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Ethical Jewelry Made in Austin: Nina Berenato’s Empowering and Socially Responsible Designs

Inside the Austin jewelry designer’s sustainable process amid COVID-19

Nina Berenato is a force to be reckoned with. The jewelry designer, who got her start just a few years ago selling handcrafted pieces out of a 1959 Airstream Bambi with her dog Sunshine in tow, now has celebrities like Beyoncé, Billie Eilish and Lizzo wearing her work.

It’s not just her timeless, geometric designs that have made the collections popular, but the meaning behind them as well. Inspired by mythology, literature, nature and other powerful figures and forces, Berenatos’s jewelry is meant to inspire the women who wear it.

Berenato’s custom face masks were created for Beyonce’s “Spirit” music video.

The Furiosa collection, which launched in 2019, is the perfect example. It was made as “modern armor for women,” Beranato says. “The challenges we face can make daily life feel like a battlefield, and this collection is a reminder that you are a heroine both to yourself and to the other women around you.”

Pieces like the Victory Ear Cuff, Halo Hoop Earring, Rebel Choker, and Beranato’s personal favorite, the Furiosa Nail Ring (which she suggests pairing with the Furiosa Ring Set) are all reminders of the “extraordinary power you hold.”

The collection was inspired by Mad Max: Fury Road, the apocalyptic action film starring  Charlize Theron as ferocious fighter Furiosa, and contains some of her most “powerful pieces yet” that are “fit to adorn a warrior,” Berenato says.

The uniquely designed Furiosa Nail Ring.

As if forging armor, Berenato spends hours prototyping in her studio and flagship store at The Domain NORTHSIDE, reviewing casted pieces and hand-finishing each and every earing, necklace, cuff and ring, something she says keeps her “super modern shapes looking warm and organic.” Designs come in yellow, white or rose gold, and the plating on each is 10 times thicker than the industry standard.

Berenato’s clients can also feel empowered by the ethical way her designs are produced as well as a deep commitment to sustainability across her operation. Her jewelry is cruelty-free (no animal parts are used and there is no testing on animals) and made from recycled and refined metals. Her shipping products are fully compostable and zero-waste. And her connected flagship store, studio and showroom are all powered by wind. In fact, Nina Berenato Jewelry is the first fashion retail business in the city to earn Austin’s highest sustainability honor as a Platinum Green Business Leader, “going toe-to-toe and surpassing billion-dollar companies,” she says.

Berenato hopes others will also make ethical choices whether while shopping or producing. Through the #SeasonsofSustainability movement, she’s educating retailers and consumers on the smart choices they can make in what’s typically an industry challenged when it comes to social responsibility.

In a world that is changing day-to-day because of COVID-19, which has greatly affected businessowners like Berenato who says she lost 80 percent of sales in March and April when much of the country was under stay-at-home orders, Berenato organized an auction to support independent women creators struggling to keep operations afloat.

While her unique designs certainly stand out, Berenato is also standing up for her community by taking action and through a commitment to doing what’s right while producing it. During a devastating time for so many, Berenato hopes people will continue to “shop online, sign up for future classes, like a post and share her work,” she says. “All of the little things can help.”