Nicholas Pearson joins me from Orlando, Florida to talk all about ethically sourced crystals. We really dig in during this episode, talking about the ambiguity of the gemstone industry, and where we can realistically make a difference.
Have you ever tried using crystals to help you feel better? I was surprised to find that they actually calm my nerves and help me to feel more grounded when they are near. But why?
This is a question I’ve wondered for a very long time. Coming from an engineering background I tend to want to explain everything. I’ve seen the effect of crystals in my life, and in my reiki sessions. For the most part I’ve chalked it up to the placebo effect, but I’ve always known there appeared to be something more to it. Regardless, there was enough for me to continue to turn back to them in times of need.
Then I found Nicholas.
Nicholas is a writer and teacher, well known for his books on crystals and reiki. He has a special talent for bridging the gap between science and spirituality. And he can explain, at least in part, what phenomenon is happening when we hold a crystal near.
In addition to how crystals work, I’ve struggled with an even deeper question. Where do these crystals come from? And are they destroying the earth and people’s lives in the process of getting to me?
This is an incredibly complicated question to answer. But recently a fire lit up in me again, and I didn’t want to give up. I’m so excited that Nicholas offered to talk to me in depth about this subject. He shares tips and tricks for finding ethically sourced crystals. And he helps us better understand the industry, and why choosing consciously isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Enjoy!
3 Simple Ideas To Make a Difference:
- Ask questions. When shopping for crystals ask where they came from. Open the dialog. (I have an ever growing list of shops focused on ethically sourced crystals in this blog post.)
- Look for mineralogical shops. Whether at a gemstone market, or searching out a new crystal online, look for rock collectors and experts. They’re likely to know more about where the stone came from. And they may have historically mined items in their collection (rather than newly mined). As a bonus they’re usually cheaper too!
- Start in our back yard. Every stone on earth has healing properties, and we can find the perfect match for us anywhere. We don’t have to buy traditional crystals.
- Buy Nicholas’s books. Learn about reiki and the power of healing stones from Nicholas.
Nicholas Pearson has been immersed in all aspects of the mineral kingdom for more than 20 years. He began teaching crystal workshops in high school, later studying mineral science at Stetson University while pursuing a degree in music. He worked for several years at the Gillespie Museum, home to the largest mineral collection in the southern United States.
Nicholas says that he strives to bridge science and spirituality in his writing, workshops, and in all that he does to offer a grounded approach to spirituality, with practical and effective tools for all.
He’s primarily known for his work with crystals and Reiki, but he’s also a flower essence practitioner, too. A certified teacher and practitioner of Usui Reiki Ryoho, he teaches crystal and Reiki classes throughout the United States. He lives in Orlando, Florida.
Learn more about Nicholas’s work here.
The Science Behind Why Crystals Heal:
I was lucky enough to read Nicholas’s book, Crystal Basics (affiliate) last week while sitting on the beach in Catalina Island. I told Nicholas that I think I will remember that moment in my life forever. It was the first time that I saw an explanation for why crystals work that truly made sense to me.
Ironically in that moment of reading I found a stone laying in the sand that was rough, but there was a pinkish color under the rough exterior. I brought it home and plan to tumble it. Now after this interview I’ve learned to hold it close forever, because I did not find it by chance.
So Nicholas starts by explaining that a huge amount of subtle energy exists on this planet that we can’t quite yet measure from a scientific perspective. We know that it runs between us and surrounds us and connects us to the earth. Nicholas believes that the healing power of crystals falls into this realm.
He talks to us about how we can look at the physics of energy on the electromagnetic spectrum to help us better understand what may be happening when a crystal comes near our body. The human body is an assortment of different molecules that are very malleable, while a crystal has a very regular, rigid structure, down to the molecular level. Crystals therefore have a more coherent electromagnetic field than the human body, and because of that coherency they operate at a higher amplitude. When we draw a crystal near, we see the effect of entrainment, in which the amplitude of our body adjusts to the more stable amplitude of the crystal. I suggest reading his book or listening to the audio beginning at minute 4:00 to understand this more.
Ethically Sourced Crystals:
It’s really hard to know where a crystal comes from. Nicholas tells us to be prepared for “I don’t know” to be the answer to our questions about provenance (the origin of a crystal). But, he still thinks it is worth asking.
In Nicholas’s Crystal Basics book, he talks about finding ethically sourced crystals in chapter 4. I recapped four areas of provenance that I read, to take into consideration. They were:
- Environmentally conscious mines
- Ethical treatment of miners
- Supply chain – middle men
- Location personality / physical makeup of the gemstone
I’ve summarized our conversation about each below.
Ethical Mining Practices:
Nicholas prefaces his knowledge with the fact that he doesn’t go and search mines himself. He’s sharing what he knows from what he’s read and studied over the years.
He starts with what mines look like. There are many different types of mines, especially from which crystals are found. Some are smaller operations, and the type of operation varies drastically. For instance removing a crystal from soft clay or sifting through water, is very different than blasting into a mountain. Those processes will look very different and require very different tools.
Nicholas says that he is seeing more and more small scale operations with very low environmental impact emerging. He talks of individuals who go out and find the rocks themselves, tumble and clean them to bring them to market. He said not only are these more environmentally friendly, there are lot of exciting specimens coming out of these smaller operations too. This feels like the beginning of more ethically sourced crystals being available on the market.
How do we find small batch producers?
Nicholas shares that as he’s traveled around the US to various crystal shops, he’s found that some sellers are very aware of their suppliers, and others aren’t. He does not believe that this makes one supplier better than another. He describes that this knowledge really only comes from customers asking for it and the demand shifting toward it. So we really do have the power to help shift the industry by asking for ethically sourced crystals.
Nicholas also shares that one of the best ways to get ethically sourced crystals is to go for historic stuff. If it wasn’t mined yesterday, it’s not causing new harm to the earth. The only cost is the carbon to get it to you. He says to find the old school rock hounds at the rock and gem show. He says another perk to buying from them is that they won’t include the “metaphysical markup” that many gemstones are now carrying in their price.
What about the places where we can mine our own crystals?
No two locations are the same. Some of the commercialized “self mining” places are more about the fun experience than they are about ethically sourced crystals native to that area. Nicholas says that sometimes the crystals that we find could really be a simulated stone that is purchased and shipped in to meet the demand of consumers.
He describes places that you can go dig though, and get covered in red clay looking for your own rocks. He describes one in Hot Springs, Arkansas where friends of his have gone. The reality is that we need to make our own decision of whether a place is for us or not. And being aware and asking questions will go a long way.
Ethical Treatment of Miners:
Nicholas reminds us that the treatment of miners who are sourcing crystals most likely doesn’t even come close to the treatment of miners who are sourcing the cobalt or other more valuable minerals that are used in our electronic devices. He says we’re likely to have a bigger impact on the treatment of both adult and child miners by deciding if we REALLY need the newest iphone, etc.
That being said, he says there are some pretty atrocious mining practices for gemstones too. For example, both Liberia and Myanmar are known for horrible treatment of miners. He says we’ve had trade embargoes here in the US with places like Myanmar for a while to try to circumvent this. But of course it doesn’t always work.
So how do we as consumers know if we’re looking at an ethically sourced crystal, or one that comes through these atrocities? The answer is that it’s not easy. Gemstone supply chains are incredibly complicated. We start by asking questions. “Who did you buy this from? Who did they buy it from?”
Another recommendation is to go to the mineralogical market. At the local rock and mineral show, seek out the people who are there because they are rock collectors, rather than metaphysical shops. You are likely to get your questions better answered here.
The Specific Location of Origin Is Important:
Nicholas worked in an Earth Science Museum on his university campus. He explains how the access he received to the gemstones really gave him a chance to learn about how origin drastically changes the makeup of any one item.
He shows us three specimens of rhodonite, all radically different. One is from Madagascar, one is from Peru, and one is from yet another location. Each location has completely different geological activities happening in it, and therefore the stones coming from it are very different.
He describes how we’re all a product of our environment, and gemstones are no different. Each rock is truly unique and not the same as another, just like us as humans. Purchasing from a mineralogist will help us better understand the story behind our rock and likely bond more deeply to it.
Synthetically Made Gemstones:
When we talk about man made stones, we need to look at three broad categories.
- Truly synthetic stones such as a lab created sapphire or ruby have the same chemical, optical and physical properties as a nature made sapphire or ruby. They usually have a higher quality. There are going to be some differences that experts can see with the right equipment.
- Simulated stones only resemble what they’re meant to. These could be made with natural and unnatural materials. For example, brightly colored glass being sold as obsidian. Or pieces of glass with sparkling things below them that simulate opal.
- Treated stones are ultimately of natural origin, but we’ve adjusted them in one way or another.
Nicholas says that when a gemstone is made in a lab, it doesn’t mean that it is divorced from the consciousness of Mother Earth that directly impacts naturally created stones. Every ingredient going into the lab to make the synthetic crystal is naturally occurring somewhere on earth. Everything in our lives ultimately comes from naturally occurring earth elements.
He thinks the consciousness of the person making the stone will affect the chemistry of the stone. He describes how his understanding of naturally made stones is that they all come from Mother Earth, with her energy infused into them. Thus synthetically made stones will come with the energy of their creator infused into them.
So ultimately Nicholas thinks that the synthetically made stones are beautiful, and work as the electromagnetic resonators that we use in healing. But they’re similar to a beautiful stain glass window without light behind it. They’re absolutely beautiful to look at, but there’s just something missing in the chemical, deeper makeup of their energy.
Simulated stones can be very beautiful, but very few, if any, are going to be truly of therapeutic quality. Nicholas also reminds us that the plastics used to make these simulated stones still ultimately come from mining the original ingredients. So they may not be as environmentally friendly as they seem on the surface.
Nicholas tells us that he has a few synthetically made stones that he uses in his practice, for example a large gem quality diamond. He mentions how this works for him because he’s not able to purchase a large diamond right now (very few of us could I assume!). We each need to make our own choices about what works for us, knowing that the lab grown gem will be different than a naturally occurring one. But that may be ok.
The Secret Alternative:
“There’s an incredible power and teaching to be found in every cell of the earth mother.” I love this quote that Nicholas shares at the end. He’s talking about the fact that every single part of the earth body is just as special as any other part. He equates this to our human body in saying not one part of our body is more holy than another.
Continuing this thought, Nicholas teaches us that we can find healing crystals anywhere and everywhere that we go. If we can’t afford ethically sourced, high quality large gemstones, we can begin looking ourselves. He urges us to dig in our back yard, walk through the woods, visit the seashore, go up into the mountains, go to the desert (obviously do all of these things responsibly). But there are many stones to be discovered on our own without having to purchase the most beautifully prepared crystals from a far away land.
Nicholas also encourages us to learn from indigenous peoples who have stories about the land we live on, and uses for stones on that land. Many of the stones around us were used in ancient traditions and spiritual ceremonies. There is so much we can learn about every rock we see. And the more we learn, the more we will be in tune with the spirit and energy of the land in which we live. This ripples into every part of our life. The more connected we are to the land, the more conscious we are of everything else around us.
Order Nicholas's Books or Connect With Him:
The best way to reach Nicholas is by email or on Facebook. You can score a copy of his books on Amazon, his website, or Inner Traditions (all links are below).
Nicholas’s Books on Inner Traditions: https://www.innertraditions.com/author/nicholas-pearson
Nicholas’s Books on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Nicholas-Pearson/e/B01E4TQMJU