When 29-year-old jewelry designer Gabriela Berlingeri logged on Zoom for our interview, it felt like I already knew her. We had never actually met, but I’ve known of Berlingeri since my high school years in Puerto Rico, when the small San Juan-based social scene mingled virtually on Facebook in its early days. Since then, the world has also gotten to know her too: Berlingeri is the founder of Diciembre Veintinueve, a Puerto Rico-based jewelry company, who carries a unique niche fame.
Searches for her name on TikTok have grown nearly 500 million views, while her Instagram account, which she opened in 2020, has more than 2.5 million followers. Numerous Instagram and TikTok accounts documenting everything from her outfits and birthday parties to her social circle have popped up throughout the years, at first in a large part thanks to her much-talked-about relationship with global reggaeton star Bad Bunny. Their relationship was made public in 2020 and that same year she photographed the artist’s cover for Rolling Stone. Berlingeri also has a verse in the song “El Apagón” from Bad Bunny’s chart-topping album Un Verano Sin Ti and appeared as his bride in the video for “Titi Me Preguntó.”
Throughout the whirlwind, Berlingeri has stayed mostly a creature of mystery — by choice. A self-described “anxious” person who hates being in front of cameras, she’s had to grapple with the magnifying glass of fame by proxy, while cautiously setting a path for herself. “This is definitely something I wouldn’t have done before,” she tells Refinery29, referring to our interview when I address how reserved she’s been in the past. Berlingeri admits that Diciembre Veintinueve, which she launched in 2020, is changing that. “I didn’t want Diciembre Veintinueve to be a brand that people buy because I make it,” she says. “I wanted it to sell because it was good.”
With its gold pendant necklaces and minimalist aesthetic, Diciembre Veintinueve, which she named after her own birth date, has all the markings of today’s digital-first, direct-to-consumer brands. In Berligeri’s case, it was inspired by her beachside life, which translates to sun-shaped necklaces, gold chain bracelets, and pearl accessories. “I focused on making something durable that people don’t have to take off [at the beach],” she says. “I think that defines Diciembre Veintinueve.”
Berlingeri’s love affair with jewelry started when she was working part-time for a local accessories brand, assisting with everything from making pieces to packing orders. “It came to a point where I said to myself, ‘I have learned a lot, I’ve seen how this can be done,” she says. And it’s not just her now: Berlingeri has grown Diciembre Veintinueve’s workforce to four employees, who, she says, are all her friends. “I still haven’t hired people I don’t know,” she admits, “but that’s a step that I have to take because we are growing.”
Scrolling through TikTok, it’s hard to find a customer who doesn’t mention Berlingeri when reviewing their Diciembre Veintinueve pieces. Customers like Perú-based Isabel Colomé, for example, who first learned of Berlingeri because she’s a fan of Bad Bunny. Although she was initially curious about Diciembre Veintinueve because of Berlingeri’s association, Colomé says she was later impressed by the products.
Her first purchase was the Sonste necklace, a best-selling piece that’s known for its sun-shaped charm, crisp gold color, and thick chain. “It was already sold out, so I had to wait until 2021 to get it,” says Colomé, who shared a video on TikTok of her Diciembre Veintinueve purchase last year. “I’m not a necklace person, but I wear it with everything.” Most times Colomé tries to buy a piece she says they sell quickly: “It’s like a Taylor Swift concert.”
Still, even when the pieces win her over, Colomé keeps coming back to Diciembre Veintinueve because of Berlingeri. “I love the way she sees life,” says Colomé, adding that Berlingeri’s attachment to the ocean and Puerto Rico is part of what brought her to the brand. “It’s so interesting how much she loves her island.” Being a Puerto-Rico based company is a top priority for Berlingeri: “My sales are from all around the world, but what I like is that it comes from here, from Puerto Rico, from someone who lives at the beach,” says Berlingeri, adding that the next venture for Diciembre Veintineve is swimwear, but no specific plans have been revealed.
Berlingeri’s fear of exposure has slowly faded as she’s taken a front-facing role in her business, especially on social media, where she’s regularly seen in videos making jewelry, playing with her dog Sansa, and modeling the brand’s designs. She has also collaborated with other designers like Puerto Rico-based womenswear label Eclípitica, which brought her in as a “muse” for a capsule collection, and Carolina Herrera, which invited Berlingeri to its latest resort show in Brazil. When I ask her if becoming more of an influencer-designer hybrid interests her, she pauses: “I do it more to get eyes on my brand,” she explains. “I like being more behind the scenes, but if I can be there and can participate, that’s great.”
Silence has ultimately paid off for Berlingeri. Fans, like Colomé, who once knew her as a “girlfriend of” are still coming to Diciembre Veintinueve in droves. And that’s the one persona she’d like the public to stick with: “I’d like people to know Gabriela, the one who makes jewelry, the one behind Diciembre Veintinueve,” she says.
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