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Nina Berenato’s Statement Pieces Really Do Say a Lot

Texas Monthly

November 29, 2023

It’s hard to know what makes more of a splash in a photo: the jewelry by Austin-based designer Nina Berenato or the women who wear it. The Lioness Mask or Beyoncé. The XL Sewing Needle Earring or Megan Thee Stallion. The Lip to Chin Cuff or Angelina Jolie. Berenato’s work redefines what jewelry can be. Why confine it to the ear, finger, or neck? Why not wear a thin strip of gold shaped to contour the nose, lips, and chin?

And it started so traditionally. In 2010, Berenato moved to New York with a degree in fashion from the University of Missouri and landed an apprenticeship with Brooklyn artist Elizabeth Thompson. The jeweler took Berenato under her wing and introduced her to metalwork. Five years later, Berenato relocated to Austin with her own budding jewelry business. The move was primarily strategic—she’d researched the fastest-growing cities in the country with the fewest jewelry stores—but it also proved to be a creative reset. She found her voice in her new hometown.

Berenato’s geometric designs were the basis of her first collections, which she sold out of a renovated 1959 Airstream Bambi trailer on Barton Springs Road and in other areas around town. Her pieces evolved with the tastes and feedback of her customers.

“People would come and tell me, ‘Oh my god, this ear cuff makes me feel so powerful. It gives me the courage to speak up for myself,’ ” she recalls. “I felt much more purposeful.”

Her recent work draws from strong female figures in folklore and mythology; she incorporates the feminine form into designs including the Goddess Necklace, which  features a sculpted pendant of a woman with sun rays carved into her chest.

Berenato moved into Austin’s upscale Domain Northside in 2018. As her reputation grew and celebrities began wearing her pieces, she opened a second store, in Dallas’s West Village, in 2022. She also has a bracelet bar inside Forth & Nomad, a clothing boutique in Houston. Across each of these operations, she  employs an all-female team—a decision central to her mission to create a jewelry brand that empowers women through its designs and actions.

Berenato plans to expand to other cities, but she’s taking things slowly.  “I can see different routes we could take, but sometimes I have to pull myself back and say: not at the cost of the jewelry, of the designs, or of what truly makes me happy, which is creating.”

Photo Credit: Texas Monthly / Jeff Wilson