Ooh, shiny! I’m not alone, am I? Knew it. Crystals are not only one of my favorite tools in my witchcraft practice for their utility and good-feelsies, but man-oh-man aren’t they gorgeous too? Let’s talk about them – and their production – in a general sense for now, and we’ll save the specifics of each crystal for their own well deserved post.
Bare with me, I want to start with the less glamorous Wikipedia definition and some etymology.
“A crystal or crystalline solid is a solid material whose constituents (such as atoms, molecules, or ions) are arranged in a highly ordered microscopic structure, forming a crystal lattice that extends in all directions.”
The word crystal derives from the Ancient Greek words κρύσταλλος (krustallos), meaning both “ice” and “rock crystal” and from κρύος (kruos), “icy cold, frost”.
Why did I do that? It’s so boring. But I do think it’s important to start with definitions and beginnings as we explore the nature of these jewels of the earth. Some of the largest examples of structured crystals are diamonds, snowflakes, and table-salt. Large meaning the crystalline structures are highly visible. The largest actual natural crystal was a beryl found in Madagascar in 1999, and weighed 380,000 kg (840,000 lb). Be still my heart!
What makes us value crystals, and especially gemstones, monetarily? It depends. “Inclusions” are characteristics enclosed in a crystal that are visible from the surface. In diamonds, the more inclusions, the less value. With sapphires, the opposite is true and the inclusions add to their brilliance. One could say the beauty is in the inclusion of the gemstone. But I digress, let’s get to the metaphysical.
As a witch and pagan, I believe in the five elements: air, water, fire, earth, spirit. Because of crystals natural crystalline properties and structures, different crystals are capable of a variety of ways of channeling these elements. Healing crystals when placed on your body are thought to be able to interact with your body’s energy field (spirit) and clear your chakra. Because of the formation of structures within the crystal is natural, it is linked with being able to channel that natural energy and vibes we are putting out and into ourselves.
When I’m absorbing new practices into my craft, I try to ask the question “Is this hurting anyone?” – and answer it honestly with research and compassion. The fact is, I can’t answer this one with a resounding “No”. Crystals have exploded in popularity and have become highly in demand in the past three years. And demand, in our capitalist society, means profit. According to Daniel Trinchillo, owner of Fine Minerals International, crystal dealers are set to make – collectively – $500 million dollars this year (I highly recommend checking this guardian article out). This coin is often obtained without fair-trade considerations and safety protocols those who are pulling these crystals from Mother Earth. The boom in the industry simply has moved too quickly for regulations and safety to keep up. Pulling boulders of pink quartz all day from the mines may pay miners just $1 a day, and often they don’t even know who it gets sent to after being hauled off.
Remember that Madagascar monster crystal? Up to four people die per year in the mines on the mineral rich island, with threats like landslides and crystal particles infiltrating their lungs. There is estimated to be 85,000 children working in Madagascar mines as well. I don’t mean to discourage metaphysical folk from enjoying their crystals, but it’s good to be aware of the effect of our spending habits have on the world and to be thoughtful of where we source our craft tools lest we continue to perpetuate colonialist infrastructures. And keep in mind, the energy and conditions crystals are mined in are embedded into it’s energy and thus how it interacts with your energy. If you are truly a believer in the power of crystals, you will source them as ethically as possible lest the karma unfold back unto you as well.