Some people speak without speaking and Meri and her jewelry brand Gardens Of The Sun is definitely one of those people. You can see her beautiful soul and soulful jewelry from a mile away. I had the pleasure of meeting Meri through Instagram and fell in love with her unique gemstone fine jewelry loving vibes. When I learned Meri made everything in Bali (one of my favorite places) and literally travels the world to find the best gemstones I became hooked. It was a pleasure to interview Meri because I believe she epitomizes, great values and a love of jewelry - something I very much look up to.
Tell me about how you got started in the jewelry industry?
I used to rock climb, quite obsessively. When I got pregnant it got a little harder to continue, and after I gave birth I got scared. I lost that fearless mentality I used to have, as I now had the responsibility not only for myself but also for taking care of a little girl. I needed another outlet, and if it could no longer be physical, a creative outlet would do. And jewelry it was!
I took a silversmithing course when I was pregnant — my first piece was a ring with my daughter’s heart beat that we’d just heard. About two years later I started creating simple rings with rough gems set in prongs. Over the years I found my own style and as my business grew I could invest in higher quality materials to support and evolve that style.
I often still feel like an outsider. My actual degree is in forestry. Coming in from a different angle, I don’t view gems and diamonds like a gemologist does. I see beauty where others may not see it. I’m bound by less rules.
What is your favorite part about what you do?
My favorite part is that I get to decide my vision. And I feel very strongly about it. I get to run my business the way I want to do, and I love breaking rules when it comes to that. Last month I spoke to a potential new collective of silversmiths I wanted to work with. The spokesman sent me a quote for the first samples, and then we sat down. The conversation went something like this:
Me: “I don’t want my business to go over the backs of other people. My brand values are that everyone I work with should take pride in their work, to feel appreciated and valued. As my business grows I want my partners to grow too — this means fair pay that allows them to dream. In return all I ask is craftsmanship that shows love in every single piece.”
Him: “Wow! No other client has ever treated us this way. Thank you!”
Me: “I think your prices are too low. I want to encourage the silversmiths to grow. Creating beautiful jewelry not just to survive, but as a way to make their lives better and more meaningful. I’ll work with you but I want to pay you more than your asking price.”
He gazed at me with a confused look and was pretty speechless for a while.
Any personal motto’s when it comes to styling and wearing jewelry?
Wear what makes you feel beautiful and loved. Pieces that remind you of a special person or moment. Or your “lucky” jewels that make you feel more powerful and can handle anything today.
I love collecting unconventional advice when it comes to buying jewelry — do you have any?
To go with what makes their hearts race rather than with society’s values of what is trending or prized.
Try and open my website from a new computer or browser. You’ll see a popup that asks shoppers to take a few seconds to open themselves to the beauty of each piece and find something that really speaks to them.
Where do you get your design inspiration?
The stones. When I have time — or when I just received new stones and forget I actually don’t have time — I’ll sit down and just take some time to look at the stone. Feel it. Think about what metals it would look good with. What stones it would combine with well to bring out its liveliness. What kind of setting would best demonstrate its beauty. Everything in my designs evolves around the stones. I don’t have a strong urge to come up with my own design style or mark. I just want to showcase the amazing gems that nature brings us.
I think it’s letting go of my ego and let the ideas come to me. I’m in the middle of reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic. Her notion of how ideas and inspiration come to us really resonates with me. I think ideas love coming to my studio and present themselves to me because they know I won’t let them just hang around and wait.
What are your favorite gemstones to work with?
I love sapphires, spinel, tourmaline and flawed diamonds. I’ve also got a major soft spot for color change garnet and recently discovered how gorgeous Andesine can be. I love moonstones to complement other stones.
Where do you source your materials from?
All over the world. Whenever I can I try to source as closely from the source as possible. I love knowing which area or mine a gemstone was mined. It also helps me to better assess its sustainability.
Two years ago I went to Sri Lanka and bought sapphires from Ratnapura. I treasure the stones from there dearly, because I know where it’s from and under what conditions it was mined.
In 2017, I want to go to South Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) and source diamonds from there. Indonesia isn’t perfect, but from what I understand the conflicts here are very different from some central African countries.
I’m also talking to some friends about sourcing gold from artisanal communities in Indonesia. It won’t be certified, but I’d feel so much better using gold of which I know the exact origin.
What’s the best part of living in Bali?
So many things! My studio view right now is pretty awesome. The fact I can just jump on my bicycle and ride to the beach and take my SUP board out for a surf when the tide is right. We’re just a boat ride away from snorkeling with manta rays and stunning cliffs. I love being able to sleep with all the doors and windows open and wake up to chirping bids, cockling roosters and the first rays of sun into my bedroom. I love all the possibilities living here brings.
How do you combine your passion for sustainability and jewelry?
I’m literally on an island, so I don’t always know what others are working on. But I do have over a decade of experience working on sustainability, supply chains and certification in a very different sector, and I’d like to use that knowledge to bring about change.
In 2017, I want to become B Corp certified and dedicate 2 hours a week to making my business and the jewelry sector more sustainable. I want to develop a standard that others can use to assess the sustainability of the gemstones they buy. Ideally, it’s an open access simple cheat sheet that shows which regions and gemstones to avoid and for which reasons. A list of questions to ask your suppliers. A clear overview of what ethical sourcing is and what it’s not.
This would be continuously updated and I hope others will want to get involved to make it as comprehensive and up to date as possible. I’d also like to learn more about traceability options for gemstones and diamonds, and then help move this forward.
If there’s anyone who’d like to work with me, please send me an email. I know I can’t do this alone and that there are other people who must be much further in this. Please let me know how we can work together!
You can reach Meri at email@example.com or gardensofthesun.net