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Ancient Ear Hair: How Do Crystals Form?

Aug 26, 2021 5 MINUTES

Art at The Met is made of many materials, including natural materials like minerals. Environmental conditions can affect these minerals, and even make an ancient statue grow ear hair! Learn about the science of crystals and salts, and how we use our knowledge to protect the art.

#MetKids Microscope is a show about the science behind the art (and the art behind the science!) at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Learn true stories about real discoveries from scientists at the Museum, and do some experiments on your own!

Do Not Not Try This at Home: Create Edible Crystals

Difficulty Level: 5/5


1 ½ cups of white sugar
1 cup water
Wooden spoon
Wax paper
Small jars
Craft stick or popsicle stick
Food coloring (optional)


1. Pour some sugar on a plate. Dip the end of your stick into water, then roll the stick in the sugar.
2. Pour the water in the saucepan and add ½ cup of sugar. Stir until no more sugar will dissolve. Repeat twice.
3. Ask an adult for help! Place the saucepan on the stove and turn the heat on high. Stir the water and sugar until the water is boiling. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Keep stirring until the sugar dissolves. Keep stirring the liquid until it looks clear, about 5 minutes. Turn the stove off and let the mixture cool.
4. Slowly pour the liquid into the jars until they are around 2/3 full. If you have food coloring, add 5-6 drops to each jar and stir.
5. Once the liquid is cool and the sugar sticks are dry, place several sticks into each jar.
6. Move the jars somewhere they will not be disturbed and check them every other day. After one week, you should see a lot of crystals forming on the sticks.

Congratulations! You made crystal rock candy! What shapes do you see?


Head of Digital Content: Sofie Andersen
Executive Producer: Sarah Wambold
Director/Writer/Producer: Benjamin Korman
Animation Direction: Lisa LaBracio
Art Direction: Lisa LaBracio
Design + Illustration: Tara Sunil Thomas
Animation: Sara Zarul Azham, Lisa LaBracio
Effects Animation: Tom Bayne
Experiment Photography: Mia Nacamulli
Production Coordinators: Lela Jenkins, Emma Masdeu-Perez
Narrator: Corin Wells, Federico Carò
Education Consultants: Emily Blumenthal, Darcy-Tell Morales, Julie Marie Seibert
Episode Consultants: Alexis Belis, Federico Carò, Marco Leona
Original Music: Austin Fisher
Sound Mix: Dave Raymond
Additional Photography: Peter Berson
Special Thanks: Téo Nacamulli Tabet, Sean Hemingway, Sarah Lepinski

Terracotta head of a woman, probably a sphinx, 1st quarter of the 5th century B.C. Greek culture, Archaic period. Terracotta, H.: 8 1/8 in. (20.7 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1947 (47.100.3)

Cosmetic Vessel in the Shape of a Cat, ca. 1990–1900 B.C. From Egypt, Middle Kingdom period. Travertine (Egyptian alabaster), copper, quartz crystal, paint, 5 1/2 x 5 3/8 x 2 1/2 in. (14 x 13.7 x 6.2 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1990 (1990.59.1)

Snuff bottle with gourd on a trellis, Qing dynasty (1644–1911), late 18th–19th century. China. Chalcedony with jadeite stopper, 2 7/8 x 2 1/4 x 1 1/4 in. (7.3 x 5.7 x 3.2 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Heber R. Bishop, 1902 (02.18.969a, b)

Standing cup, ca. 1530. Italian, Venice (Murano). Glass, enameled and gilt, H.: 11 5/8 in. (29.5 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection, 1982 (1982.60.130)

Phillippe Rousseau (French, 1816–1887). Still Life with Ham, 1870. Oil on canvas, 28 3/4 x 36 1/4 in. (73 x 92.1 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund, 1982 (1982.320)

Pensive bodhisattva, Three Kingdoms period (57 B.C.–A.D. 676), mid-7th century. Korea, Three Kingdoms period (57 B.C.–A.D. 676). Gilt bronze, 8 7/8 x 4 x 4 1/4 in. (22.5 x 10.2 x 10.8 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Walter and Leonore Annenberg and The Annenberg Foundation Gift, 2003 (2003.222)

Pedestal and mounts by Pierre Philippe Thomire (French, Paris 1751–1843 Paris). Monumental vase, lapidary work: early 19th century; pedestal and mounts: 1819. Russian malachite, composite filling material; gilt-bronze mounts; bronze pedestal, H. with pedestal: 109 1/4 in. (277.5 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Admiral Frederic R. Harris Gift, 1944 (44.152a, b)

Rock crystal Statuette of a Lion, 3rd–4th century. Roman or Byzantine culture. Rock crystal, 1 1/2 x 2 1/8 x 1 in. (3.8 x 5.4 x 2.5 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of Ada Small Moore, 1955 (55.135.6)

Images © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

© 2021 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

#MetKids is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies

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