Cathy and Giorgio Borlenghi are a power couple who can't keep still. While he builds some of Houston's most glamorous high-rise towers (Four Leaf, Villa d'Este, Montabello and the new Belfiore), she has created a sparkling new jewelry line, the Mrs. B Collection, that features one-of-a-kind pieces made from Scaramazza pearls.
"I was known for my handbag business and I retired," Borlenghi explained on a recent afternoon at the Hotel Granduca. "Then I got out of retirement. So when Giorgio teases me about getting out of retirement, I say, 'You be quiet.' Because he was retired for three weeks. Now he's building all over the place."
"Like they say, 'Everything is bigger in Texas,' " Borlenghi said with a laugh. "We kept the smaller version, but we also produced a bigger version."
She says she had long thought of creating a jewelry collection, because "I like fun things." It all came together about 18 months ago, when her husband bought her an unusual ring made of 18-karat rose gold and irregular pearls when they were in Italy during one of their many frequent visits to their homeland. She met the designer Antonella Aquilino, a fourth generation goldsmith and gemologist, and they immediately hit it off and decided to collaborate on a new jewelry line.
"I love pearls. But the regular perfect round pearl doesn't reflect me because I color outside the box," Cathy Borlenghi said. "These reflect me. They're one of a kind. Every one is different."
The signature pieces in the collection, handmade in Italy, are necklaces featuring a strand of white pearls and onyx, galaxy or hematite beads that can be worn long, layered, wrapped around the neck or transformed into a choker. "It goes with anything. You can put it on a pair of jeans or a white shirt or you can put it on a little black dress and it works," she said. "It's classic and it will never go out of style. Pearls are timeless."
She and Aquilino have expanded the collection, with "Love Knot" earrings of carved stones and bracelets that can be linked to the necklace to make it longer. They also work with small fresh water pearls and semi precious and precious stones, including diamonds, amethyst, citrine, jade, onyx and quartz. Prices range from $1,400 to $10,000.
After an initial showing of the jewelry at Valobra last fall, Borlenghi decided to design larger pieces when customers asked for bigger rings and earrings. "Like they say, 'Everything is bigger in Texas,' " Borlenghi said with a laugh. "We kept the smaller version, but we also produced a bigger version. But you go to another part of the country and it could be a different story."
To showcase the collection, she recently opened a small boutique in the lobby of the Hotel Granduca in Uptown Park where the full collection is available. "We want to grow into something that people are eager to know what is the new thing this year we have added to the collection," she said. "Once you get start getting basic pieces, it's easy to add on."