SHINY! The problem with crystals

30 Jan

[This is an article originally published at Pagan Writers Community in 2012 that disappeared from the web eventually. Since this topic is dear to my heart, and since many of you are crazy tree-hugging hippies as well, I thought I’d share it here. The information has not been updated, I’ll look into that eventually.]

Diamonds = tolerance, clear mind

Rubies = true love, self-fulfillment

Pearls = spiritual growth, love, contentment

Corals = love, friendship, sexuality

Gold = self-confidence, well-being

Silver = Balance, peace

Crystals and gemstones are among the most favorite supplies for your everyday Pagan. They are used inside the circle, worn as jewelry, some people use ritualistic objects carved out of semi-precious stones. Many crystals are supposed to have healing or magical properties such as those listed above, and there are many books on the subject. Unfortunately, none of the books – or at least none of those I have read so far – touch on the subject of how these crystals and gemstones make it into our Pagan lives. If we are lucky, they will tell us which countries the stones are from, and that is about it.

Fortunately, there is this thing called “the internet”, which gives you all the information you need if you ask the right questions. Try it, I will wait here. Using image search, look for “diamond mine”. See those giant holes drilled into the ground? Try another one, “gold mine” (or “silver mine”, if you prefer the metal associated with the moon). What do you see? Desert-like structures with caves and dry rocks, I bet. These are just some of the visible effects mining has got on our environment. In this article I will focus on some of the most searched-after minerals, but the situation is the same for almost all crystals and minerals used in Pagan work.

Basically, the problem with all these precious gifts from Mother Earth is that they are rarely given freely. Most of the time, humans intrude and take what they want, with little consideration for their environment. I will get to this more deeply in a minute. First I would like you to take a look at your gemstones once more, because after reading this article you may possibly never look at them quite the same.

Crystals and gemstones are found all over the world, with focus on Africa, South America and Asia, but Europe, North America and Australia have got their share of precious finds in the ground as well. Some are found lying around or only inches below the surface, others are hidden deep within the bones of the earth. And since humans all over the world have been in love with crystals for as long as they have been around, they have found ways to retrieve them. They will explore, dig and even blast their way to nature’s treasure chests, and leave behind a trail of destruction.

Take the South American “mineros”, for example. The continent is famous for gold and diamonds, and other riches are found there as well. There are official mining companies, but scientists suggest that as much as fifty percent of the minerals found there are dug up by illegals miners, the so-called “mineros” (and “mineras”), who go searching for deposits based on intuition and the advice of their shamans and witches. They cut down forests, dig holes into the ground in search of their ticket to a better life and build complete illegal cities. For some mining, poisonous chemicals are used. Mercury, for example, helps separate gold from dirt, and afterwards is boiled out of the gold-mercury mixture, evaporating into the air – approximately 1.32kg of mercury per 1kg of gold retrieved. Metal sulfides, previously buried in the ground, react with the oxygen from the air when dug up and turn into acids and metal oxides, further polluting water and soil. And once the “mineros” leave their mining site, in eighty percent of all affected areas it takes an average of four years for the vegetation to grow back, with considerably less biological diversity than before. Most of the “mineros” take on the job because there are not many ways out of poverty for them, and they are the first ones to suffer from the health hazards caused by their own work. Extensive hydraulic mining, the most common form of mining among “mineros”, destroys the environment they rely on for food, water and shelter. In 1995, an accident at an official mining site released more than four billion liters of cyanide into a nearby river, killing almost all fish and polluting the water used for drinking, cleaning and watering the fields.

Mines in poor countries only have got the most basic security standards. The walls of most mines in Sri Lanka are “stabilized” using bundles of dried fern. The miners do not wear helmets and work in almost complete darkness – the shift leaders are obliged to have one candle burning at all times. Additionally, mining is a dirty job, and workers who are not killed by rocks and soil crashing down onto their heads often suffer from severe respiratory diseases caused by dust from grinding the rocks. The workers are paid based on success – about three percent of the profits from the mine are shared among those who risk their lives every day. For those cutting and polishing the stones found, conditions are not much better – they are paid based on how many stones they work on, averaging at what amounts to 150.-€ (approx. 200.-$) per month. Much of this money is paid to children, whom many companies prefer because of their tiny hands and sharp eyes. The main profit goes to the people running the business – rebels and warlords in Africa, the military junta in Burma (which is why in 2003 the US government banned Burma rubies), big corporations.

There are also organic substances considered crystals: Pearls, ivory and corals, for example. The majority of cultured pearls, which are used almost exclusively in today’s jewelry business, are produced in Japan. Young women spend hours “operating” on shelled mollusks, implanting tiny objects into their soft tissue, causing them to grow a pearl around this object for protection. The larger the desired pearl, the higher the mortality rate among the mollusks – up to eighty percent. The mollusks are kept in wire or plastic cages for several years, producing pearls until they die or lose this ability, and then they are replaced. And do not get me started on corals or ivory – living beings killed only to sell their bodies for jewelry, with many varieties already almost extinct. (I am holding my breath until I am not tempted anymore to go on a rant.)

Go back to the beginning of the post. Read the list with the magical properties of the crystals and precious items mentioned in this text. Would you feel good using any of these items in corresponding rituals or spells? I bet not.

So what are we to do? The first idea, of course, is: Use what you have got at hand. Stones and woods found in your area, herbs, things made with your own hands. Crystals are very popular among witches and Pagans, but that does not mean we have to use them in our rituals. The fun thing about all this is that we can make stuff up as we go along, finding new methods to represent and enforce the powers we want to work with. Do not throw out your crystals, that would be waste, but make sure to cleanse them thoroughly, and offer a gift of compensation to Mother Earth. For the future, try to limit the impact of your rituals on your environment.

But what if… ? I know, sometimes we simply cannot work around an issue such as this. Luckily, there are alternatives for those who still need gemstones – either for jewelry or for magical purposes. A growing number of companies make it a principle to only use minerals retrieved under the best possible circumstances – with strict regulations for environmental impact, social and health benefits for their workers and a greater financial share of the cake for those risking their health in the mines. Others are certifying sustainable mining cooperations. Below I have listed a few resources for you to further dig into the topic and find whatever you need.

Read more: – a gold smith offering ecologically sound jewelry, using recycled metals and locally found stones, offering a part of their profits for animal and environment protection (I am totally getting our wedding rings there). – Fair trade gems from Africa – more fair trade gems – even more fair trade gems – a list of environment-friendly businesses selling jewelry and such


4 Responses to “SHINY! The problem with crystals”

  1. Alice Craft January 31, 2015 at 10:42 pm #

    Thank you for this! I ache for the day that Pagans, who are so nature-centered, begin to dig deep into the truth of what that means, from carefully sourcing the stones, metals, and tools to the cloth we wear and the food we eat. In large part, the Pagan community has the opportunity, means, and motive to show the rest of the world the way – with proper research and walking the talk.

    If I may add to your suggestions – much of the local US quartz (such as North Carolina and Arkansas) is easily found without much damage to the locale, and quartz can be used as an excellent alternative to just about every other stone. There is also quite a bit of recycling going on, such as through Rio Grande ( which recycles gold and silver through their own foundry, to put back into their own stock. There is also Brilliant Earth ( – their website has some good info about conflict free diamonds, and they claim to carefully track every stone they sell.

    • diandralinnemann February 1, 2015 at 9:59 am #

      Thank you for the great input! Many people claim funds as to why they don’t go the extra mile, and I fully understand – sometimes we just have to choose our enemies (my coffee is organic fair trade, my peanut butter is not ^^ ). But especially for things used in magical rituals or as symbols of the craft, I feel we should be more careful with what we use. I have my share of crystals and jewelery, but I don’t buy anything new lightly.

  2. magalyguerrero February 5, 2015 at 5:42 am #

    I’m right with you. The intent and power of a stone can be enhanced (or tainted) by the way it was mined from the Earth. We must be watchful. My Piano Man and I were very careful when getting my wedding ring. I wanted to make sure that it come from someone trustworthy; someone who I could trust to tell me the truth about its origin. It’s difficult to do the right thing sometimes, but we can always try.

    • diandralinnemann February 5, 2015 at 9:50 am #

      With symbolic or intent-signalling jewellery especially I think one has to be careful. If it ever comes to buying real jewellery, I think I’m in love with recycled jewellery. At the moment I mostly wear my pentagram on a leather cord, however, and a bit of glitzy fake stuff every now and again.

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