For Nearly 25 Years, Beverly Hills jeweler Ricardo Basta has worked behind the scenes restoring and making masterpieces for Asprey and other prestigious jewelry houses. This year, the third-generation jeweler emerged from the shadows and took over his uncle’s store in Beverly Hills, Jewels by Bernier, which now features his own collection. “My jewelry is influenced by my desire to return the romance to jewelry design,” he says, “and revive the quality and artistry that has long disappeared due to the rising costs of labor.”
Basta, who works with a small team of craftspeople, was trained in jewelry making by his two uncles. He spends his days at the bench, immersed in solving the most complex engineering problems presented by his metal and gemstone creations. Some of his most notable designs include a finely detailed Indian head brooch with hundreds of hand-set gemstones, and a simplistic yet equally dramatic brooch that depicts a snowflake made of druzy quartz, which looks like ice and is surrounded by blue aquamarines and sapphires. Among his more whimsical designs is a recently completed gold and mandarin garnet octopus brooch that presents the sea creature holding an exceptional South Sea pearl.
Basta says that his childhood experiences in Argentina cultivated the resourcefulness that he employs both in designing and restoring jewelry. In Buenos Aires, where he grew up, he notes, most people could not afford or did not have access to new items such as refrigerators or cars. “I had to learn to fix and rebuild everything and often improvise with tools and parts,” says Basta. “We were forced to be inventive.” While ingenuity is apparent in his repair work, it also is evident in one of his own recent pieces. Basta devised a rotating setting for a ring that is appointed with a cabochon-cut rubellite on one side and a green tourmaline on the other. The wearer can turn the setting so that either single stone is on top, or position it halfway for a two-tone effect.
When Basta arrived in the United States at the age of 19, he went from fixing autos and appliances to restoring collectible pieces by Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and other esteemed houses for Beverly Hills estate jeweler Frances Klein. “I would go into her vault and drool over these jewels,” he recalls.
Basta credits his extensive experience in revamping vintage treasures with enabling him to forge his own style. “Restoring fine antique jewelry requires skill and imagination,” says Basta. “I research the pieces and period in which things were made to re-create them authentically, and in the process I learn how some of the finest jewelers worked their magic.”
Jewels by Bernier