Here’s what you need to know to keep your crystals ethical and your vibes high.
Six years ago, on the advice of an unkempt and wild-eyed tarot reader in Glastonbury, I bought a heart-shaped piece of rose quartz to ‘heal my broken heart’. This was the first time I’d purchased a crystal for myself and although I felt dubious, I was broken-hearted and I really did want to meet the (no joke) tall, dark, and handsome man she said was waiting for me. Handing over my five pounds, I was sure I’d been had but I tucked the crystal in my suitcase anyway. Six weeks later, I met my husband.
Did the crystal work magic on my love life or was it sheer coincidence? Depending on what side of the new age divide you fall on, chances are you’ll have a pretty strong opinion on this either way. But when it comes to healing crystals, it turns out we’ve been having the wrong debate. Whether they work is less important than where they come from – or the harm we might be doing when we purchase them haphazardly.
What’s unethical about a crystal?
When we purchase a healing crystal, we don’t always consider the issues that might cloud the good energy we seek. Wildlife crime, environmental degradation, child labour, and terrorism aren’t what you’d traditionally associate with an Instagram-worthy, shiny crystal collection. But unless you’ve purchased your rocks consciously, these are the global issues you could be inadvertently contributing to.
“I’ve seen for myself, entire rivers in Madagascar choked up with sediment due to impoverished people sieving desperately for sapphires… turned to a boggy mire due to poverty-driven desperation. Sadly, an unethical supply chain is very often the way those pretty gems and minerals people adorn their homes and bodies with come to be in our possession,” says geologist Dr Robert Madden.
Exploitation – of both people and the Earth – is rife in the mining industry of developing nations where the socio-political landscape can drive nefarious activities, warns Dr Madden. There are reports of the Taliban receiving a purported $20 million from lapis lazuli mining in Afghanistan in 2016. There are also widespread accounts of amber and jade mining in Myanmar funding arms purchases for mercenaries and revenue for a government that has launched attacks on its own people, committing human rights atrocities.
Ethical vibes only, please
Wanting to address the murky supply chain of healing crystals and provide high-quality, ethical products is what led Brisbane sisters Shari Pearce and Peta Snelson to start their online store, Unearthed Crystals. “Based on the premise that crystals provide healing qualities and work by emitting energy, if they’re mined in destructive ways, wouldn’t this mean they would be emitting this frequency, and thus become null and void for this purpose?” asks Pearce.
For the most part, the sisters’ store sources from small family mines and places where they can be confident their merchandise has come from a sustainable, conflict-free source. “We also prefer to use suppliers who can offset environmental effects, such as using recycled water for cutting stones and decreasing emissions by hand mining rather than using large machinery,” says Pearce.
It’s an issue that conscious consumers are becoming aware of. “I try to live my life as ethically as possible across the board,” says April, a long-time crystal devotee. “I look into crystal stores before I purchase and find out if they’re ethically sourced or if I’m buying straight from the person who fossicked it. More often than not, that means I’m paying a higher price for a piece, but I’d rather do that and know what I’m buying is doing the least amount of damage to people and the planet,” she says.
When buying crystals, ask questions
It’s important to note that many healing crystals are a result of other forms of mining and originate in the developed world. “A lot of minerals are the by-product of larger scale industrial mining activities. In developed nations with strong enforcement of best practices and protective legislation, the damage is what you can see – holes in the ground and associated activities,” says Dr Madden.
If you’d like to ensure the crystals you purchase are sustainable and ethical – for the highest possible vibes all round – Pearce recommends asking hard questions of your retailer. “Legitimate merchants will have no problem telling you the story behind the stone, including how it was formed, why it’s special, and how it was sourced,” she says.
As the old adage says, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. “Ethically sourced crystals are generally more expensive because the price incorporates fair and humane working conditions,” but it’s a price the sisters believe is worth paying. “Wearing something doused in pain, anguish and suffering goes against the whole power behind these rocks – to heal, soothe, and comfort,” says Pearce.
For Dr Madden, making a decision to purchase a mineral or gem to add to his geology collection is clear, “Personally, unless I know exactly where something has come from and I can do my homework on the area and how things are extracted – or better yet, pick it myself – I stay clear of it.”
How to cleanse your existing collection
What about crystals you may have purchased prior to learning about the conflicts and issues surrounding their extraction? If you’re using them for their energetic properties, can anything be done to clear them? Julia Van Doren (aka Goldirocks), the author of Crystals, says, “Cleansing and charging a new crystal is always a good idea, regardless of the source, as doing so creates a conscious connection between your personal energy and the crystal, opening the space for personalised magic to manifest.”
Cleansing a crystal won’t erase the impact its extraction had on the earth that held it or the people who mined it, but your raised awareness of the potential issues can certainly help you purchase more responsibly in future. Particularly if you’re buying crystals for all those good vibes, an ethical purchase can only increase the charge.
Magical or not, as I look at my rose quartz heart, I can’t help but feel gratitude for the blessings that deep romantic love has brought to my life. I can’t say for sure if the crystal played a part in this, but I do know I’ll be doing my best to ensure my future purchases do no harm.