As ethical sourcing in the crystal community is for some reason still up for debate I wanted to use my knowledge for good. I have been active in the crystal/wholesale community since 2016, this is when I decided to officially start my business and look for wholesalers/lapidary artists/etc. When you Google ethical sourcing the definition reads the process of ensuring that products/items are made/produced/obtained through responsible and sustainable methods. This includes but isn’t limited to fair wages to the workers, age restrictions on mineworkers, mines worked in are given proper rest with the given environmental guidelines for that region's policies, and that local communities are not negatively affected by these practices. When starting my business I knew it would not be easy to find ethical vendors, but I wanted to challenge the growing industry and bring the light back on our Earth. In reality, I didn’t want to purchase crystals tainted with the energy of environmental damage, pain, children working, and poor health conditions for those mining. So I had to look deeper, and deeper, and yep just a little deeper.
For a mine to be ethical, they must have fair wages. Wages and worker info is rarely available online, and vendors that aren’t truthful won’t share that info with you. Large lobbyist mining companies will not be so kind as to share their dark secrets. The crystals could be beautiful, but that doesn’t make them any more ethical. It is very important to note that the quality of a crystal/mineral does not reflect its ethical background. When searching for ethical miners/lapidary artists I have found my best luck with the underdogs. The small family-owned businesses that have lived in the areas of these mines for generations, and all of my vendors own a small portion of the mine they work in. They can work at their own pace and create as they please while gathering material at less of a rate than that of the large mining corporations. This also means a smaller yield of material coming out of the mine, limited supply. Due to the mines, they inherited along with the skills they’d been taught for generations, they can support their family very well, and live a life of an entrepreneur! We also look for areas with mines that have a low environmental impact. In reality, all mines do damage to the Earth, however, with proper guidelines, “rest times”, and governmental regulations, the impact can be kept minimal. Again most large mining corporations are not financially motivated to be more environmentally conscious, so this is yet another reason to look for small family-owned lapidary and mining company’s.
When mining for crystals there are 3 major mine types as I’ve been explained by my vendors.
-artisanal mines; which are the smallest, low technology. This means typically small family-owned businesses or small mining companies hand digging the crystals, with no power tools. These miners work seasonally, during the times the mine is open as they are typically the ones following the governmental environmental guidelines. The plus of this is they are the lowest environmental impact of the mining types. However, it is still important to note if these mines are legal or illegal. If illegal unsafe work conditions or child labor is likely to occur. The legal artesian mines are the best for ensuring ethics.
Then a step up from the artisanal mine is the “small scale mine”- these are larger mines that operate with year-round workers. These mines are small businesses that must take into account miners' safety, wages, and environmental impact. Since these mines are larger businesses more info about their policies and work is available publicly. The concern here is mainly that bc each country/state has various mining protocols and standards, so it’s important to research the exact mine and region.
Then the corporate slugs, the industrial mines. These are mines that are the largest and use the most heavy-duty machinery for mining. It is important to note ONLY large mega-corporations own these mines. And these are by far the most dangerous. This is where most of the crystals on the market today come from. Some of these company's mine pits are so large u can see them from space. It is safe to say there are no large-scale mining corporations that are truly environmentally responsible, there is also the most child labor, slave labor, and sex trafficking in these operations. These companies are all around the world however places with the largest, China, Brazil, and Africa
And that is just about mining! The miners are not the same people who polish and carve your lovely crystals! Lapidary artists can be a sneaky business. There are relatively few mines that will sell their raw minerals to a retail shop, just because they’d want you to purchase 100-200 kilos of one material, and it would be raw, which is, in turn, harder to sell than a polished or carved piece. A lapidary artist is an essential step in the crystal community. Ideally, a lapidary artist should be located in the same country as the mine and buy their materials directly from the said mine. However, there are plenty of lapidary owners (like some of my lovely vendors) who travel all over the world to meet with mine owners from other countries to discuss their mining practices. This is how you form excellent connections in the community.
Ethical lapidary artists will also have stiff safety standards to protect those working in the studio and themselves. Proper safety equipment includes but is not limited to, proper eye safety wear and respirator masks while hand polishing the crystals. The lapidary studio should also be well ventilated and use an active water system to spray the dust particles out of the air. Many common crystals contain a mineral called silica which if breathed in overtime while polished material, can lead to silicosis, a fatal lung condition.
Lapidary artists should also be paid a fair wage for their work, as it’s debatably the hardest part of selling crystals. This all depends on the scale of the lapidary studio. Some larger lapidary studios may have lots of equipment to polish lots of stones at once, while smaller businesses will typically hand polish and cut most materials.
As a rule, family-owned small businesses are always at an advantage over large corporations as you can speak with the owner. The owner will be able to directly answer fundamental questions about their stock, mining relationships, etc. This is a very sketchy industry where so so much of what goes on behind the scenes is hidden, being able to talk to someone directly in person and note their body language and energy is incredibly helpful. Sometimes more is learned by what isn’t said than what is said.
All of my vendors fall into the category of artisanal mines or small-scale mining. all of my vendors are small family-owned businesses that have been in the business for generations. All of my vendors have provided access to their business practices, mining relationships, and protocols, as well as fair wage and safety protocols for their workers. To find and work with these vendors I spent and continue to spend my time researching geology and mineralogy, specific mining and lapidary requirements for each region I intend to work with, and the current socio-economic-political situation that region is in. Without detailed and independent research it is impossible to know if a mine or country follows ethical mining/lapidary work. For example, countries like Afghanistan are war-ridden over precious lapis mines pulling in millions each year to the Taliban. However, Botswana is one of the countries with the greenest mining practices in the world.
When you see a crystal with a “made in -“ sticker, that only means it was polished/carved in that country. The raw natural could have come from any country. And that’s when mainstream crystal shops trick you. As they can claim they know where the crystal is from but saying “they’re from brazil” is like someone asking where you are from and saying “Earth”. Do they know where the crystal was mined? And then where it was polished or cut if so? Or was the material resold dozens of times through wholesales before reaching the final customer?
Before you purchase your next crystals, please consider the following.