Crystals and crystal healing started getting crazy popular last year and there's no end in sight for this upward trend. Carried, coveted, and instagrammed by those who love them for their beauty, health, and spiritual benefits, the crystal industry saw a huge surge in 2016 and it looks like it'll grow by leaps and bounds this year, too.
I'm no stranger to the crystal trend, myself: I think they're gorgeous. I like having them around. I haven't studied the spiritual and health benefits but I have many friends who swear by them and are highly educated about healing with them. There are actual crystal healing certification processes one can go through to pursue this as a long term aspect of care.
Clearly, many people resonate deeply with crystals.
But what is our crystal love doing for our even more beloved planet? I wanted to know before I got caught up even further in this sparkly craze.
Here are some facts:
Most crystals and gemstones used for metaphysical purposes are not mined intentionally, but are byproducts of industrial mining.
This makes ethical decisions about using the stones a bit hairy; industrial mining can be incredibly destructive – but it would continue regardless of whether the crystal trend was happening or not. Some of the problems associated with industrial mining of metals include:
- destruction of forests
- soil erosion
- groundwater contamination
- air pollution
- child labor
- poor working conditions
Mining is heavily regulated, so ideally we'll see improvements to the environmental impacts. The human rights issues associated with mining should too. In the meantime, sourcing products from companies that are fair trade certified should help to avoid supporting these violations.
Certain crystals can be grown in labs.
And they're gorgeous – but metaphysical practitioners disagree on the vibrational and healing quality of these stones. Still, it's pretty impressive to see how many different types of stones can be made synthetically in labs, basically recreating a process that naturally takes millions of years in some cases. If you're simply looking for crystals and gemstones for decorative purposes, however, consider these as an ecologically (and wallet-friendly) sound option.
Common crystals and minerals can be harvested with less ecological impact.
According to gem educator Janelle Scialla,
There are two main types of deposit, usually referred to as primary and secondary. If the deposit is still located in the original host rock it is considered to be primary. The crystals are in good condition, but in most cases the yield will be relatively small, and many tons of “deaf” rock (non-gem bearing rock) will have to be removed in the search for gemstones. Secondary deposits occur when gemstones have been transported from their place of formation, and deposited elsewhere. This can be by river, sea, coastal erosion, or even wind. The crystals are usually more rounded and small than those from a primary deposit, but will occur in greater concentration.
Crystals embedded in “deaf” or mother rock are removed with hand tools, pneumatic tools (compressed air) or blasting. If a secondary deposit is beneath another surface layer, either this layer is removed, or a shaft is built downwards. With minimal bracing these shafts can be up to 10m deep. When prospecting in riverbeds, various sluiceways and dams are used to create particular water-flow conditions that will expose the gemstones. Generally speaking, the small-scale mining described above has minimal environmental impact.
Certain aspects of the gemstone industry are riddled with ethical problems.
So while it seems quarts and amethyst are harvested with very few environmental concerns, other gems make it to market leaving more destruction and blood in their trail. Diamonds and rubies, for example, are almost always harvested with environmental havoc and extreme human rights violations like dangerous working conditions, slavery, and child labor due to little regulation in parts of the world where they're plentiful. Fortunately, these are not highly promoted in relation to the metaphysical crystal craze.
The bottom line? Your smartphone is probably more of an ethical concern than your crystal collection. Want to be on the safe side? Look for fair trade crystal companies and only use stones that you gather yourself or that are abundantly available, especially if it's for more “superficial” purposes.