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It was just eight years ago when Bea Bongiasca graduated from Central Saint Martins in London and concurrently founded her eponymous jewelry brand in Milan. Her first collection entitled “No Rice, No Life” debuted a year later at 10 Corso Como during Milan Fashion Week, garnering attention from jewelry collectors, major retailers, and celebrities around the globe. Soon, the design darling became recognized for her enamel vines, colorful stones, and playful takes on classic styles.
Today, the 30-year-old Italian jewelry designer is revealing her latest pieces in collaboration with De Beers. Dreamed up under the luxury house’s collaboration initiative Ten/Ten, Bongiasca joins nine other designers to reimagine the classic engagement ring with their visual vocabulary. Made with natural, ethically sourced diamonds from Botswana, each creator is presenting just 10 pieces of their design. For the limited-edition collection available on Blue Nile, Bongiasca’s rings are getting her special treatment—wrapped in a flirty, removable white vine.
Bongiasca spoke with Whitewall about her love for fun, colorful jewelry, connecting with a millennial audience, and her latest pieces for De Beers.
WHITEWALL: Can you tell us a bit about your creative journey leading up to founding your eponymous label?
BEA BONGIASCA: I started my brand at the end of 2013 right after graduating from university—although it took me about a year to get everything in order, from the production to the branding. In the end, I launched the first collection “No Rice, No Life” in September 2014 at 10 Corso Como during Milan Fashion Week.
As I started the brand at 23, I wanted to be realistic about what I was doing, so I started by making silver jewelry as I had my whole career to work with gold and diamonds. Slowly we moved on to 9kt gold, which is more affordable than18kt gold, because we wanted the pieces to be fine jewelry, but fun and at a good price point. I am very grateful that we took it one step at a time. We are now in a position where even with the surge of the price of gold we can still be competitive and continue doing what we love.
WW: What gave you the inspiration to design with fun at your jewelry's core?
BB: I guess it is closely related to who I am as a person. As the designer, my aesthetic and the brand’s is one, and so I guess (I hope!) that people that know me would say I am a fun, colorful, and happy person, which is what I hope my jewelry can convey as well. Plus, in a world where there are already so many beautiful and traditional jewels, I wanted to make something a bit different that would also appeal to millennials like myself.
WW: How would you describe your relationship to color?
BB: Definitely a happy one! When I am picking the gemstone, enamel and gold color combinations for the collections, there are so many endless options and possibilities, even when making an enamel color, that you really need to know what you want and have a clear vision, or you get lost. That’s why I am lucky that it is something I have always been attracted to and have never been afraid to use.
WW: Your engagement rings created in collaboration with De Beers feature a functional, removable enamel vine. Why?
BB: I really wanted to incorporate the brand DNA without it being overly complicated or niche since I think that the key to designing an engagement ring is simplicity. Consequently, I choose to create two rings, one has a thin white enameled line that when worn with the oval solitaire base, floats over the diamond and interlocked itself to make the final ring. It can be both traditional and fun without having to make a lifetime commitment to either.
WW: How did you come up with your vine concept?
BB: “You're So Vine” was actually inspired by my previous “Floricultural” collection, which was about botany and the secret language of flowers. The idea is that those pieces, like they would in nature, have been intertwined and taken over by vines. In this case, it's the gold jewelry that has been “contaminated” with color, which is something that isn't usually so present in fine jewelry.
The evolution from the plain gold to bright enamel on the gold gives the jewelry a kinetic movement as well as a bold pop look. The name of the collection plays with the concept of climbing plants in a pun that is apt to the playful approach to jewelry, as well as our irony.
WW: Can you tell us about your Spring/Summer 2020 collection “Flower Funk?”
BB: It is inspired by the disco floral ‘70s, launching in the next couple of months. I am really excited to show it because I have been working on it for a while—but then due to COVID-19, it was all postponed!
WW: What one piece of jewelry is your go-to?
BB: Probably the Baby Vine rings. They are the jewel that I made in all the enamel colors that we use, so I always have the right one for any outfit or occasion. It was also the first piece that we made that really went viral and has been our best seller since it came out. I have to give it the importance and respect that it deserves—as the brand bread winner! Plus, every time I see my friends, they always wonder which one (or five) I am going to be wearing this time. It’s literally expected of me.
WW: What is the atmosphere in your Milan atelier like?
BB: My office in Milan is in a kind of tower overlooking one of the big parks in the city, so it’s a very sunny (not in January, unfortunately) open space, which is important in a creative job to feel free and inspired! Our normal day varies because we are in a team of three to four people, so we have to do a variety of different tasks. There is never a dull moment.
We make our jewelry in another city, Pesaro, and there we work with a small atelier that makes all our pieces. They are traditional goldsmiths, but at the same time, the owner—who is like my jewelry godfather—is very up to date with the newest technologies. So, there is a good mix of classic and innovative. Plus, he is very patient and open to new ideas, which is the most important factor of all!
WW: What inspires your designs? Any specific art, travel, food, or music you’re particularly excited by right now?
BB: Art-wise: Mark Ryden, Keiichi Tanaami, and Alex Gross. Flower wise: The one and only Azuma Makoto. Music-wise: Dua Lipa and Megan Thee Stallion. Travel wise: Japan and South Korea. But the first place I would like to travel to after COVID-19 is Brazil. Food-wise: Everything!
WW: What are you working on now/next?
BB: My dream would be to be able to expand our BBBoutique that we opened in October 2019 to other countries and be able to have a little part of our world dotted across the U.S., Europe, and Asia. So, we are slowly working on that as our greatest goal! ☺