Fri, Jun 21, 2019 - Page 9 News List

Crystals becoming the new blood diamonds

Many people are lured by the beauty of crystals, but even if their ‘healing’ properties are a connection to the Earth, the trade is harming the planet

By Eva Wiseman  /  The Observer

Illustration: Mountain People

Crystallization is a transition from chaos to perfection; the evolution of the crystal industry has been less simple. Millions of years ago, liquid rock inside the Earth cooled and hardened, and this is how crystals formed at the twinkling center of the planet. Piece by piece, they have been mined to become the center, too, of an international industry that hangs on their rumored metaphysical healing properties.

However, recently something else has emerged from the rocks — a darker truth. Rather than connecting with the Earth, those buying crystals are damaging it, fatally.

In three short years, crystals have risen from niche new-age interest to valid hobby, firmly embedded in the mainstream consciousness.

In 2017 crystals became a multitrillion-US dollar slice of the US$4.2 trillion global wellness industry, with shamans using them to advise entrepreneurs on investment opportunities, and Gwyneth Paltrow selling them to encourage serenity and to “purify” water.

Their investment status is compared to fine art. Women have been persuaded to welcome their presence in beauty products and fashion accessories, not by spiritual healers, but celebrities.

At a New York Fashion Week presentation, Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen gifted guests “black tourmaline to keep negative energies at bay” and “white clear quartz to promote harmony and balance.”

Kate Hudson “adds a little energy” to her moisturizer by storing it beside crystals; Adele blamed a bad performance at the Grammys on the fact she had lost hers; and Kim Kardashian used them to recover from the stress of a robbery.

When Jennifer Lawrence moved into her new home, there were crystals embedded in the walls.

“The house was crystalled out,” she told Vogue magazine, but she did not want visitors to think she was a “crystal person.”

She was advised not to treat them casually, to employ the official “crystal lady” who had installed them to remove them, too, but of course she scoffed, and got a builder to rip them out.

“I just had all the crystals yanked out. Sold them,” she said, before adding, pointedly: “And then my ... house flooded.”

Today, even those who do not identify as “crystal people” have been persuaded of their power.

However, while it is claimed that crystals help people harness the energy of the Earth, the more they are mined, the more that the Earth is suffering.

Here is the dirty truth of crystals, and it is not simply that their efficacy as healing objects is unproven.

It is that, as Emily Atkin at The New Republic reported last year, their origins are murky and their environmental impact worrying. Much like diamonds, crystal mining is an industry buried in conflict.

There are issues around sustainability: crystals are a non-renewable resource. There are issues around labor: most jobs are low-paid, unsafe and sometimes performed by underage workers. And there is an issue around accountability: the industry is unregulated, allowing exploitation to go unchecked.

“Mining has an environmental impact, whether it’s for ‘healing crystals,’ the copper in your phone or the gold in your ring,” said Payal Sampat of nonprofit organization Earthworks.

The quote marks are her own.

“‘Healing crystals’ are mined in places like Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of [the] Congo [DR Congo], where mineral extraction is linked to severe human-rights violations and environmental harm,” she said.

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