Shop Local: Eco Jewelry by Maria Irene Weinz
The Arlington designer uses ethically-mined precious metals, recycled gemstones and lab-grown diamonds, and recycles most of her metal waste.
Maria Irene Weinz wants to protect the natural world that inspires her art. “The idea is to make beautiful things in a very simple way with minimal impact,” says the Arlington jewelry designer.
Born in Colombia, Weinz is a world traveler who learned scuba diving at a young age. Her love of the ocean is reflected in delicate earrings resembling sea urchins; shimmering, shell-like necklaces; and wide-band rings that evoke beachy strands.
She first became interested in jewelry-making in 2003 while visiting her mother in Bogotá and touring the Museo del Oro (Museum of Gold)—a vast collection of pre-Columbian jewelry and art objects. She subsequently apprenticed with a local goldsmith, and in 2009, enrolled in the Corcoran School of the Arts & Design’s (now-defunct) metalsmithing and jewelry program in D.C.
Since then, Weinz has studied sustainable practices through the Ohio-based nonprofit collective Ethical Metalsmiths.
“When I was working in the [Georgetown] studio at Corcoran, I could see the waste and all the chemicals we used,” she says. “I knew my home studio had to be eco-friendly. I became really obsessed with this idea of not using anything that was harmful to people or to the environment.”
Today she purchases metals from Fairmined, a global consortium (based in Colombia) dedicated to mining precious metals with minimal ecological impact. The organization also offers support—such as creating rural schools—to artisanal miners and their families, and ensures that toxic chemicals such as cyanide and mercury are neither used in the processing of metals nor emptied into local waterways.
Working from her home studio in Arlington’s Radnor/Fort Myer Heights neighborhood, Weinz uses recycled gemstones and lab-grown diamonds, and recycles most of her metal waste.
Her minimalist pieces range from $60 to $4,500, depending on the metal, stones and intricacy of the design, and each is marked with a Fairmined stamp.
Going forward, she aims to make each piece of jewelry traceable via unique digital fingerprint, so that the owners of her creations can see the eco-minded decisions that guided each step of her process.
Accountability is key, she says. “There can be no more greenwashing.”