INSIDE: Wondering about the ethics of gemstone mining? Let's dive into the environmental and social implications of this practice, so we can enjoy our crystals with peace of mind.
Gemstones symbolize love, luck, healing, power, and so much more. They have been prized by cultures around the world throughout history. The fact that crystals are difficult to obtain makes them that much more prized. The gemstone market is valued at something northward of $20 billion, and yet there’s no regulatory body watching over the process of how gems are mined.
So how do we balance the need for sustainability with the desire for the beauty, aesthetics, and healing properties our gems provide?
The Impact of Mining
Mining provides the basic materials for life as we know it. Nearly a hundred different minerals are dug out of the Earth and used to power our homes, our lives, and the world economy. But as much as we need and want these minerals, sustainability and the health of the planet are also a concern.
So, what do we do?
People are starting to take a closer look at mining policies and practices, and they are making a serious effort toward finding a better way to do business.
We’ve all heard of blood diamonds, and no one wants to support an industry that fuels war or human suffering. Almost 2 million engagement rings are sold annually in the U.S. One simple step individuals can take to support sustainability is to consider different types of rings for an engagement or wedding band.
For example, pearls are not mined, and thus have a much lower environmental impact. Other options include using a family heirloom or a vintage (aka secondhand) ring. But if you’re set on new, there are still sustainable options out there.
The ESG of Mining
While shopping for gems or other items, you may have come across the term ESG, which stands for environmental, social, and governance. ESG is particularly relevant to mining because of its wide-spread impact on all three of those areas. Let’s take a closer look at the ESG of mining.
Creating the average diamond ring involves removing 200+ million times its volume in rock just to get that single stone and the gold to hold on your finger.
One way to reduce the impact of mining is to seek out suppliers who work with smaller scale mines rather than supporting those who dig up great swathes of Earth.
This is one way to preserve local habitats and ecosystems. Luckily, colored gemstones and crystals, like Amethyst Geodes, tend to be mined in smaller-scale operations because of the way they form in the Earth.
Besides the environmental impact of gem mining, the impact of humans must also be considered. Ethical mining always considers the health, welfare, and safety of workers.
The best way forward is to ask your crystal supplier for information on the sources and practices they use when mining stones. This behind-the-scenes look at how our Amethyst Geodes are mined will give you a good idea of our mining standards here at Cosmic Cuts.
Examples of Ethical Mining Practices
For a long time, no one really understood the impact of mining. People needed and wanted minerals, so they dug them out without much regard to what happened afterward to the surrounding area. It took a long time for people to realize that their actions were having a negative impact.
One of the biggest issues with the concept of ethical mining is that there’s no consensus on what type of mining is okay versus what is too destructive. The key to minimizing impact is taking proper steps to deal with contaminated soil and water, and to re-establish healthy soil, vegetation, and waterways on the site of the mine. Thankfully, this is possible.
For example, wetlands are sometimes established in former mines. These ecosystems clean up the water and simultaneously create a valuable wildlife habitat.
Technological advances are also paving the way toward more ethical practices in mining. New technologies are being used to pinpoint the location of crystal deposits, making the mining process more targeted and greatly reducing the amount of waste caused by blindly digging.
When you do business only with reputable vendors, like Cosmic Cuts, who provide information on the sources of their gems and offer a transparent view of their supply chain, you are promoting ethical mining practices.
It’s a fact that humans haven’t always been the most conscientious when it comes to mining. But it is also true that more and more ethical practices are now being used. Today, even the most minimalist eco-aware bride can wear a ring with a clear conscience.
While there is no international organization to verify the sustainability practices for gemstone mining yet, great progress has been made in recent years.
For example, the American Gem Society is committed to ethical gem production. The Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC) takes things a step further and offers a certification for brands that meet certain criteria, including human rights and environmental impact. The Kimberley Process focuses on verifying that diamonds come from conflict-free zones.
Cosmic Cuts has long-standing relationships with our mines. We don’t just order our crystals online or over the phone. We go to Brazil and pick them out by hand! Through doing so, we get to see the mining practices they utilize. You can learn more in our Gemstone Buyers Guide.
Crystals are wonderful for promoting healing. But to heal the planet, we as consumers must do more than simply use our intuition. We must also do a little research into the source of gemstones before buying. If the brand you’re looking into doesn’t explicitly state how and where their gems come from, ask. Any reputable dealer will be happy to share such information.
Gemstones are beautiful, meaningful, and contain powerful symbolism and energy for humanity. Through less invasive mining techniques, harnessing technology to pinpoint mineral deposits, and guaranteeing a minimum of health and safety standards for workers, we can mine crystals for many generations to come.
Sustainable mining is not only possible; it’s also a necessity for an ever-expanding population on our precious planet.
* Crystals and stones should not be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Please read our full disclosure notice here.