Interview with Turkish born designer Meri Kohen Gershman featuring Jewelry inspired by nature and romance
September 25, 2022
New York Jewish Travel Guide sat down with Meri Kohen Gershman, Founder & Creative Director of Meri Lou Jewelry to ask a few questions about her 2022 Jewelry collections, inspirations, and influences.
NYJTG – What was your inspiration to become a jewelry designer?
Meri Kohen Gershman – Since my early years, I had a keen interest in fashion and jewelry. It is as much genetic as nurtured by the environment that surrounded me growing up. My grandmother was a fashion designer and tailor. My first hobby was making dresses and accessories for my dolls. I was also painting and crafting since early childhood.
For me, female beauty is rooted in style. I was strongly impressed by feminine materials like satin, lace, furs, pearls, diamonds, and gold. My passion for luxury, beauty, and femininity encouraged me to start designing jewelry.
NYJTG – How Did your childhood in Israel and Turkey influence your jewelry style?
Meri Kohen Gershman -My childhood in Israel and adolescence in Turkey influenced me in many ways.
Growing up in Israel in my formative years had a lasting impact. A vivid memory that remains with me is being five years old, finding a turtle where I was playing, and throwing it out. The regret that came from that day affected me so much that I would never hurt animals. My Earth collection is in part dedicated to my love for animals.
The reality of Israel also meant living with the daily threat of war. Hearing of people dying and living in the Middle East made me passionate about designing jewelry with messages of peace and humanity.
After Israel, I lived in Istanbul, Turkey. Studying at a Jewish high school equipped with metal detectors and heavy security, I was always aware of threats to Jews in Turkey. The Israel-Palestine conflict followed me to Turkey. On November 15, 2003, a bomb explosion at one of Istanbul’s busiest synagogues killed the brother of one of my best friends.
Naturally, Turkey’s rich history has a deep influence on my jewelry style. The Republic of Turkey emerged from the Ottoman Empire–which reigned for more than 600 years. The Grand Bazaar, for example, was built in the 15th century by the Ottomans and is considered the oldest bazaar in the world. With my strong interest in history, fashion and luxury, I found myself making jewelry business in Grand Bazaar.
NYJTG – Your jewelry is contemporary organic in feeling and your use of symbolism but also romantic and feminine. Would you say each piece is telling a story?
Meri Kohen Gershman – Meri Lou Jewelry is contemporary, elegant, and iconic. Our pieces are stylish and communicate a message or tell stories. All pieces are handcrafted and made with attention to detail.
My main themes so far are earth/nature and love.
I either make pieces from earth to honor divine beauty; or I design pieces for love, peace, and to encourage action.
NYJTG – How would you describe your customer?
Meri Kohen Gershman – Meri Lou Jewelry speaks to conscious consumers who appreciate modern, elegant chic with meaningful artisan features.
She is socially active and curious about world matters. A busy woman who has ethical and moral values–she feels responsible to her community and environment.
She likes to catch attention with her iconic, timeless style and she maintains it day and night. She is comfortable blending contemporary/modern and vintage pieces.
Meri Lou Jewelry consumers value quality over quantity. They shop from environmentally responsible and reliable brands.
NYJTG – What are your favorite metals and gemstones to work with and why?
Meri Kohen Gershman – As Meri Lou Jewelry we work with solid gold and sterling silver. We love high-quality diamonds, garnet diamonds, emeralds, and rubies because of their artistic and elegant colors. Our gold is 14 karat and 18 karat – the highest and most durable quality metal.
Starting this summer, we are excited to make some of our bestselling styles in gold vermeil at more accessible prices. Gold vermeil means sterling silver gilded with gold. The only difference between pure gold and gold vermeil is its lifespan: solid gold is forever, whereas gold vermeil fades to silver.
We love pearls as well. They are very sophisticated and natural. I always associate pearls with royalty–and every girl dreams to become a princess one day. All our pearls are real freshwater pearls, raised organically on farms. We carefully select the best quality pearls.
Meri Lou Jewelry invests in high-quality raw materials with strict attention to minimizing environmental impact. We do not use nickel or cobalt as they are carcinogenic, potential allergens, and harmful to the human body.
NYJTG – What are your favorite collections and why or favorite pieces? And how long does it take to create a collection?
Meri Kohen Gershman – My favorite pieces are the Lizard Necklace and Snake Necklace pieces from the Earth collection because they honor earth and nature. Lizard symbolizes survival–it reminds me of how the Hebrews escaped (and survived) Egypt and my Jewish ancestors escaped Spain and survived in the Ottoman Empire. Snakes represent fertility, rebirth, and renewal.
Motherhood from the Love collection is also very meaningful for me. The most important role in the world is motherhood. It is a reflection of pure love and an act of infinite optimism. The strength of motherhood is greater than all forces.
Finally, my favorite piece from the latest collection is the Starfish Ray with Pearl Necklace. I love the texture of the starfish complemented by the smooth pearl.
It takes around 2-3 months to make a new collection. In every new collection we are making around 5-6 new pieces, all handcrafted, carved with diamonds or pearls with great attention to detail and consistent quality.
NYJTG – How do you see the future of jewelry design evolving?
Meri Kohen Gershman – Jewelry for so long has been a symbol of wealth and luxury, and it will always be.
It is not only an ornament but also an investment. It gives confidence and strength to women who wear it. It makes you feel good no matter your age, size, or even gender.
Climate change and focus on environmentally friendly production is having a profound and positive impact on jewelry manufacturing. The brands that maintain perfect sustainable supply chains will thrive.
In terms of design, there is more appreciation for nature, clean resources, and animals so nature-themed designs will be in vogue.
Diamonds are eternally the sign of love and commitment, so they remain popular as ever.
Jewelry will always be associated with style, fashion, and often a reflection of subtle classiness and femininity.
NYJTG – Can you tell us where we can find your jewelry? Your channels of distribution. Online. Retail stores?
Meri Kohen Gershman – Meri Lou Jewelry is available online at www.merilou.com and on our Instagram page @meriloujewelry. Our products are also sold on popular platforms including Wolf & Badger and Verishop.
Meri Lou Jewelry will also be available at retail boutiques soon. Stay tuned for announcements!
NYJTG -Thank you, Meri, for your time and for all the information you shared with us. We really appreciated it as well as our readers.
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Meyer Harroch – New York Jewish Travel Guide