Crystals are everywhere. From the healing stones that Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen placed in their Fashion Week goodie bags at their label, The Row, to crystal sex toys and Gwyneth Paltrow‘s jade yoni eggs, there’s no escaping the fast growing ubiquity of crystals and gemstones.
Celebs like Bella Hadid, Katy Perry, Naomi Campbell, Victoria Beckham and Adele have all publicly professed their use of the gems, be it to protect from bad vibes or to bring good energy. But these feel-good crystals might just have a not-so-feel-good backstory. In an in-depth Business of Fashion feature, Laura Neilson examines the hidden world behind the mining of these beautiful stones.
Unlike diamonds, most people don’t really stop to question the ethics of crystal acquisition. Despite the fact that some experts estimate that the gemstone industry hovers in the $1-1.5 billion range, according to Bof, there is currently no regulation of the industry nor is there a governing body that holds anyone accountable for how these stones are amassed. This means that despite promoting calmness or peace, your crystal could actually be carrying a pretty dark history.
“Underage labour, low wages, unsafe health and safety conditions for workers, as well as environmental and sustainability issues (mines by nature are unsustainable, and crystals are non-renewable resources), are all major concerns,” writes Neilson. The thought behind acquiring stones isn’t any less questionable.
Mine Owner and Geologist Brian Cook adds, “The model has always been: ‘I’m an adventurer, I’m going to run into some people who have a valuable rock or gem and they don’t even know what it is. I’ll just pay whatever I can get it for, take it back and sell it for tons of money, and I won’t tell anyone where it came from.'”
Artist and Soul Reader Cathy Crabbe states the importance of the ethical hand mining of stones. “Ethical means dealing with smaller scale miners that aren’t causing wholesale destruction,” she says. She goes goes on to give an example of dynamiting methods used in Brazil, where a hillside is destroyed completely and the sorted rubble can be sold as everything from jewellery to road fill.
Still, it’s not all bad news. “The large companies understand that their corporate social responsibility (CSR) and their impression with the public is important, so they’re pushing from the top to find out how to do that, what are the rules — which is tricky,” Cook says. “The rules are not in place yet. We’re working at it, though,” he explained. “Tiffany deserves a shout-out as one of the first major brands to push for this.”
Colleen McCann, an LA-based energy healer and ‘spiritual contributer’ to Time Magazine, urges buyers to ask the right questions, like what country/region does the stone originate from, what are the conditions of the mine, how was the stone mined and where was the crystal treated and polished. Still, if vendors aren’t taking action, it’s unlikely the typical consumer will.
In the meantime, the next time you’re looking to partake in a little crystal healing, be aware that the story behind your amethyst point — that encourages spiritual growth and wisdom — might not be quite as positive as you thought it was.