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Our Approach to
RESPONSIBLE SOURCING

GOOD ENERGY starts with GOOD SOURCING
 

Over the past few years, awareness around the ethical sourcing of crystals has been growing. Many in the spiritual community have been questioning exactly where their stones are coming from, and the fact that not all crystals come from a good place is now much more commonly accepted. Dangerous mining conditions, unjust trade relationships, and concerns for the environment all cast a dark shadow across the metaphysical marketplace. In response, many practitioners are choosing only to work with stones they've found themselves, or those whose origins can be verified.

Solstice was among the first to take the issue of responsible sourcing seriously and remains one of the only shops truly dedicated to tracing the provenance of each and every stone we carry. We're honoured to have been recognised by environmental news group Green Matters for our work establishing ethical supply chains in the crystal industry, and hope to inspire other businesses to lean in and ask the hard questions of their suppliers. Our quest for greater transparency began more than a decade ago after encountering alarming aspects of the crystal trade to which we couldn't turn a blind eye. It propelled us on a heart-wrenching journey through the shadowy underworld of gemstone mining - leading to the development of protocols which would become the basis for our own Responsible Sourcing Model.

Change is afoot. Meaningful ongoing discussions are taking place around the importance of traceability and transparency in the crystal trade. By sharing our perspective and experience here, we hope to create more positive movement around these issues. To dive deeper down the rabbit hole with us, please keep reading below.

 

Crystals: The Dark Side
 

Holding a glistening crystal in your hand can feel pretty far removed from the gritty realities of the mining industry. The truth about crystal extraction and trade is often unknown, overlooked, or undisclosed by other sellers. Having 'trusted suppliers' is not enough. For us as a business, embarking on this journey has meant taking a very real and hard look at industry practices. It has meant devoting ourselves to thousands of hours of research and investigation in pursuit of the highest integrity in our offerings.  

It goes without saying that most forms of mining are hazardous. Rock falls, cave-ins, accidents with machinery, and the breathing of rock dust all pose serious risk to miners around the world - let alone additional hazards for those without access to basic protective gear or footwear. Yet the actual process of mining is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a list of potential concerns. Bringing crystals to the global market often involves middle men who knowingly take advantage of indigenous miners, unaware of a stone's true value. Many polishing factories fail to provide fair compensation for their workers and put them at risk of silicosis or other injuries if safety measures are not in place. Large scale mining operations contribute to erosion and groundwater contamination, impacting ecosystems and human populations. Perhaps most notoriously, gems and minerals have also been used to fund conflict and terrorism in regions of political instability (Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Democratic Republic of the Congo to name a few). In short, the exploitation of people and natural environments can occur at many stages along a crystal's journey.

 

The situation is undeniably complex. Navigating all of the socio-economic, environmental, and geopolitical aspects requires open eyes and an open heart. For us, tackling the industry's entrenched secrecy around these topics has meant not turning away from hard conversations, and trusting real gut instincts that go beyond simply choosing a crystal for its energy or aesthetics. It has meant standing apart from the bottom line culture of quality and price to prioritise people and the Earth in every way we can, however small. We are dedicated to seeking out the true rare gems - the few and far between miners and suppliers who conduct their operations with sensitivity and transparency. For us, these are the only antidotes to this 'dark side' of the industry.

Ethical Considerations & Principles
 

It is worth noting that the word ethical has become a bit of a buzzword lately. This can be likened to the act of greenwashing, whereby a company creates a false or misleading impression of being aligned with more positive values. These days a quick search for ethically sourced crystals will bring up a host of dazzling offerings - most with broadly unsubstantiated claims. While this deceptive marketing may be obvious from our inside perspective, it is not always so easy for buyers. Before purchasing a crystal, be sure to ask questions - honest shop owners will welcome the opportunity to share important details with you about a stone's provenance. 

So, what exactly does an 'ethically sourced' or 'responsibly sourced' crystal look like? Without the oversight of any official fair trade body or framework similar to the Kimberly Process (an admittedly flawed system developed by the United Nations to certify conflict-free diamonds), the trade of raw mineral specimens and crystals quickly falls into ambiguous territory. Over the years we have carved our own path, grappling with obscure moral questions as we've peeled back more and more layers. Intensive research into the socio-political situations of specific countries and gem producing regions - as well as the study of unique geological environments, extraction methods, and issues around potential contamination and health risks - has further directed our choices.

At Solstice, our sourcing model has been developed based on years of our own industry insight and experience as well as protocols adapted from the responsible jewellery movement. We have been inspired by initiatives set out by Columbia Gem House in their mine-to-market scheme, as well as guidelines promoted at the Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference and the Ethical Gem Fair. Resoundingly the importance of traceability, transparency, and a short supply chain is clear. Further to that are intentions to reduce ecological impacts, promote fair labour practices, and support women's empowerment in the mining sector. 

We have expanded upon these components in our five guiding principles below. Things may not always fall into perfect alignment or tick all of the boxes - but we are dedicated to this path as a business, reaching for these best practices in all that we do.

 

At the most basic level, a short supply chain is essential when it comes to transparency & traceability. We choose not to buy from mass wholesalers, where stones often exchange hands dozens of times through complex parallel transactions, obscuring the crystal's true origin and mining circumstances. Purchasing direct from the miners or from carefully selected partners who are connected to the mines allows us to hear the stories of the stones and understand critical information about conditions at the source. A short supply chain, combined with our own additional sourcing criteria, is our best assurance of ethical practices. 

Crystal Cluster

TRACEABLE

ORIGINS

Being able to trace the exact origins of a crystal is another fundamental aspect of ethical sourcing. Many crystal shops do not know where their stones come from, or may only be able to provide a broad country of origin. At Solstice, each and every piece we carry in the shop includes detailed sourcing information with specifics about the precise region and area where the crystal originates as well as the name of the mine itself, wherever possible. We prioritise buying from countries with strong responsible mining practices, and avoid buying from others known to use the sale of gemstones to fund conflict and other abuses. 

All mining operations have some degree of negative impact on the environment, however we take the time to consider the size and type of mine we purchase from as well as any potential tailings management issues connected to the mineralogy. While environmental regulations vary greatly in each country, we work with our suppliers to bring awareness to best practices such as safely backfilling mines and replanting native species. Vintage-mined & historic specimens with no sustained impact also fall within our responsible framework. We choose not to carry certain crystals that are hazardous to human health & ecosystems. 

While no official regulatory body exists yet for crystals, we have worked with existing fair trade definitions and have adapted our own protocols based on the responsible jewellery movement. We support women-owned & small family businesses wherever possible, and invest time with our miners to ascertain real conditions at the source. With our jewellery & lapidary partners, we verify the use of proper safety gear, ventilation & water-fed dust reduction systems. We support movement towards formalised small-scale mining operations & miner's cooperatives, as well as local value added economic initiatives. 

Gemstone

GIVING BACK

We are always looking for ways that we can give back. We support various community enrichment projects through our suppliers, including a new model for sustainable development in Bahia, Brazil. We have made contributions to an upcoming gemmology & jewellery design program for women in Ethiopia, and donate a portion of our sales to Gem Legacy (gemlegacy.org) - a non-profit working to supply mining communities in East Africa with gem education, lapidary training, tools and safety equipment. We feature occasional charitable listing in our shop with 100% proceeds donated to our chosen cause. 

Our Responsible Sourcing Model
 

Drawn from our five guiding principles, we have developed a model to communicate to customers the level of traceability behind each stone in our shop. A short supply chain is the most critical element underpinning our responsible model. This allows us to understand important information about conditions at the source and decide whether a stone can satisfy our other sourcing criteria. Regardless of sourcing level, all of our crystals are traceable back to a specific region and closest town, or particular mine.

Level 1 - Purchased Direct from Miners, or Personally Foraged

Without being able to visit the mines ourselves, our highest assurance of ethical practice is going straight to the source - purchasing direct from small scale mine owners who meet our thorough criteria and share our vision. Being able to connect with miners and hear the stories of their stones, their land, and their communities is a great privilege and joy. Some of our miners also polish their own stones in traditional cottage industries, employing family members and others in the community. Our Level 1 classification also includes stones we have sensitively gathered ourselves on rockhounding trips. 

Level 2 - Purchased from Direct Mineral Dealers

We also work with carefully selected partners who travel to the stone's county of origin to buy from miners on site. With these direct crystal dealers we spend an extended amount of time communicating our values and discussing conditions at the mines before conducting any business, choosing only to work with those who are aligned with our strict sourcing requirements and are no more than one step removed from the actual mining process itself. Over the years we have walked away from countless dealers who have been unwilling or unable to satisfy our questioning. 

Level 3 - Purchased from Lapidary Partners

Our polished crystals and those cut for jewellery are produced in small lapidary workshops. A few of the lapidary owners we work with travel to and deal directly with the mines (qualifying as Level 2) - but others are a little further removed. This 'third tier' verification is where we draw the line for new crystals. In these situations, we evaluate stones on an individual basis, choosing only to go ahead with a purchase if the mining location can be confirmed and other elements in our guiding principles can be met. We may also conduct extra research, or rely on our knowledge of specific mining regions and processes.

 

Level 4 - Reclaimed & Vintage

'Recycled' stones also fall within the scope of our Responsible Sourcing Model. Here we include reclaimed crystals known to be byproducts of large-scale industrial mines, rescued from tailings piles where they have been discarded by mining corporations due to their lack of raw commercial value. This category also includes vintage specimens from old collections that come into our care from time to time. Their provenance is often well known and well documented, coming from classic locales or long-shut mines. Occasionally we release pieces from our personal collection, mined more than 20 years ago.

Level 5 - Traditional Wholesale Companies

We never purchase from large wholesalers, where the trade of crystals notoriously involves long, opaque supply chains that obscure a stone's true origin and mining circumstance. At Solstice, our inventory includes stones from categories levels 1 to 4 only, though we have created this Level 5 designation to stand in for the typical measure of traceability found elsewhere. Traditional wholesale companies supply many regular metaphysical and crystal shops, bringing in rough and polished crystals en mass from all over the world with little to no traceability or transparency.

Making a Difference
 

✦ Support small businesses that reflect your values

✦ Buy fewer crystals, or be more selective about your purchases

✦ Don't be afraid to ask questions: "What country and region did this stone come from? How was it obtained?" - be prepared to walk away if something doesn't feel right

✦ Rediscover crystals already in your collection - allow those connections to deepen

✦ Organise stone 'swaps', or create a borrowing system between crystal-loving friends

✦ Look for crystals in second hand or charity shops - these may require extra energetic clearing before use, but it can be lovely to rescue pieces when you find them

✦ Dig for your own crystals at rockhounding sites, or collect special stones from your local area - all geology is sacred (get a free rock identification guide at oldstoneways.com)

✦ Please share this page with others if you feel inspired!

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