Rapaport Magazine
Style & Design

Twists of fate

Bea Bongiasca’s colorful enamel creations get a diamond makeover in her When Vine Becomes Fine collection.

By Rachel Taylor

Image: Bea Bongiasca

Italian jewelry designer Bea Bongiasca has carved herself an enviable niche in the fashion world. Her sinuous, colorful enamel jewels have adorned celebrities and appeared in trendsetting boutiques, including 30 stores in the US. Part of her success has come from setting price points that are aspirational but accessible, using a mix of gold and silver with semi-precious gems. Now, however, she is moving on up with her first collection of diamond jewels.

“I think that it’s something most jewelers want to get to,” muses Bongiasca. “It’s the elite.”

Designs entwine

The designer briefly touched on this milestone in 2020 as part of De Beers’ Ten/Ten project, in which 10 designers created a collection of alternative solitaires to showcase Botswanan diamonds. Bongiasca contributed a simple yellow gold solitaire with an oval diamond, but matched it with a winding vine-like wedding band partially coated in white enamel — a design that drew on her You’re So Vine! demi-fine collection. The twist was that the enamel section of the band sat on top of the diamond.

The new When Vine Becomes Fine collection is an evolution of this, stylistically mimicking the Ten/Ten design but experimenting with more color options and stripe details on the rings, which are sold as duos. The collection also includes gold and diamond versions of her popular You’re So Vine! designs, which are available as single rings.

Those buying directly from Bea Bongiasca — which sells both online and at its boutique in Milan — can have the pieces made to order. Bongiasca prefers to strike up a conversation about every sale rather than having clients buy predetermined combinations off the shelf. “I wanted to make it a customer experience,” she says.

Nonetheless, some retailers have bought batches of select premade ranges. When Vine Becomes Fine launched exclusively on Matches and Net-a-Porter in early February, with the luxury fashion hubs both offering limited collections of rings in color schemes specially tailored to their brands.

Though the concept for these rings first emerged via the Ten/Ten collection, and the diamonds are of a significant weight at about 0.70 carats, Bongiasca has no plans to present When Vine Becomes Fine as a bridal offer.

“I think if I push them too much as engagement and wedding rings, they’ll just be that, and I don’t think they are just that,” she says. “I wouldn’t want people to feel uncomfortable purchasing this for themselves. Of course, if someone wants it as an engagement ring, that’s fine. It is all about what you want it to be.”

Drawing the line

When it comes to diamond selection, Bongiasca has one rule: no round brilliants. Asked why, the 31-year-old designer makes herself abundantly clear in rapid-fire fashion: “Old. Ugly. So common. No. Refuse.” Instead, the rings come in a choice of pear, heart, oval, trillion or marquise shapes.

Bongiasca is also resolute about using only natural stones. “I’m not opposed to lab-grown diamonds, but I didn’t use them [in the collection],” she says. The reasoning was that her already playful designs were provocative enough without adding another element to the mix. As it is, she says, her DMs are filled with outrage over her decision to obscure a diamond with the removable gold and enamel band. “Can you imagine if it was a lab-grown diamond as well?” she asks in mock horror. “I’m not even going to start this conversation.”

She also feels it is not her brand’s place, new as it is to diamonds, to pioneer this emerging sector; she prefers to leave this task to brands that specialize in lab-grown stones. The designer has similar feelings about highlighting ethical sourcing. While the diamonds for When Vine Becomes Fine come from suppliers that adhere to responsible sourcing policies such as the Kimberly Process, she is not making it a key focus of the collection.

“[If you are going to promote ethical sourcing,] you need to make it your brand’s mission,” she maintains. “There are some brands that do that, and I respect it. This might seem a bit like I’m trying to hide from it, but I don’t think it’s my place as a young brand to make the process more transparent. I think it should come from much higher places.”

If her brand were to push a supplier too hard on ethics for a small order, she elaborates, the supplier would simply walk away. If a major player did the same, the supplier would likely put effective reporting in place so it could keep that customer, and smaller brands like her own would benefit down the line.

Ready to shine

There are suppliers she is willing to push, however: her manufacturers in Italy. Among them is a new workshop in Valencia that also produces for Bulgari; she onboarded the manufacturer while creating When Vine Becomes Fine, and she is keeping its artisans on their toes. One of the most challenging aspects of her pieces is the enamel work. Rather than confining the enamel to flat segments of a jewel or within defined custom shapes separated by rails, she uses it across the whole surface area. Now she has pushed her partners further into new territory with designs that use two enamel colors — and that still lack a hard separation to make the application easier.

This technique features in a new collection called Bea Colour, which the designer will be taking with her when she exhibits at the Couture show in Las Vegas this year. She’ll also be bringing along When Vine Becomes Fine and a yet-to-be-released line of letter charm pendants.

“When I go to Las Vegas [in June], the diamond collection is going to be visibly more complete, and the fine — it will all make a little bit more sense,” says Bongiasca, who made her Couture debut in 2019. “We have grown a lot in the last two years, and we’re getting our ducks in a row. They were already in a row, but this is a really good row.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - April 2022. To subscribe click here.

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