Trust, but Verify
A personal journey to ethically source healing crystals
*We Trust Our Sources* That’s the only thing you’ll hear about ethical sourcing from other crystal businesses. That’s if they say anything about sourcing at all. Generally speaking, it’s considered “bad for business” to discuss ethics. It’s too complicated and shines a light into dark places which may be uncomfortable. Focusing on ethics requires deep thought. By contrast, *We Trust Our Sources* is vague but it sounds confident and allows everyone to comfortably go back to not thinking very much.
Personally, I’ve always been a fan of Trust, but Verify. It’s more complicated and ambiguous. But it feels grounded in reality and intelligence. It is good to trust, but it’s important to verify. Otherwise, trust alone can easily become ignorance wrapped in hopefully feelings. So I trust my sources, but I independently verify what they tell me. Likewise, I’d like you to trust me, but I’d be absolutely tickled to hear if you verified or dispute my claims. In fact, please feel free to do so and then come tell me. We can be two merry scientists together, jointly obsessed with our quest to find Truth.
I consider myself the expert when it comes to ethically sourcing healing crystals. But why should you trust me? Let me tell you a little bit about myself and my journey into ethical sourcing. Then you can decide for yourself, whether or not I’m worthy of your trust.
My name is Julie Abouzelof and I’m a small business owner, who built my business from the ground up. I can’t show you a Fair-Trade certificate or point to an obviously relevant diploma on the wall. I belong to two professional organizations for responsibly-sourcing gold and diamonds for the fine jewelry industry. I was loosely trained for a few years by what some might call a “Master Crystal Healer”, but it was an accidental-apprenticeship, rather than a formal study. She taught me about crystal energy, but almost nothing about geology or sourcing.
I’m mostly self-taught. I have a Master’s Degree in history, which in no way prepared me for the realities of e-commerce, marketing, accounting, supply chains or anything business-related. But it did prepare me to be a good researcher, writer and teacher. It prepared me to see links that other people might miss and to be comfortable with complexity.
When I started Moonrise Crystals, I basically just bumbled around for a few years, working ridiculously hard for very little money, and gradually figured it out. I found guidance in business books but also in poetry. One of my favorite poets wrote, Work Is Love Made Visible. I designed and built my business using that as my guiding principle. It might sound strange to use poetry for business lessons, but it made sense to me. It still does.
When I started out, I assumed that ethical sourcing would be relatively straightforward. When it wasn’t, I thought that perhaps I was just too inexperienced and that the fault lay with me. As the years passed, I continued to be thoughtful in my sourcing and worked hard to improve everything I did at Moonrise Crystals. I thought of myself as a young independent business owner, rather than a member of a larger industry. I certainly wasn’t dreaming of taking on a role as an industry leader!
In the spring of 2018, a major media organization called The New Republic, asked me if I’d be willing to speak on the record about how healing crystals are sourced. They had tried to get someone bigger and more important than me. But no one else would speak on the record. The journalist reached out to me because I had a public page on my website which gave a detailed discussion about why ethical sourcing is complicated in the gemstone industry. That made me unique. Other crystal sellers either ignored the question altogether or said *We trust our sources* and left it at that.
I agreed to the interview. By this point, I felt I had the necessary experience to have an educated opinion and it was a subject that I cared about. So, I spoke candidly for over an hour and answered every question. I felt entirely comfortable. That was my first clue that I had a calling.
At the end of the interview, I complained that there are no books or other resource available to teach business owners and healers how to ethically source crystals. The interviewer asked me, “Are you writing the book?” I was caught off-guard and then laughingly said, “Maybe I should.” – that was my second clue.
The New Republic article that eventually came out, not only quoted me extensively but I could tell how much my interview was the driving force behind it. Soon after, several other major media groups, including The Guardian, published their own articles on the topic. Once again, I could see my own opinion being repackaged and repeated. You’d think that would be a third clue, but I must not have been paying attention. I was busy with the day-to-day running of a small business and focused on my own little world.
So, life sent me A BIG CLUE. Something so big that I couldn’t laugh it off. It came in the form of a sudden moral crisis that almost ended my business. Only a few months after the article interview, my life changed completely. I was suppose to be buying crystals for my store, but instead I was seriously contemplating shutting down my business and leaving the industry all together. The day I almost quit my business, I stood at a crossroads in my life and had to make a choice.
I chose to stay in business. But with one condition. I had to dedicate myself completely to ethical sourcing. It wasn’t enough to be thoughtful, I had to be rigorous. I had to be grounded firmly in reality, even if it meant breaking all the unspoken rules of the healing crystal world. We are suppose to focus exclusively on Light and Love and pretend Darkness doesn’t exist. The unspoken rule of the healing crystal world is “keep it pretty and pleasant – that’s the way to make money.”
Darkness doesn’t scare me. I belong to the Light, so why should I fear? A single candle obliterates the Dark. Sometimes rules are meant to be broken. It’s good to ask questions, to be curious, to be willing to be wrong, to be dedicated to being better.
With my path chosen, destiny swiftly rewarded me. Among other things, I soon found myself part of a community of people who care about ethically-sourced gemstones. They are all members of the fine jewelry industry while I’m the lone gatecrasher from the healing crystal world. The jewelers welcomed me as one of their own and suddenly I was no longer alone.
Over the course of 2019, I worked hard to make ethical sourcing more pronounced on my website. In many ways it was about taking the information that was already in my head and putting it online for other people to read. I still thought of myself as a small business owner, rather than an industry leader. To call myself a leader felt artificial and arrogant. But clearly other people weren’t seeing it that way. In October 2019, I confessed to the main organizer of the Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference, that I thought I needed to take on a larger leadership role in the metaphysical community. She was confused and said, “Aren’t you already doing that?”
Oh. That’s another clue. Sometimes we need lots and lots of clues to guide us forward.
There comes a point where we have to make a decision about our own fate. Destiny is just a suggestion; it only becomes real if we choose to walk down that path. I’ve decided to answer the call and help the healing crystal industry as a whole become more ethical.
In 2020, I started to write a book, Earth to Pocket: A Guide To Ethically Source Healing Crystals. The book is divided into three sections all of which are utterly practical. I’m not going to waste time writing 300 pages to describe something that could have been said in 10 pages. I want every single page to be USEFUL. Because my goal is to help other healing crystal businesses and collectors significantly improve the way they source.
It’s going to be a lot of work and it’s going to take years to do it right. When people hear I’m writing a book, they usually assumed it will be published very soon. That’s the way it is in our instant-gratification culture. But I’m a little bit old school and perhaps more realistic. Writing something well, takes time. I’m not interested in just sprouting out opinions and calling them the gospel truth. No, I’d rather offer something of greater value, something useful and practical. Something that actually helps.
Luckily, hard work has never scared me. After all, as the poet said, Work is Love made visible.