3 Simple Questions to Ask When Buying Crystals

When I first started buying crystals, I frequented a hidden crystal shop on the second floor on 23rd street in NYC. I was so overwhelmed the first time I walked in!

Floor to ceiling shelves sparkled with every color imaginable and some I had never seen before. The crystal encyclopedias on the counter were dog-eared from other customers searching for the perfect stone for their ailments.

I joined the ranks and scooped up a clear quartz to help me focus, howlite to help me sleep at night, and a heart-sized chunk of rose quartz to find my soulmate. And I was asking questions like “Where are these crystals from?” and “Which one can help me the most right now?”

But those were the wrong questions.

Over 80% of crystals are mined ‘artisanally.’ Artisanal and small-scale mining is the industry term for miners working alone, with their families or small groups, digging holes just wide enough to lower themselves and a 5-gallon bucket into the earth.1 According to the International Labor Council upwards of 40 million people work in artisanal mining, including about 1 million children.2 

I should have been asking, “How were these crystals found and mined? Who harvested them from the earth? And how many hands did they travel through before arriving to mine?”

Mining crystals can be dangerous work. The holes can collapse or be filled with water when it rains. Quartz dust fills workers lungs leading to silicosis and lung cancer. And it is economically unsustainable, since miners are paid pennies on the dollar for what we buy at our local crystal shops.1 

Consider the source of the rose quartz you’re using to call in love.

It may be from Madagascar, one of the 4 top sources for rose quartz in the world. 80% of the rose quartz mined in Madagascar is done by hand by people who live below the global $1.90/day poverty line. And 85,000 children are estimated to work in Madagascar’s mines.1

But we can change this!

Here are 3 simple questions to ask next time you buy crystals:

  1. "How are your crystals mined?”
    If they say it’s ethically, congratulate them for putting in the effort! Letting crystal shops know that you care about the sourcing is one step towards changing the industry. If they don’t know, simply by asking this question you are letting them know that you support transparency in crystal sourcing.
  2.  “What does ethical or sustainable crystals mean to you?”
    There are no industry standards yet for ethical or sustainable crystal mining. Fair Trade and Direct Trade certifications that apply to the food and fashion sectors haven’t made it to the crystals industry yet. Most medium to large scale mining operations are not fair labor certified. 
  3. Determine what path is right for you. If a shop says they source ethically to the best of their knowledge, it is up to you to decide whether or not to spend your money with them.

At the end of the day we can’t smudge the slavery out of our crystals

But we can start asking better questions. 


Sources:

The Guardian, “Dark Crystals: The Brutal Reality Behind a Booming Wellness Craze” September 17, 2019

International Labor Organization, “Child labour in mining and global supply chains” September 23, 2019