Welcome to the second lesson for the Crystals 101 course I created in 2020! We’re going to learn about ethical crystal collecting, and why this should matter to you. Let me start by reassuring you that if you didn’t know this information before now, that’s ok! Everyone starts their journey towards morality and ethics at the same point. The goal is to do better today than you did yesterday, and to continue to improve and progress towards the frankly unattainable but still worthy goal of totally ethical life.
Morals and Ethics?
When we talk about morals and ethics, we’re talking about the guiding ideas about right and wrong, as well as the code of behavior we use to help determine whether a thing is right or wrong. Morals are the set of ideas that tell us what is right. Ethics are the guidelines that help us determine what our behavior should be. Ethics are informed by morals, and, when we change our moral stance on something, often our ethics also change.
In the case of crystal collecting and use in New Age communities, “ethical” crystals refers to the process by which various crystals and minerals were obtained. The ethics we’re concerned with are the guidelines around the processes undertaken to get the mineral from point A to your hands. A stone or rock is itself morally and ethically neutral, because it has no will to act. The set of actions taken by people to mine, process, and transport that mineral can have ethical implications.
When we’re looking for ethical crystals, we’re looking for stones, crystals, and minerals that don’t abridge our ideas of the right, or least harmful, methods for obtaining those crystals. Obvious examples of an unethical crystal would be a stone that was in the possession of someone else, stolen from them, and sold on the black market. The method of transaction, to get that stone from point A to point B is unethical, therefore the stone’s acquisition is unethical.
Sadly, when it comes to the worldwide crystal and mineral business, unethical acts don’t stop at simple theft.
The worldwide market for crystals as part of the “wellness” market topped $4.2 TRILLION dollars in 2017. Where there’s big money, there’s a deep temptation to do unethical things. Crystals are big business. While a buyer may be shopping on Etsy or from a little rock shop, those stones are still a part of a much larger global economy.
Some sellers do attempt to create transparency around their crystal sources, in an attempt to promote ethical consumption of stones and crystals. Far too many simply claim that their crystals are ethically sourced, and provide no proof or support for their marketing. Sellers who tell you, the buyer, where those stones came from, who make an effort to inspect the mines, who pay a fair market price for the stones, and who refuse to buy from questionable sources are hard to find, and when you do find them, their stones naturally cost more.
What sorts of things are we talking about when we say “unethical acts” in the sourcing of crystals?
If you’re in a fragile mindspace, have issues with some triggers, or are otherwise not in the right frame of mind, don’t keep reading.
Unethical acts in the production of crystals for the Western market can include: child labor, slavery, exposure to toxic environments, lack of personal protective equipment for stone cutters and lapidary artists, starvation wages, ecological destruction, and terrorism.
Lapis lazuli is a beautiful stone, prized by the Ancient Egyptians and modern people alike for it’s deep luxurious blue with gold flecks. The best mines in the world for lapis are in Afghanistan, and are controlled by the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Watermelon Tourmaline is prized for its lovely pink and green striations. The crystals are fragile, and are largely found in shifting mud and clay fields under deeply dug narrow tunnels. Most Watermelon Tourmaline is mined by children.
In Africa, diamond mines have been a source of funding for warlords; the Kimberly Accord was an attempt to prevent the sale of diamonds to fund genocide and war, however the appetite for diamonds has created a new trade: forging Kimberly Accord papers.
There is no ethical consumption under capitalism.
This essentially means that so long as someone, somewhere is making a profit on your choice to purchase or not purchase from any given market source, there is no purely ethical choice that you can make. Every option is tainted in some way, because at every point the question can boil down to “pay more for this item, and then not have enough funds left for other needs, or pay less and contribute to the suffering of someone else?” My greatest good, or your greatest good? When that ‘your greatest good’ is for someone you will never meet, never see, and never know the true details of their lives, it becomes so very easy to justify putting your own need over the more ethical choice.
So how do you get stones and crystals ethically, then?!
*Do the best you can, with what you know, in the moment. Use your own best judgment, and try to balance your needs with the needs of the world and people around you.
*Read everything you can on the absolute scandal that is the worldwide gem and crystal market, so you can be up to date and educated on any advances in legislation and changes in the market.
*Interrogate the sources you’re thinking of purchasing stones from, to see if they are even pretending to care about the ethical practices of their business, and try to only purchase from those sellers who are putting forth the effort.
*Haunt second hand stores, rummage sales, sale groups on Facebook, and thrift shops. Sometimes someone’s entire collection winds up for sale, and that can be a real find. (You’ll be amazed what sorts of stones you can find in second hand jewelry, too.)
*Urge your elected legislative bodies to enact laws and regulations governing the sale and import of stones and crystals that have been mined or obtained unethically.
*Arrange a crystal and stone swap in your area!
*Lastly: learn what stones are local to you, and go rock hounding. I’m in Texas, where petrified wood is common and abundant. Even opalized petrified wood can be picked up from the streams and creeks where I live. Quartz, chert, jasper, and more can all be found in my front yard. What’s in your area? Did you know there’s a mine in Arkansas where you pay a flat fee, and can go dig up huge quartz points and clusters? There are emerald mines and diamond mines, and more, all over the world. Your neck of the woods has some lovely rocks waiting for you, all for the price of going and finding them.
Exercise: Inventory time!
Before you go add to your collection with a spending spree with a good shop on Etsy, go over what you already have. Don’t forget to look at your jewelry! Diamonds, rubies, emeralds, pearls, amethyst, citrine, topaz, opal, jade, coral, and tons more are all used in jewelry. Points, spheres, cut pieces, hearts and that cute carved bear your grandmother got you that one time… they all count! Pay attention to what’s in your home already: you have rocks and crystals and gems all around you. Make a list, even if it’s just “wow, turns out those candle holders are marble!”
Ethical consumption begins by refusing to be mindless about what you’re consuming. What do you already have?