jewellery and gold working were en vogue as well as the now uncommon intaglio and cameo. Jewellery was worn more on the finger than the knuckle as we do now, with many rings and stones falling out of their primitive settings and draining out of the Roman baths.

Cobalt's Battle With Depression - "I'm A Blue Bird of Unhappiness"
Crystal Beast Cobalt Eagle's the only monster in the theme to be based not on a true gemstone, so much as a chemical element itself. However, I've found something of interest to shatter this theory. In recent discovery, some gemstones have been found in nature that actually contain cobalt as a coloring agent including smithsonite and spinel. In cobalt-rich smithsonite, the cobalt turns the stone a shade of pink whereas in cobalt-rich spinels, which are quite rare to find naturally, the stone has a blue color. Synthetic cobalt spinels are blue but they're doped into that color by adding cobalt to their chemical feed during their creation, through a technique called the Verneuille Flame Fusion method of production.

The cut of the gemstone in the background of Crystal Beast Cobalt Eagle looks pretty close to a very old cut which is seldom used in modern jewelery, known as the 'old mine' cut. This was used on diamonds and was the result of primitive attempts at cutting them. Now granted, this cut wasn't necessarily if ever used on the spinel, but restricted to the diamond itself. Both crystals are part of the cubic crystal system with both spinel and diamond growing in an octahedral form.

Ruby's Shame - "I Couldn't Tell Who I Was Anymore..."
Crystal Beast Ruby Carbuncle's another monster that suffers from a strange hodge-podge of naming. This monster's embodiment is an obvious homage to the famed carbuncle of mythology, a small beast with a carbuncle in its head that's seen throughout fantasy. What is an actual carbuncle though? Not the abscess of the skin, but the actual context of the stone and mythical beast.

The mythological creature known as the carbuncle receives its name from the gemstone itself, an old word that was used to loosely refer to any red gemstone. However, this term was not meant for the red ruby but the red garnet, a stone that has many different varieties ranging in a cascade of nearly any color imaginable. In shape, the carbuncle is unfaceted and perceived to be a cabochon which as you can see is the gemstone in the forehead of Crystal Beast Ruby Carbuncle itself. The carbuncle stone is thought to be the Almandine Garnet specifically.

It's not uncommon for someone to make the Mistake of mixing up garnet and ruby, or even red spinel. As far as etymology's concerned, the word "carbuncle" is derived from "charbocle" or "carbon," which can mean "red gem," "fiery jewel" or "little coal" attributing to the redness of the rounded stone similar to an ember. This term was also prescribed to the medical abscess as well.

CB's Gym, The Rainbow Ruins Fitness Centre! It's To DIE For...
Ancient City - Rainbow Ruins is designed after a colosseum, within which the Romans staged fights that often involved animals. These fights included people facing off against beasts, reenactments of fables, depictions of massacres and extinction of certain species, famous hunts, and the list goes on. I have to wonder if Ancient City - Rainbow Ruins, the home of the Crystal Beasts, is not some horrific world these souls of the beasts are trapped in, forever tormented to wander the stadium and its corridors until being released again in duels to fight to the death over and over. Imbued with the crystals themselves as some horrible joke to continuously die and come back to life from their crystallized forms.

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Upon the destruction of each Crystal Beast, they return to clog up your Spell and Trap Card Zone as a crystal specimen. Whilst some of them return as a whole faceted stone such as Crystal Beast Topaz Tiger and Crystal Beast Amethyst Cat, the rest seem to return in a broken manner, as chunks. None of their forms actually take the shape of their crystal rough – what a gemstone crystal looks like when it's being formed in the earth – but rather as a single solid, and in some cases broken, piece.

I came across an interesting bit of information while doing some research years ago about alchemy, involving a tree of vines and jewels. A Crystal Tree is actually mentioned in the book Cosmodromium of Doctor Gobelin Persona. It relates a tale about Alexander the Great's adventures through India. The excerpt I'm looking at specifically speaks of a Mountain with steps of pure sapphire, and high above these steps was said to be a magnificent palace of twelve gates and seventy windows of gold, dubbed the Palace of the Sun. Within the Palace of the Sun was a golden temple with gates made of vine trees which bore carbuncles and pearls.

Alchemy does seep into the world of the Crystal Beasts by coincidence. The alchemical signs of the Lion (Crystal Beast Amethyst Cat), the Eagle (Crystal Beast Cobalt Eagle), the Unicorn (Crystal Beast Sapphire Pegasus, which has a horn on its head, oddly enough for a pegasus) are seen throughout real life alchemic seals and rituals, which brings me to the final monster for today.

Rainbow Dragon's Guide to BEING FABULOUS!
Many of the Crystal Beast cards depict rainbows, undoubtedly because the seven Crystal Beast monsters are a spectrum themselves denoting the seven colors of the rainbow; light has an impact on gemstones as well. This brings me to Rainbow Dragon. At first, I thought the Rainbow Dragon perhaps had something to do with the spiritual belief of Chakras, but the Chakras are in reverse on the Rainbow Dragon beginning with red to violet, whereas Charkas usually begin from the head transitioning from violet to red. That brings us back to the alchemy theory wherein winged serpents symbolized the wedding of composite figures.

As far as divinity's concerned, Iris was the messenger of the gods of Ancient Rome and the personification of the rainbow; she was thought to be the link between the mortal and the divine. The Rainbow Serpent of Australia also comes to mind. Roman Dragons were hybrids of other serpents and winged beast-like creatures of Hellenistic and Greek traditions. Rainbow Dragon can't be compared to any of these, aside from maybe the Rainbow Serpent, but even that seems like a long shot. It seems the body of the Rainbow Dragon serves as a setting for the jewels in cabochon form and nothing more.

I hope you all enjoyed today's article on the Crystal Beasts! This discussion has been a long time coming. As a closing note, I wonder sometimes if perhaps Diamond Dire Wolf could have been a Crystal Beast monster at one point in production and design. He's Diamond and he's a wolf – maybe the art was just set aside for later and re-appropriated? Perhaps in the future more Crystal Beasts will join the fray!

-Franco Ferrara