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Makal is an Ethical Jewellery Brand You Need to Know
September 6, 2019
by Sophie Jones-Cooper

Championing new standards in responsible sourcing, traceability of materials and veneration of the natural gold nugget, Makal is a brilliant new jewellery brand that’s well worth a closer look.

“Beauty is not at all about perfection,” says Makal founder and CEO Daniela Colaiacovo. “Nothing in life is perfect. Beauty lies inside.”
Unrefined, naturally imperfect gold nuggets are at the centre of Makal’s jewellery, which exquisitely combines raw, ethically sourced splendour with contemporary Italian design. It builds on the old adage of beauty being more than skin deep with a backstory that almost rivals the products.

The company’s founder, Daniela Colaiacovo, reveals that the brand was named after the Macal River on which the Mayans used to mine their gold.

It all started over two decades ago. The Colaiacovo family was operating huge cement and concrete production and distribution businesses in Honduras (consolidated through a vast holding company, Gruppo Financo) but in 1996, Franco (Daniela’s father) decided to form the Gold Group (named after his children Giuseppe, Laura and Daniela, and his wife Orietta) in order to coordinate the family’s investments in diversified business activities. And just five years after that, Daniela (who served as Gold’s Director of Communications) and her brother (and CEO) Giuseppe broadened the family’s scope by founding Goldlake, an investment company that could represent Gold’s interests in the mining of gold, but with a difference. Their vision was to place an emphasis on environmental sustainability, social justice and people’s rights, as they considered these aspects central to the reputation and financial value of their company.

To put things in perspective, raw materials extracted from conflict mines have a long history of environmental degradation, human rights violations and crimes, yet they have continued to find their way into the retail supply chain as their origins are nearly always disguised. Consequently, the young Colaiacovos were intent on pioneering a gold mine with super-ethical practices. “This entailed never using environmentally damaging techniques for example, investing in the welfare, health and employability of our artisan miners and their families; and using a controlled and certifiably traceable supply chain,” explains Daniela. Over time, Daniela established partnerships with local women-run cooperatives and created initiatives to train, educate and empower them. “I wanted to prove there are so many capable women out there. We have given these local women the framework to become independent.”

But then came a defining moment: an artisan miner extracted a rather substantial nugget from the river and upon seeing this marvel of nature, Daniela was struck by an idea. “This piece of gold, taken straight out of the earth just as it was and untouched, was so beautiful. I was mesmerised.”

So, over the next ten years, she stocked and stored gold nuggets, garnering several offers from luxury jewellery brands and even a proposed capsule collection for one of her clients – Cartier. But, in 2018, she changed course.

The amazing thing about Makal pieces is that no two are ever the same. Still, the collection covers a variety of tastes and styles, from ultra-fine chain-link pendant earrings to gorgeous hand cuffs and statement pieces, all of which are unified around a central theme of treating the nugget as a precious jewel.

 

The single working mother found a designer she could trust in her home country of Italy (Goldlake is headquartered there, with other headquarters in London), as well as a team of artisan craftspeople in Florence, and together they set about creating three striking collections for her brand.

The Earth collection is minimal, organic and showcases raw nuggets in uncomplicated gold settings, often including circles representing the Mayan tradition, something that is intrinsic to Makal’s brand story. For Heart, the nuggets become jewels and are, as she puts it, “almost taken from the earth and put next to your heart.” And finally, Cosmos pieces are set with diamonds, elevating the nuggets to a more refined aesthetic like “crown jewels.”

Within the first month of launching Makal, Colaiacovo was asked to collaborate with Colombian mine Muzo Emerald, resulting in the outstanding Explosion Ring, made up of three ethical stones – diamonds, emeralds and nuggets. Like many of Makal’s designs, it’s a one-off, made-to-order piece. She has also teamed up with the Maiyet Collective in London, who host pop-ups with luxury ethical brands, and the busy social entrepreneur now splits her time between London, Italy and New York, speaking on panels and at conferences to promote sustainability and her jewellery.

“I want to grow organically and to continue to do things properly,” she says. “I want to be at the forefront of sustainability and for Makal to be renowned as a jewellery brand that does things differently.”