We’re not going to lie – we love crystals! They’re beautiful, glow-enhancing, and one of our favorite healing aids around. The truth is though; they don’t come without some serious potential issues. Just like with diamonds and mica (read our blog on mica here), these shimmery stones are at the center of some seriously heartbreaking human rights violations and environmental destruction.
It’s sort of an oxymoron situation: we use crystals for healing, transformation, beauty, and wellness, yet some crystals can also be the source of incredible human suffering and planetary degradation. So, what’s the answer? Keep reading for:
- The crystal craze
- The dark side of crystals
- How we source our crystals
- The physical & metaphysical benefits of all the crystals we use
- How to find ethically-sourced crystals
- What you can do about this issue
THE CRYSTAL CRAZE
In the last decade or so, crystals have gone from shamanic ceremonies and metaphysical healing to totally mainstream. They’re everywhere: on your coffee table, in your crystal-charged water bottle, in your jewelry, in beauty and skincare products, and in almost every electronic you own. Thanks to rising belief in their metaphysical benefits (and discovery of their many uses), crystals have quickly become a multibillion-dollar industry.
So, is this a problem? Why not harness their healing properties? Well, let’s dive a little deeper into the truth about crystals down below.
THE DARK SIDE OF CRYSTALS
The truth: most of the World’s crystals come from impoverished, war-torn, corruption-ridden areas without ethical labor standards or environmental regulation in place. The sad truth behind some of our favorite glittering gems:
Many crystal mining operations are off-the-books projects with zero regulation of any kind. They employ the cheapest labor they can get – and oftentimes that means young children. Families in the area are struggling just to survive, and thanks to unlivable wages paid by these mine operators, they’re often forced to recruit the whole family to work at the mine just to earn enough money for food.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, where popular crystals like Citrine and Quartz can be found, children as young as seven labor away in the hazardous mines. And in mineral-rich Madagascar, where countless covetable crystals are found, an estimated 85,000 children are working in the mines.
Image: Tess McClure for The Guardian
Unsafe working conditions & unlivable wages
Despite being a major worldwide supplier of crystals, most people in crystal-rich areas like Anjoma Ramartina, Madagascar live on a couple of dollars a day, have no running water, phones, or electricity in their homes. And many of them suffer from chronic malnutrition.
Why? They’re paid next to nothing. Mineworkers are paid only for the crystals they extract. And the going rate: pennies per kg. These crystals will then sell for more than 1500x that price to crystal sellers.
And the working conditions in these unregulated mines are incredibly dangerous. Besides the unavoidable danger of landslides, workers inhale dust and particles that can manifest into serious respiratory problems and lung cancer. They suffer broken bones, serious cuts, and a couple of times per year, mines completely cave in on workers, trapping them inside.
Corruption & drug dependence
Combine the massively profitable crystal business with corrupt governments, uncontrolled gang activity, and bribable police forces, and you get a truly toxic situation. In some crystal havens like Anjoma Ramartina, Madagascar, there are entire regions that are ‘unpoliceable’ – controlled by violent gangs who commit unspeakable crimes against the local villagers.
In Myanmar, the incredibly lucrative jade trade is riddled with corruption. The military uses the profits from this stone to fund wars against rebel groups fighting for independence. The rest of the profits go to corrupt politicians, and drug dealers. And many mineworkers, laboring sometimes for days straight, suffer from heroin addiction and HIV fueled by drug dealers who’ve set up shop alongside the mines.
While crystal mining can be done on a smaller, more sustainable scale, the majority of the World’s crystal extraction happens in unregulated, environmentally irresponsible operations.
In Madagascar, mining often comes at the expense of protected rainforest land and endangered animals. And unfortunately, many mines across the globe leak heavy metals and toxic wastewater into local waterways, endangering the people and wildlife nearby.
Most crystal mining operations are completely unregulated – they operate under the radar with no government oversight. What this means: they can get away with any of the above violations with zero repercussions. There’s also no governing body requiring crystal retailers to disclose where they source their crystals from. So, unless they do so voluntarily, us consumers have no way to know where our shiny new gem came from.
HOW WE SOURCE OUR CRYSTALS
After all that, why do we use crystals in our products? And where do we source them from to avoid the major human consequences and impact on the planet?
All our crystals are sourced from the USA and Canada where environmental and labor standards are set and regulated. Where corruption is not an issue, and where mining operations have a democratic government to answer to.
Our crystal suppliers certify that all gemstones are purchased from legitimate sources that are not involved in funding conflict, do not employ children, and use environmentally-sound extraction techniques. Their facilities are also powered with solar technology for a reduced carbon footprint.
As with every ingredient in our formulas, if we can’t find a sustainably sourced, ethically-produced option, we don’t use that ingredient. We’ll never participate in any activity that does harm to this planet or any being on it.
WHY WE USE CRYSTALS IN OUR PRODUCTS
Besides adding a gorgeous lit-from-within glow, crystal infusions help reflect light away from the skin, camouflaging fine lines and wrinkles. They’re the smoothing beauty filters of nature! Every crystal also has its own unique skin-soothing benefits to energize, calm, and add that lustrous glow to your skin.
And, most of all, we connect deeply to the metaphysical, healing benefits of crystals when paired with clear, positive intention.
THE PHYSICAL & METAPHYSICAL EFFECTS OF EACH CRYSTAL WE USE
A truly skin-soothing stone, amethyst emits infrared rays which boosts circulation in the skin, calms inflammation, and reduces redness. Its negative ion-charge helps detoxify the skin by drawing out toxins and free radicals. Amethyst's crystal energy purifies negative thoughts and helps release stress, anxiety, and fear. It transforms darkness into bright, radiant light.
Rose Quartz helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles, redness, and fine lines by calming inflammation, releasing tension, and encouraging skin healing. Considered ‘the love stone’, Rose Quartz heals the heart chakra, allowing you to open your spirit to the energy of love.
Found in: Rose Quartz Crystal Gemstone Palette
Diamonds helps stimulate collagen production, reduces redness and discoloration, and helps brighten the skin. The highest vibration stone, diamonds open the mind and spirit to infinite possibility, imagination, and creativity.
Blue and Yellow Topaz
Topaz helps release stored tension from the face which can cause premature aging. The stone of creativity and abundance, its crystal energy helps bring your highest manifestations to life.
The flame-colored stone helps hydrate, nourish, and protect the skin and lips from aging free radicals. It also acts like a crystal sauna, helping to heat the skin, encourage better blood flow, and remove unwanted toxins. Rubies also stimulate the heart – awakening passion, love, and prosperity in your life.
Sapphire helps soothe, hydrate, and calm the skin, creating that smooth, even glow. On a deeper level, sapphire helps facilitates self-expression, allows you to express yourself, and connects you to the deepest truth of who you are.
Found in: Crystal Grid Gemstone Palette
The succinic acid found in Amber is a powerful antioxidant. It helps fight the damaging effects of free radicals on your skin. The honey-colored stone awakens our self-worth and stimulates our creative expression. It absorbs negativity and helps alleviate stress.
Tourmaline helps energize and awaken the skin for a radiant, youthful glow. Seen as a ‘psychic shield’, it helps deflect negative energy from our mind and spirit. Tourmaline is the stone for transforming low-vibe energy into positive, creative action.
Found in: Crystal Grid Gemstone Palette
Read our blog, ‘Crystals: the science behind the spiritual’ for more on how crystals work the way they do!
HOW TO VET CRYSTALS
Your best bet: look for retailers with ethical, sustainable crystal sourcing practices. If they don’t spell out their practices, send them a message and ask. If they won’t share their sourcing practices (or if they don’t know where their crystals come from), then you have to questions whether their crystals are conflict-free and sustainably sourced.
HOW YOU CAN HELP BRING CRYSTAL SOURCING INTO THE LIGHT
As always, your most powerful tools for change are your voice and your buying power. If we all started voicing to retailers that ethical, sustainable crystal sourcing was a non-negotiable for us, this would slowly move down the supply chain. Suppliers would only purchase from ethical mines because retailers would be demanding ethically sourced stones from them.
And another powerful step: email your government representatives about increasing regulation on crystal sourcing. The government has already created the Kimberly Process to limit conflict-diamonds from entering the US and a similar process needs to be applied to the crystal market.
Sending all the love and sustainably-sourced light to you! Thanks for always supporting #betterbeauty with love for this planet and all people on it <3
- ĀTHR Beauty xo