Meet Helen Viljoen, the innovator behind Nebü and the message of wearable bullion.
Dec 2022

Meet Helen Viljoen, the innovator behind Nebü and the message of wearable bullion.

We have been “gold bugs” for fifty years and are passionate about finding a future that redefines gold ownership. Gold has a six-thousand-year track record as a safe store of value and is the only money that carries no counterparty risk. In a volatile world, gold offers a safe haven asset that always maintains value.

Meet entrepreneur Helen Viljoen, a like-minded supporter of the legacy of gold and the founder of Nebü. We have collaborated with Helen and her fine jewellery brand to celebrate this holiday season with festive gifts worth their weight in gold. During antiquity, the hieroglyphic character depicting gold was Nebü, and Helen took inspiration from this sacred carving. Let's meet Helen, who has degrees in both law and genetics but has pivoted to creating impactful, beautiful treasures.

Have you visited Egypt?

Yes, I have! I was moved by – the haunting history, the snorkelling and, of course, the divine reverence for gold.

What is your personal favourite piece of jewellery - and the story behind it?

My personal favourite would have to be the Pangolin Pendant and the Pangolin range that stemmed from that. It was the first piece that my husband and I designed right in the beginning with the intention of connecting something so precious and rare as gold to such a rare and precious life, that being of an endangered African species in the form of a pangolin.

In one of your interviews, you speak of “beauty with power and cause”. What is your definition of “ female beauty “and “female power.”

Female power, in my opinion, comes from our female intuition and our vulnerability – the wild feminine that you see across cultures.

For you, across the ages - which icons represent “ female beauty “and “female power.”

I think each woman is iconic the moment she embraces and accepts herself. One of my favourite books is Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World, where you’ll find many courageous women.

What are the 5 essential items in every women’s jewellery box?

I am obviously biased here, but I believe that women deserve only the best, so naturally, they deserve pure, undiluted gold. I would say:

A classic, delicate chain (gold, obviously)

Hoop earrings for everyday

Drop earrings for the evening

A classic bangle

A sentimental ring

Nebü is aligned with wildlife conservation and anti-poaching initiatives. As a committed “bush baby”, tell us about some of your favourite wildlife destinations and outstanding sightings.

The bush holds my heart forever, no matter where I am in the world. I have had the privilege of travelling to many African countries, and there are still so many on the list, but one animal never ceases to take my breath away, and that is the leopard. My husband took me to the Sabi Sands for my 30th birthday, and we saw some incredibly beautiful leopards there. 

What is your birthstone and zodiac sign - and how do you choose to celebrate these personal markers?

My zodiac is the Libra sign, and my birthstone is the opal (not going to lie, wish it was the diamond or sapphire, haha). I only have one piece with opals in it, and that is an heirloom from my grandmother – a gold ring with pavé opals that I cherish. We are going to release a zodiac collection in the new year as well to celebrate all the zodiacs and our connection to the stars.

It’s the Oscars - who would you choose as your red carpet ambassador and why?

I would probably choose Jessica Chastaine – she’s classic and poised but also fun.

And which Nebu pieces is she rocking on the red carpet?

I’d put her in our classic hammered wrist cuff, Hammered Obelisk Earrings, and of course, the Pangolin Pendant.

No one can dispute the effect technology is having on every aspect of our lives. What tech has influenced your business the most significantly and in your personal life - what are your favourite tech gadgets?

I am an Apple girl through and through – the ease of syncing is difficult to get away from. Our entire business is focused on automating as much as possible to ensure a quick and seamless experience for all, so we integrate a lot of apps into our store. One of our projects for 2023 is to add an NFT layer to our jewellery that will add a whole bunch of utility to our pieces – making them fabulous but functional.

You have over 1000 Instagram followers - congratulations! Are you an Insta Junkie, and which accounts/influencers - are your favourite to follow?

Thank you very much!

I hate to admit it, but I might have a “scroll problem”!

On a business level and related to elated to Nebü, I follow a lot of investment and financially related content – Bloomberg, Kitco etc.

Personally, I have to admit that the penchant for aesthetically beautiful things haunts me. So I’m a keen observer of Architectural Digest, as well as interior design, travel and, being a mom of two toy poodles, plenty of dog content! 

You speak of Nebü as igniting the aesthetic on fire”. What other asset classes excite you?

I am a bit of a traditionalist in that sense – I like real assets, property, and precious metals. Of course, being an entrepreneur, companies interest me, and I am very interested in blockchain technology.

Are you a collector of art? If so, tell us about some of your favourite pieces.

I do love art, although the subjectivity of its value still confuses me. 

Sadly I don’t own any of my favourites, but I am very proudly South African in my taste. I love landscapes, so naturally, Pierneef is a fave, and I also really like Vera Volschenk, and I am a big lover of wildlife photography.

Your next travel destination is….?

For leisure – hopefully, Sossusvlei; otherwise, Lekkerwater at Cape Agulus.

However, I will probably be heading to the States again for work in the new year! 

Your signature fragrance is…?

Flower Bomb by Viktor Rolff

You are based in the Cape, one of the world’s wine capitals. Red or white?

Red! But in these hot summers, probably a Pinot Noir or Rosé.

Favourite wine farm to visit and enjoy?

Oh man, this is tough! Being based in Val de Vie, I am loyal to Franschhoek, so I love the Leeu Estate and its manicured gardens, but I also love Tokara – great lunch, beautiful view and delicious tasting.

Dogs or cats - and why?

I love all animals! But I’m a dog person – no love is as unconditional as a dog’s, and they are great companions, especially in the outdoors.

Work-life balance. How do you do it?

With difficulty! When you run a company, there is always something that you can work on. You are never off. So, I promised myself early on that I would prioritize my health and try not to become work-obsessed and one-dimensional. I exercise for at least an hour every day, try to eat healthy during the week and get enough sleep.