Healing crystals — they're so hot right now. As these spiritual items continue to rise in mainstream popularity, demand for them increases, too. But, in our haste to find the coolest and most emotionally fulfilling stones, we might not notice that our crystals of choice were actually made in a lab, rather than extracted from the earth (and, for that matter, we might not even know where in the world they're being extracted). While it's difficult to tell them apart on appearance alone, the spiritual differences between synthetic and natural crystals are a little more apparent, though no less complicated. Which type you choose in the end depends on your individual needs and hopes as a crystal user.
Simply put, if you want to benefit from the full potential of a stone's energy, it ought to be natural, says Deborah Hanekamp, seeress, shaman, and founder of Mama Medicine. "If you want crystals that heal, let them come from the earth," she says. "I think man-made crystals carry the energy of the people and lab they were made in."
After all, crystals only rose to prominence as spiritual objects due to the properties they were believed to possess — properties that were thought to be derived from the earth. So, it makes sense that they're at their most powerful when they come straight from the source. But, that doesn't take into consideration the matter of sustainability. Back in May, The New Republic raised major concerns around the toll that mining for crystals takes on both the environment and the people who work in those mines. Given the antithetical nature of mass-mined crystals (objects that are thought to bring the user peace probably shouldn't be the result of human and ecological strife), lab-grown crystals look pretty good by comparison.
According to Slate, lab-grown crystals are still made from mined materials, but ones that would have been mined for other purposes anyway. In other words, even though synthetic crystals require natural ingredients, their production makes a much, much smaller impact on the environment than natural crystals. So, if lab-grown stones are more eco-friendly, wouldn't that make them the more ethical choice, too?
At face value, maybe, but Hanekamp says that you can still make sustainability a priority whether you choose man-made crystals or natural ones. You just have to adjust your priorities. "The answer to sustainability in crystals is simply being okay with having less," she explains. "Let your crystals find you."
In other words, you don't have to go to the ends of the earth to find a rare crystal, which may have been mined under problematic circumstances or made in a lab that eschews spiritual meaning for profit. And you don't have to have a collection big enough to rival Spencer Pratt's, either. Sometimes, the right variety of stone just comes to you. Maybe you find it while strolling in the park (quartz, for example, can be found in virtually any natural setting) or it's the first stone you notice when you visit your local shop. Even if you're shopping for a specific type, you can opt for a more common variety than one that would require more extensive or intrusive mining (again, quartz is a great choice). Finally, Hanekamp adds that there's nothing wrong with asking your crystal retailer directly about how they source their items.
Ideally, all crystal sellers would be completely transparent about their mining practices, so that we could feel comfortable shopping for any and every stone. Unfortunately, very few retailers are open about their sourcing — so you might not get a satisfying answer when you ask about them. In general, look for sellers who maintain a relationship with their mines (Mike Eggleston, founder of InnerVision Crystals, visits every mine he buys from) or ones that, at the very least, research the origin and composition of their stones (part of Moonrise Crystals' "Earth to pocket" policy is to inform their customers about every crystal they put up for sale).
By comparison, shopping for specifically lab-grown crystals seems pretty stress-free. But for all their perks from a sustainability standpoint, Hanekamp concludes that lab-grown crystals are the better choice if your top (and only) priority is looks. If you aren't interested in crystals from a spiritual perspective and just want some that look cool on your dresser, it doesn't matter if the crystal is synthetic or not — but it's still a good idea to ask about their origins before making the final purchase.