VIERI, a cloud in the sky

For entrepreneur and jewellery designer Guya Merkle, the worlds of fine jewellery and the sourcing of raw materials were too far apart. She was shocked when she first visited a gold mine in Peru and learned about the working conditions, especially for children. She wanted to build her business on true values, clean sourcing and beautiful design. She founded the jewellery brand VIERI and her trademark is a quartz cloud that will make you dream or hop on a journey to a kinder use of gold and other luxury sources. We met her at Inhorgenta in Munich.

IRMA : Could you tell us how you first became involved and aware of the current situation in the gold mines?
GUYA MERKLE: After inheriting a small family business after my father’s death and having to close it at 23 due to my young age and lack of experience in the jewellery world, I set out to understand this world better. A trip to Peru led me to a gold mine and what I saw there shook me to the core. The conditions under which a luxury like gold is mined were not compatible with my value system, so I wanted to change it.

Guya Merkle

IRMA: What came first, your desire to design jewellery or to become a gold activist?
GUYA MERKLE: I wanted to show that it is possible to create a piece of jewellery that not only has emotional and aesthetic qualities, but also goes hand in hand with human rights and environmental protection. A luxury that doesn’t exclude, but rather necessitates. And so the desire for change led to the exploration of design.

IRMA: You call yourself a holistic and activist entrepreneur, tell us more about your approach to jewellery and awareness and your idea of luxury?
GUYA MERKLE: It is indeed important to create a product that is in harmony with nature and humanity. However, for me it is immensely important to create an impact beyond that. For example, gold can be recycled again and again, which is largely done, so it doesn’t always have to come from the mine. But gold is first and foremost a currency, so it will continue to be mined. So we need to focus on changing the ‘how’. And I want to be part of that change. We place great emphasis on where our raw materials come from, but we also work with our own projects in the countries of origin to bring about positive change. A product that brings happiness not only to the wearer, but to everyone who comes into contact with it.

IRMA: In 2013 you created the Earthbeat Foundation, what is it about?
GUYA MERKLE: The Earthbeat Foundation is my expression of impact. We use it to initiate projects in mining regions. Together with the local people, we explore how we can improve their lives by changing conditions and creating alternative sources of income, gradually reducing their dependence on gold mining. Mine rehabilitation is also a focus of our work.

IRMA: Tell us about the materials you use for your fine jewellery collection.
GUYA MERKLE: The gold we use is called recycled gold. Of course, it comes from a mine at the beginning of its journey, but it is reused and refined back to its raw form in the refineries. I prefer to use gold that comes from old mobile phones – discarded electronic devices. I love this process of transformation and creating a new world of luxury. But it is still in its infancy and not always available. Most of our gemstones are responsibly mined in Sri Lanka or Canada. The journey for gemstones is still a long one, so we strive to provide maximum transparency in this area. Our quartz for our beloved Clouds comes from various places around the world, but is cut in Germany.

IRMA: And why has the Cloud become your signature design?
GUYA MERKLE: I was looking for a symbol of transformation. That’s the basis of my jewellery company. I wanted to create feminine jewellery – something special – strong and delicate at the same time. I found all that for myself in the cloud. It is the perfect symbol for me and I am proud that we have managed to establish the cloud as our signature piece over the past few years.