In recent years, the rise in the wellness industry’s metaphysical crystal market has caused many to raise concerns with these crystals’ ties to child labor and unethical production. Crystals, such as amethyst, rose quartz, and selenite, have made a mark in the beauty and wellness industry for their believed healing properties.
However, the rise in their popularity has raised many questions about the production and mining of these crystals. Regulations in this billion dollar industry are bare bones, and there is yet to be a fair trade certification system to mark ethically mined crystals. Madagascar, a nation with a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of $495, is one of the world’s crystal capitals. 80% of Malagasy mines are run by small village groups that are paid extremely low wages, and often operate under particularly dangerous conditions. Health and safety hazards consist of fatal landslides, tunnels collapsing, unclean air filled with microscopic crystal particles (which studies have shown can increase one’s risk of cancer), and gang robberies. According to the US Department of Labor, 85,000 Malgasy children work in crystal mines. Crystals from locally run Malgasy mines are bought for unfairly cheap prices by merchants, who ship them overseas. From there, the crystal’s price is marked up even more, and sold to suppliers, who markup the crystal’s price again before sending them off to stores. At each stage, the crystal’s price is raised, benefiting all but the families who risk their lives each day in unsafe mining conditions. This complicated supply chain is full of nuance, middlemen, and is almost impossible to trace.
The nuanced spirituality of crystals combines religion with capitalism—in order to be healed, one must buy their way into spirituality. Purchasing a few crystals after researching if they were sourced ethically, is possibly the most ethical way to be a crystal enthusiast. The moment when capitalism infiltrates spirituality is when people need to be weary of their urges to purchase more and more crystals. It is ironic that wealthier Americans purchase crystals for their “healing” properties, whilst the very existence of that crystal is dependent on the exploitation of families in countries like Madagascar. This begs the question: Does the safety and wellbeing of marginalized and impoverished people not matter, if the product that they work to produce (under unethical conditions) is “healing” for the wealthier consumer? By buying unethically sourced crystals, which are the majority of the crystals found in local metaphysical shops, the consumer is answering, “Yes.”