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Crystals: The Reality Behind Booming New Age Healing

Crystals fascinate and mesmerize--opaque, shadowy colors that must hold ancient secrets, carved into angels, birds, or any object that may imbue meaning. Thanks to celebrity zeal (like Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop), and the rise of New Age spirituality, crystals have exploded globally. Hashtags for #crystals run into the millions on Instagram. The New York Times declared 2017 the year of “the great crystal boom.” In 2018 crystals were regarded as “the year’s biggest health and wellness trend.” A recent trade show in Tucson, Arizona attracted 4,000 vendors and 50,000 customers.

Crystals are believed by many to have mystical properties and the power to heal. Author Emma Knowles, explains it to me like this:

We work with crystals to draw out the ‘negative’ and ‘heighten’ the positive, such as love, protection, abundance or seeking to detoxify from fear, guilt, worry. Crystals are formed under pressure, much like ourselves. The power of life force – what’s not to love about that?

Guardian journalist Tess McClure exposed the dark side of this modern-day healing movement. One of the poorest countries in the world, Madagascar has a treasure trove of these gems. “And in a country where labor regulation is in short supply, it is human bodies rather than machinery that pull crystals from the earth. More than 80% of crystals are mined ‘artisanally’ – meaning by small groups and families, without regulation, who are paid rock-bottom prices.”

McClure visited several villages that mine Madagascar’s large rose quartz deposits. Most of the homes have no electricity or running water and the residents live below the $1.90-a-day poverty line. McClure spoke to the area’s deputy mayor:

Between two and four men died each year in the crystal pits surrounding this village …. Landslides are not the only danger for miners. Fine dust and quartz particles can penetrate deep into the lungs … increasing the risk of lung cancer and silicosis. Child labor is also widespread: the US Department of Labor estimates that about 85,000 children work in Madagascar’s mines.

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