Let get it out there: Ethical Sourcing is not just about knowing which country your piece of crystal comes from.
Crystals are one of the most wondrous creations of Nature, but also amongst the most exploited ones. Ethical sourcing of crystals is a vast and grey topic, but one that should hold importance for all crystal users because of the impact it has on the environment and human lives. At Ooakstones, we take Ethical Sourcing extremely seriously and would like our partners and consumers to be more aware about it.
Let's go to the root of the supply chain - Mining. Crystals like quartz or amethyst (and many others) are often by-products of much larger scale mining activities. While industrial-size mining like coal or metal require permit from governments, by-products like crystals are unregulated and sellers are not required to declare the origins of the product nor their profits. Once the bulk of the crystals are sold, there is no paper trail and it becomes extremely difficult to trace their origin.
Because there is no regulatory body and a lack of global ethical guidelines for mining healing crystals, a lot of the crystals make their way to the stores after having gone through a convoluted network of wholesalers, where exploitation can happen at multiple levels.
Moreover, crystal mining techniques vary, depending on the minerals or the type of deposit. General speaking, small scale mines owned by families and communities have much less environmental impact. No mountains are dynamited or huge lands excavated for a few pieces of crystals. Smaller or family-owned mines often harvest crystals by hand or with minimal machineries. They also are able to retain a large portion of the profits, and are thus considered to be more ‘ethical’ than large scale crystal mining.
Fair Pay & Fair Trade
Knowing where the crystal is from is only one part of Ethical Sourcing. Crystals go through many processes before they reach the consumer’s hand. Crystals and Gems are sprinkled around the world and mostly found in remote areas where they are mined by locals. Often times, these are poor communities. Are they being paid fairly when they sell their crystals to a dealer? If they are working for a mine, what are the labor practices? Are they receiving fair wages? Is there any child labor involved? All these are important questions we must consider when dealing with crystals.
Lapidary works involves the cutting and crafting of big pieces of crystals into smaller and desired shapes. Fair pay comes into play again with the added issue of working conditions. Are workers being provided with safety gear and a safe working environment? For instance, while polished Tiger’s eye is perfectly safe to handle, raw pieces during processing are not. Tiger’s eye contains asbestos, which is dangerous if inhaled. The 3 biggest lapidary hubs are India, Thailand and China. Mostly exporting countries prefer to keep the lapidary work within the country to create jobs, but more complicated work are being done in one of these three countries.
How does Ooakstones ensure Ethical Sourcing?
At OOAKSTONES, we strive to ensure we work only with those who are masters in this craft and have been involved in doing it ethically for multiple years. We work in close coordination with all family-owned businesses and workshops where the items are carved and polished. We are very transparent in our sourcing policy and always disclose as much information as we can obtain; method of mining and the country of origin.
India origin crystals
We work with a licensed mining company in India that represents a network of small/family-owned miners. This company sources directly from these miners and does all the lapidary work in-house if required. These miners have a fixed fair pay as per the location they are working at. The higher the altitude, the higher the pay. Since they are small individual miners, small machines are used to extract the crystals rather than large scale industrial extraction. Many would use simple tools and bare hands as well.
A large amount of our crystals are sourced from Brazil, where government agencies regulate the mining process. Guidelines and procedures are setup by these agencies to protect the safety and well-being of the miners. For bigger scale mines, the mines must contribute also to the development of the surrounding cities, in the form of investment; in schools, in infrastructures etc. Mines which do not follow these rules are shut down by the government. The famous Zeca de Souza mine was shut for 15 years due to legal reasons and only reopen in 2019. Most of the lapidary work in Brazil is done by hand and with great care.
We have recently added Swiss quartz in our collection. These raw (zero polishing) Swiss quartz specimen are being mined by hand. The mountain climbers are experts and would reach crystal pockets on the cliff of the mountains using hooks, rope and special climbing equipment. Hence mining season is mostly in the summer and when the weather allow. We appreciate their expertise and the beautiful & high altitude glacial-looking quartz
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