Here at BOUNDARIES we like to introduce new artists from all around the world, Meri Geraldine is one of them with her brand, Gardens of the Sun. “Perfection is boring. Imperfections make you stand out; it is your imperfections that shape your character.” That’s the first thing you can read on her website, and she is totally right. Her jewelry collection, created in Indonesia, is all about being unique, because every woman is. Using gemstones and diamonds she managed to create something unique and glamour while keeping in mind an important concern: sustainability.
Tell us about yourself, when did you first discover that you wanted to be a jewelry designer? And how did you start your label?
I have always loved to create. To have something in your mind and then holding it in your hands, that’s magic to me. If I wouldn’t have designed jewelry I would have made other beautiful things. And to be honest, it is much more than designing jewelry that I do and that is one thing I love about what I do. I got to design my own website, do most of the photography, am learning to become a PR pro, source gemstones from all over the world, design my own packaging, have the stamps made, pick the fabrics for the gift pouches and the banana fiber and petal paper for the gift boxes… I even designed my own work bench!
When you make jewelry you enter an oversaturated market, that’s a fact. When your business is away from it’s primary market – in my case running my business from Indonesia with clients mainly from the USA, Canada, Australia and Europe – you have a real disadvantage. You have to offer something different to be noticed. What makes my collections unique is that I design all pieces around the gemstones. The gemstones themselves are my main inspiration. The jewelry itself is usually dainty, to keep the focus on the gems. Most of the gemstones I use are really one of a kind. They are rough, uncut, or if they are cut, they have imperfections and interesting shapes and colors and inclusions. If you ask me, perfect diamonds are pretty boring. Gardens of the Sun is about finding beauty in imperfection, some call it wabi-sabi. The gemstones are unique and that makes my jewelry unique.
Gardens of the Sun is worn by women with a strong sense of authenticity who love wearing jewelry that no one else wears. Her style is minimal with a touch of rebellion. She is unique and expresses this in her own unique little ways. That’s where I come in. One thing I offer that few others in my industry offer, is design sessions via Skype. I speak with clients all over the world and discuss with them how they envision their perfect ring or necklace. I show them examples of existing work and gemstones that I think they will like. Usually it won’t take us long to get a first idea for a design. It’s face to face customer service in the era of globalisation!
I work with quality metals and genuine gemstones, because I want my jewelry to last a lifetime, or even become heirloom pieces. That means I only work with with sterling silver and solid 18k gold. All my gemstones and diamonds are real, none are manmade. I take pride in that. It is my dream to offer recycled metals by 2017.
At daytime I am a sustainability consultant, working on making value chains and production of raw materials more sustainable. I want to make the world a better and more beautiful place. It’s the right thing to do. How cannot not bring that vision into Gardens of the Sun?
All my jewelry is handmade by skilled artisans in good working conditions. I only sell quality jewelry that is made to last. I make handmade and I work with my clients to make them their dream pieces of jewelry. So they can wear it for a lifetime rather than buy cheap jewelry that isn’t quite what they want and is worn a few times to be disposed of shortly after. I encourage my clients to spend well and only buy what they absolutely love.
I care about the origin of my gemstones and diamonds. I am very careful where I source my diamonds from. I need them to be mined in accordance with the Kimberley Process, which means they are more likely to be conflict free, and I avoid certain high-conflict countries of origin. When I have the chance I look for community mined gemstones, and go directly to the area to see the mining conditions. I have been to Sri Lanka to purchase some beautiful sapphires and spinel from Ratnapura, I have sourced sapphires and fossilised coral agate from Indonesia, and am planning a trip to the Mogok mines in Myanmar in spring 2016.
My packaging has a lot of thought in it. I use handmade jewelry boxes made from recycled paper and banana fiber paper. The jewelry itself is wrapped in handmade cassava paper and comes padded with a polishing cloth. I also try to give back whenever I can. Focused on more than just jewelry, I want to help change lives through a partnership with OuTrop (Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project), a non-profit organisation that protects one of the most important areas of tropical rainforest in Borneo – the Sabangau Forest in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. The Sabangau forest comprises a 900,000 ha area and houses the world’s largest orangutan population. The Sabangau river is of high importance to the endangered proboscis monkey. This area is currently burning down at a rapid speed due to this year’s El Nino fires, causing cross-border haze and dangerous conditions for the people and wildlife living there.
OuTrop setting up small nurseries that are run by local women and their families: the Women’s Tree Nursery Initiative. When you purchase a piece of jewelry, I will make sure that these women receive the basics to set up a nursery, such as soil, polybags and paranets. The seeds will be collected from the nearby forest; all will be local species The women will work from their home nurseries to propagate seedlings. Once the seedlings are large enough to survive, they will be transported to restoration plots in the Sabangau forest. The wildlife will be so happy!
The profits allow the women to support their basic needs and that of their families. The impact of these trees extends far beyond the environment. It will not just provide oxygen, fodder and a safe place for endangered wildlife, but also provides vulnerable community members with jobs, sustenance and a future. The effect of each and every tree will be felt for generations to come.
All my jewelry is inspired by the individual gemstones. This means that I design around the shape and color and structure of the gemstone rather than adjusting the gems to my design or setting. That is also why I have so many one of a kind pieces, and why many of my settings are unlike anything that is sold in other shops. One of the things I really enjoy is helping people pick their diamond or gemstone and then design something around that together.
My favorite piece changes almost every week! My style evolves, it is dynamic. My most recent favourite is a ring I got to make for my cousin, made from my late grandfather’s melted wedding band. An older favourite is a necklace made from a meteorite a close friend brought back from one of her trips. This stone was polished to a very shiny black on one side, and rough on the other side. Come to think of it, my favorite pieces are those pieces with a story, a memory and a lot of meaning and love behind it.
Interview of Meri Geraldine, founder of Gardens of the Sun by Alicia Barnet.