Manoel Bernardes: a jeweller with an eye on the future

It was in the 1950’s that Manoel Bernardes father, who was fascinated by the precious stones universe, became the World’s largest distributor of Brazilian gems. His legacy led the second generation of the family to establish, in the 1970’s, the Manoel Bernardes jewellery business in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais. Manoel Bernardes is considered one of the largest Brazilian companies in the segment of cutting and exporting gemstones and in the development of exclusive jewellery collections.

I had the pleasure to interview Manoel Bernardes Filho, who is an architect, president of the company, responsible for jewellery design innovation and who also accumulates the function of Honorary Consul of France in Belo Horizonte.

Cidda Siqueira: Some time ago, when we were talking about products that compete with jewellery, you mentioned that both handbags and shoes have a much stronger and perceived “erotic” value than jewellery, which is positive for their value as “objects of desire”. What is the emotional quality of jewellery?

Manoel Bernardes Filho: I think that the emotional repertoire of jewellery has long been crystallised in the “perfect love” and affection symbolism. And I note that today the symbolic territory of the products is shifting to hedonism and eroticism. The jewellery industry did not know to capture this same effect because the jewellery media is very conservative and did not appropriate these erotic elements of great power of seduction. So jewellery lost a bit of that character.

Do you market your jewellery based on functional or emotional appeals?

Totally emotional because we are looking for a unique product, with differentiated technology and a sophisticated language. But we have a major obstacle because most stores are not prepared to extend this project of development and dissemination of the concepts behind the collections to the consumer. So often the process is interrupted in the middle.

Do you consider that your jewellery has attributes that identify them with your brand?

No doubt about it. My design team and I have discussed this question very extensively because originally we were a Brazilian gemstone company and suddenly we were free to make another kind of product with gold and diamonds. Then we perceived that our core differential would be the search for a more updated and modern language, with the use of latest technologies. It is important for us that this contemporaneity permeates all creative process.

Over the years, we have sought to achieve an international language without denying the reality that we are Brazilians. Therefore we think that consumers can identify our brand from these elements present in our jewellery.

This is very clear. We see a particular piece and say “this is a Manoel Bernardes jewel!”

It’s because of the innovation in cutting gemstones, an intentional asymmetry… I think that our jewels have characteristics that mark our creation, our design.

It may sound pretencious, but the truth is that we need to dream so that we can evolve.

Is the company strategy focused on innovation?

I think that this is one of the key elements for us. Prioritising technology over emotion is critical. We use a lot of laser-cut gold and many different methods of cutting gemstones as a way of making our ideas work. In our case, even in a difficult economic situation, we try to maintain the character of innovation and the complexity of the pieces, because it is important for our customers. Despite all difficulties, it is necessary to keep a coherence of the brand. If innovation and contemporaneity guide our work, we must keep all these aspects even if we take the risk in a weak economic environment.

Bracelet with Imperial Topaz by Manoel Bernardes | “Infinity Hug” bracelet with citrines designed by Emi Kyouho, 3º place at IBGM Award 2012; sponsor: Manoel Bernardes.

Image: Bracelet with Imperial Topaz by Manoel Bernardes | “Infinity Hug” bracelet with citrines designed by Emi Kyouho, 3º place at IBGM Award 2012; sponsor: Manoel Bernardes

 

What kind of technologies are currently used by the company?

We use welding and laser cutting, casting and prototyping. For your information, 100% of our jewellery today are prototyped. We believe that today’s requirements are focused on the development of more complex, non-symmetrical lines of irregular volumetrics, and this can only be done accurately through prototyping and computers. Prototyping by addition is the one we most use today because it gives the best results.

Does the company conduct trend research in fashion and consumer behaviour for the development of its collections?

I think that this question is very complex. We are subject to the market and every time the market oscillates or changes its taste. Therefore, we need to anticipate ourselves to these changes as soon as possible or follow up as necessary. In a sense, our design is aligned with trends, but behavioural and background trends. For example, for a more ethically conscious consumer, when we use a laser cutting technique that saves gold, we are indirectly more responsible to the environment, performing a sustainable action.

Another point: I work too hard on the identity issue. All of our collections are intended for a group that will understand this language. The question of identity pervades all of our work. We base our creation more on behaviour trends and less on the question of the form and colour of the moment. It is clear that if pink gold is working, we make the commercial offer of rose gold, but not always the jewellery is created to be only in rose gold.

Where does the idea, the concept for a new collection, come from?

Our inspiring elements are out of the jewellery universe, and I think that it is fascinating because I rarely look at the others pieces of jewellery. Somehow architecture is a particularly strong element in our work because we believe that the form is a determining element. In a way, we do sculpture and architecture on a small scale.


As a great promoter of jewellery design in Brazil, Manoel Bernardes has supported and produced jewels for many designers qualified in the prestigious AngloGold Ashanti AuDITIONS Brasil contest, being awarded numerous times.

MAGIDE necklace designed by Flávia Rigoni, 2º place at Anglogold Ashanti AuDitions 2015; sponsor: Manoel Bernardes | POLI necklace designed by Júnea Pitta Fontenelle and Guilherme Canabrava, 1º place at Anglogold Ashanti AuDitions 2008, “Designer” category; sponsor: Manoel Bernardes

Image: MAGIDE necklace designed by Flávia Rigoni, 2º place at Anglogold Ashanti AuDitions 2015; sponsor: Manoel Bernardes | POLI necklace designed by Júnea Pitta Fontenelle and Guilherme Canabrava, 1º place at Anglogold Ashanti AuDitions 2008, “Designer” category; sponsor: Manoel Bernardes.

 

Manoel Bernardes is a company that seeks the permanent construction of its own Brazilian and contemporary identity for its jewellery. Today it has a team of designers, goldsmiths, lapidaries and other specialised professionals, becoming one of the leading representatives of Brazilian jewellery, both in the commercialisation of unique gemstones and jewels with exclusive design.

The Fine Finder is proud of being an authorised retailer of Manoel Bernardes collections in Europe. Contact us for international delivery.

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