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Bea Bongiasca’s Playful Jewelry is a Breath of Fresh Air

The Milanese designer plays with Pop Art, florals, and rice (yes, rice).

The world of jewelry is dominated by legacy brands — the kinds of power players that, regardless of who’s designing their wares, have been coveted for decades (if not centuries). Which is why it’s especially exciting to discover a fresh, youthful collection that feels entirely of the moment. The Milanese designer Bea Bongiasca is just 28 years old but is already designing jewelry with a distinct point of view and clarity far beyond her years. In 2014, one year after graduating from Central Saint Martins (the illustrious British design school whose alumni include Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney), Bongiasca showed her first collection at the zeitgeist-y boutique 10 Corso Como in Milan. A pretty stellar debut for an unknown newbie — and a pretty high bar to set for oneself — but in the four years since then, Bongiasca has proven she has the talent to play in the big leagues.

The starting point for many of Bongiasca’s designs is her love of Asian cultures — everything from kawaii cuteness to Mandarin ideograms — mashed up with an irreverent Pop Art flair. Her first collection, called No Rice, No Life, used rice grains in silver and gold to create hoop earrings, cuffs and cigar band rings with a subtle twist. The polished grains catch the light from every angle, turning a most humble inspiration into sparkling bijoux. One of her more recent collections draws upon Hanakotoba, a Japanese practice known as ‘the language of flowers’ that assigns meaning to various blooms. Bongiasca translated the elements of flowers — stalks, leaves, pistons — into bands of gold that weave around the body, embellished with sapphires, tsavorites, amethysts and other precious gems. While there’s no shortage of floral jewelry available today, Bongiasca’s take on this age-old motif is sleek and abstracted. Your grandmother’s garden roses these are not.

Her latest is an evolution of the botanical theme called You’re So Vine featuring brightly-colored enamel vines that envelope more classic jewelry staples like chokers and drop earrings. The enamel vines have a kinetic quality — you can almost feel the motion of them curling — that is becoming one of Bongiasca’s signatures. All of her designs have a playful sense of movement and unconventional silhouettes: rings aren’t simply solid bands, hoops don’t just have a single loop. As a whole, Bongiasca’s designs all feel like part of the same cheeky, exuberant world… one that any woman would be happy to visit.

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