What Makes a Lapidary "Ethical"?
Short Supply Chain
Relatively few mines sell directly to retail stores. More often, a lapidary (stone polishing factory) is a crucial part of a crystal's Earth to Pocket journey.
Ideally a lapidary should be located in the same country as the mine, and buying from it directly.
In some cases, the lapidary owner may travel to other countries or meet with mine owners at large international gem shows. Good connections are often made in this manner. Lapidaries also buy from "gem hunters" who travel to remote rural locations in search of artisanal mines.
Good Safety Standards
An ethical lapidary should have good safety standards in place to protect factory workers.
Proper safety equipment includes eye-protection and a respirator-mask for hand-polishing crystals. The space should be well-ventilated and have a water spray system to keep dust out of the air.
Many common healing crystals contain silica, which can be breathed in as dust during the polishing process. Over time, this can lead to silicosis, a fatal lung disease.
Tumbling stones is the lowest-level work in the gem cutting and polishing industry. In some lapidaries, stones are tumbled in bulk inside a drum. In other lapidaries, small stones are individually polished by hand.
Accurate wage information is rarely available. But inferences can be made by studying the political and economic situation of the country where the lapidary is located.
Other inferences may be gleaned based on the lapidary's other activities and business philosophy. For example, a company that donates to charity or is proud of its low carbon footprint, is more likely to treat employees well.
Signs of a Good Lapidary
In general, small businesses and family businesses offer an important advantage over large corporations: Access to the owner.
Often the owner of the lapidary is directly available to answer questions about their stock, their business practices, and their relationships with mines. In an industry where so much is hidden, being able to look someone in the eye and observe their body language is extremely helpful. Sometimes more can be learned by what is NOT said, rather than what is said.
Small lapidaries cannot compete with large corporations on price. The larger the lapidary, the cheaper it is to tumble stones. However, small lapidaries may have higher quality stones. They may also tumble stones from small deposits which a large lapidary would ignore.
The gem and mineral industry is male-dominated at every level. The healing crystal industry tends to be female-dominated, particularly among small retail businesses. It is relatively rare to find women mine-owners and women-owned lapidaries.
Statistically, businesses owned by women grow at a slower rate. It has been speculated that women are more likely to prioritize larger "life goals", while men are more likely to focus strictly on business/financial goals.
Anecdotal evidence is that female lapidary owners are more willing to talk about ethical problems in the industry. Male owners are more likely to find the conversation uncomfortable or dismiss the topic immediately.
Progressive Business Philosophy
The best business relationships are founded on common goals and ideals. Moonrise Crystals values humanitarian work, environmental protection, and education.
Lapidaries that financially support local schools or donate to charitable causes are valuable business partners.
Lapidaries that have a low-carbon footprint and take environmental issues seriously are valuable business partners.
Lapidary owners who think that change is possible and strive to always be improving are valuable business partners.