Husband and wife team Miriam Racine Bergesen and Pedro Oselieri Lopes are a glowing endorsement of the virtues of working with your partner.
“Working together as husband and wife is probably the best decision we ever made,” Bergesen tells us, from the design studio of their jewellery business, Racine, in Geneva. “Our jobs in the company are different; I’m the designer, the one who meets with the clients and I manage the whole creative process. Pedro is the treasure hunter; he buys and sources all our stones and communicates with the cutters and jewellers. It would probably have been complicated if we were both doing exactly the same thing.”
She adds that it’s an ideal set-up for their family life, too. “We have two young children and working together as a team makes managing our family life much easier. We have exactly the same goal for our business and life; to do what we love, manage our own time and be able to spend as much time with our children as possible. It is a real luxury and we are extremely grateful to be in this position.”
The children also motivate the couple’s ethical approach. “Sustainability has an environmental aspect but also, importantly, an economic aspect. Supporting local businesses is a way for us to support the next generations’ futures, and this is extremely important to us as we watch our young children grow up.”
Designing all their jewellery and sourcing all stones themselves is at the heart of Racine’s offering. They then work with incredibly talented local jewellers, setters and stone cutters to repurpose jewels, upcycle gemstones and recycle metals to revive their full potential. “We love giving new life to old stones as their beauty is not always showcased properly,” says Bergensen. “An old stone may have survived for years and years – we love this idea.”
Their favourite piece? “The ‘Carlu’ earrings. We love the fact that all the old-cut diamonds are sourced from several pieces of jewellery and given new life.”
Beyond jewellery, the couple’s environmental interests extend to beekeeping and they actively promote the protection of the species. “It’s a hobby and a passion,” Bergesen explains. “Bees are fascinating and are essential for the survival of nature and the world.”
While it may take years to find the right stone for the right piece, the Racine partnership is happy to take things slow – and the results speak for themselves. Here, we talk in more detail about Racine’s beautifully unique approach.
Reusing and repurposing materials is a big part of your ethos. How did you come to land on this sustainable way of working?
Being a sustainable jewellery brand was not something we set out to become initially, however it has become a natural part of our business model, something we would like to continue, and something we are very happy we discovered.
We have always loved traditional jewellery making. We are both gemologists and would never dream of making jewellery without special and beautiful stones. We love the fact that our jewellery is handmade by local craftsmen and that most of our stones are sourced locally – we don’t exclusively re-use older stones, but it has become something we do more and more. The gold is recycled in Swiss refineries and also repurposed locally; it doesn’t travel far.
Having our production in our locality makes it easier and more practical for us to be involved in every aspect. Everything is more transparent, and we know that all our services which are outsourced operate ethically.
Talk us through the design process, where do you start?
Usually, the initial inspiration is the stone itself. We want to make designs that show off and complement the stones, sometimes using colour combinations that are a little less traditional. We love designing double-stone rings, for example, with a pair of stones that originally might have been intended for earrings.
We take a lot of inspiration from the Art Deco era: the architecture, the illustrations, the patterns. You can find details on old buildings that give us the idea for the shape of a ring, for example. Often, clients have particular wishes – a pair of earrings that will go with every outfit, a ring with a particular stone or colour – and we work around them while staying true to our aesthetic. That is the fun of design, having to create something within certain frameworks.
Once a sketch has been made, I make a detailed technical drawing of the piece of jewellery, to show the client or the jeweller exactly what we want; that way there are less surprises along the way. I also make a gouache, which accompanies our pieces. I love the art of jewellery gouache, it is something tangible and analogue that I think is great to preserve.
What’s your favourite part of the process?
My favourite part of the process is probably that first hit of inspiration, when I see a beautiful stone, shape or colour combination, and doing the initial sketches. There is nothing technical about this stage, it is just pure fun.
I also really enjoy making the technical drawing because it makes you think about every angle of the piece. It often involves changing the design slightly to find solutions to ‘problems’ that are not a technical possibility.
Which materials do you most like to work with?
As long as the stone is beautiful and sparks some inspiration, we’re not so picky, it could be a diamond, a spinel or a garnet. That said, we definitely have a special attachment to old-cut diamonds, they give a modern piece of jewellery a different character.
We only use traditional metals – gold, silver and platinum – and play with these for the piece to have the right heft. We like it when jewellery feels like jewellery; that is probably why we don’t use lighter materials such as titanium.
Describe the feeling when you source an antique piece that you know you can create incredible contemporary jewellery with?
It is a very happy feeling and probably the reason we are in this business. We would never dream of destroying a beautifully made piece of antique jewellery, we respect these pieces, but some second-hand pieces that are badly made might have real treasures in them.
An old-cut diamond, for example, gives a beautiful and more artisanal feel to a modern piece. Or a badly cut sapphire found in a second-hand necklace can get a completely new life if recut with a good cutter.
How would you like to see us buying and wearing fine jewellery in 10+ years?
We see buying jewellery as something that will be – and is already adapting to become – more digitised and therefore accessible to many different markets; geographic location will be less of an obstacle. With new technology, maybe buying jewellery online will be easier in the future than it is today.
We also believe the sustainable trend is here to stay, and that more and more people will go for quality over quantity.