Daniela Colaiacovo, founder of ethical fine jewellery brand MAKAL, which uses natural gold nuggets and other sustainable materials in exquisite collections, will speak in an Insta Live about her journey from being a pioneering woman in the gold mining industry to creating a highly individualistic jewellery brand.
The Insta Live discussion with Jewellery Outlook Editor David Brough will start @jewelleryoutlook at 2 pm UK time (9 am NY) on Monday, March 15, 2021.
Where did your journey begin, and what drove you to create MAKAL?
My journey began almost 20 years ago when I started working in the gold mining industry. Then, in Honduras, Central America, I set up one of the world’s first ethical gold mines.
The legacy was a trove of alluvial gold nuggets, the natural products of weather and gravity.
MAKAL gives those ancient, natural nuggets new life in a collection of contemporary, made-to-order jewellery, hand-crafted in Italy.
Our jewellery is responsibly sourced, from the mine to our artisan studios.
For MAKAL, integrity is everything: in our designs and craftsmanship, the treatment of our people, and in the sourcing of our materials.
We believe beautiful jewellery can be created hand in hand with caring for people, communities and the environment.
What makes a jewellery brand ethical?
For MAKAL, being an ethical jewellery brand is all about how the gold and the other materials are produced. Ethical gold should be harvested from the earth with utmost respect for the natural environment and the people who live in it. This means no chemicals like mercury or cyanide; zero waste at the mine; replacing the natural habitat; and then keeping inventory light and using sustainable packaging.
The idea is to leave a net positive impact, while creating beautiful things for people to buy and wear. It is easy to talk about it. It is hard work to make it real.
Responsible sourcing and supply chain
Tell us about your approach to sourcing.
Responsible sourcing is crucial to our approach. We only use gold nuggets that come from sources that follow the industry’s best practices.
Our gold, diamonds and emeralds are all certified by Fairtrade or the Responsible Jewellery Council.
Although we are a small company, we have an in-house sustainability officer with a 25-year international reputation.
He investigates our suppliers, right up to the mine, to ensure that they follow the standards on which our brand was built.
Our goal is for our customers to wear and treasure our MAKAL pieces with confidence, knowing that every piece, and even it’s packaging, is responsibly sourced.
Tell us about your supply chain from mine to clients.
It is not easy to build a clean supply chain when you don’t control all the paths to access the gold. We overcame this by building our own network of suppliers.
All our nuggets come from artisanal miners working the streams on the US-Canadian border and Honduras, using traditional low-impact panning techniques.
Our gold is Fairtrade from Peru. Our diamonds are from certified sources: we can have confidence that they are not from conflict zones and are mined using best industry practices.
Coloured gemstone supply chains are very complex and difficult to track. We want to ensure that we only use stones from where we can have confidence in the production.
We have used emeralds from the Muzo mine in Colombia, which we have visited several times to get confident in the mine’s practices.
How can International Women’s Day help to highlight the need to improve the conditions and opportunities for women in the mining and jewellery sectors?
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is that a challenged world is an alert world, and from challenge comes change.
Mining is not an easy industry for women, especially in developing countries.
However, if you strongly believe in what you are doing, and you are determined to make positive changes and innovate, nothing is impossible. There are actually lots of women in the industry.
They are extremely capable and eager to learn. But they need to be supported and to be recognised. MAKAL has a commitment to support women in mining, and to improve the safety and cleanliness of mine site operations through capacity building and investment.
Last year, we invested in an incredible project in northern Kenya to help women miners in eight artisanal small-scale mining groups to reduce their exposure to harmful mercury in the extraction process.
This week, we announced another project to support a young woman engineer to learn how to run a mine in a responsible way.
Creative process and the collections
Can you tell us a bit more about the creative process behind your collections?
The Mayan tradition is a great inspiration for our collections. The Mayans were a fascinating civilisation.
Having spent so many years in Central America, I have been moved by the depth of Mayan culture and its spirituality.
The first collection was inspired by the Mayan circle of life: nothing is ever born and nothing ever dies.
The second collection is inspired by the Mayan-era artisanal method of gold extraction. The collection pays homage to the shallow, solid wood bowl used to pan for gold since Mayan times.
How do you incorporate the story of each nugget into the design of a piece?
We study every nugget closely, taking in its shape, colour and contours.
This inspires us to find designs that accentuate the natural radiance and simplicity of each piece of gold.
Our designs always draw on the origin of the nugget, as well as its individual appearance – and, of course, MAKAL’s top priority – sustainability.
I love it that every piece of jewellery is unique, because every nugget is unique.
You cannot say that about much jewellery today. If you want to be your own person and stand out from the crowd, MAKAL is a very attractive brand for you.
MAKAL pieces are crafted in Italy. Can you tell us about the craftsmanship involved?
Being Italian, it was very important for me to work with Italian artisans.
Since the nugget is unique and each one has its own shape, it was also important for me to work with a manufacturer that understood my philosophy of keeping the nugget untouched, but setting it within thoughtful and elegant designs.
All the pieces are handcrafted and we try to develop the designs and the use of other materials – like gold, diamonds and gemstones – around the nuggets, rather than the other way round.
What is next for MAKAL?
The pandemic has encouraged MAKAL to accelerate our digital plans to make access to our jewellery less dependent on face-to-face sales, although they will remain an important and enjoyable experience for many of our clients.
We have launched a collection of simpler and lower priced pieces. These are really cool bracelets, with a nugget on a cord band made from recycled plastic bottles in multiple colours.
We are also working with new designers to bring out exciting new collections in the next couple of years.
I am very excited because I feel that we’re at a time when a genuinely kind and ethical brand, offering beautiful, made-to-order and individualistic fine jewellery, will succeed. And quite obviously we all want more glamour back in our lives!