This Jewelry Collector Shares Her Mission in Preserving Filipino History

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In an exclusive interview with MEGA, Maria Angelica Santos-Bermejo shares the purpose behind the search for heritage jewelry for almost 38 years.

It is a known practice for curators to gather pieces from various locations that showcase the heritage of our country, while designers have been infusing our culture in their latest collections. Fragments from the past are the windows to see our true identity as Filipinos. For almost 38 years, Maria Angelica Rare Finds has been championing historical curation with their search for vintage pieces all over the world. In an exclusive interview with MEGA, the woman behind the brand speaks of purpose through design. 

Maria Angelica Santos-Bermejo shared that started the brand because of her fascination she had towards pre-colonial jewelry. Just like every woman, the interest towards jewelry begins with their mother’s collection. For Maria, the women in her life introduced her to the sophistication of heritage jewelry. 

“It is the simplicity of pre-colonial jewelry that reflects a sense of unpretentious sophistication and tranquility.”

Beyond the fascination, Maria came to the realization of what the greater purpose is behind the jewelry. For the collector, the responsibility to preserve and celebrate the outstanding heritage jewelry of our country holds the key to a promising future for the younger generation. Once you look beyond the jewelry, it becomes a medium to express one’s appreciation towards their culture and a way to be in touch with their identity. Maria expressed, “This fuels my determination to inspire their active participation and foster a profound sense of responsibility.”

When it comes to curation, one must expect a tedious search. For Maria, this is where the importance of expertise comes into play. The key to obtaining such pieces is to have an eye for discernment, especially when we live in a world of fast production. “This is where the line is drawn between experts and amateurs, as distinguishing between the two requires a discerning eye.”

To make things easier, she categorized the search into two: the hunt for original pieces and authentic ones. Pieces that have endured time and are in perfect condition are considered as original pieces, which is harder to find. Although, if the jewelry has gone through several repairs, but the design is faithful to its period, then they are called authentic pieces. 

With her long-standing exploration for heritage jewelries, it’s safe to say that an in-depth understanding of the artistry was built up over the years. Having the chance to see designs up close and personal, Maria mentioned that the Filipino regality is differentiated through the style each era possessed. A specific craftsmanship and pattern is done for each period, which manifests a profound artistry and the character of who wore it in the past. Maria then shared, “This is why I firmly believe that old jewelry possesses its own distinct character, unique and diverse, reflecting the imagination and personal flair of its creator and wearer.”

“Believing that nothing should go to waste, I take great delight in savoring the worth of every precious bead, each intricately designed filigree ring, and every meticulously crafted repousse comb that once held the distinction of being a pièce de résistance.”

Maria Angelica Santos-Bermejo

Apart from restoring the jewelry, the brand has a special practice that includes two styles mixed into one. Whether it’s remixing an old piece with new designs or historical pieces merged into two, these are done to amplify the stories it holds of the past through modern techniques. According to Maria, she sees the design as a sign of rebirth in a new era that will continue to radiate their allure and serve its renewed purpose. 

Seeing the urge of the younger generation to understand their identity as Filipinos, Maria believes that jewelry has a role in this voyage for self-awareness. Understanding a piece unearths the story and a discovery of the value it had from the past. Knowing who we were and what we were capable of is the key to unlocking our distinct creativity that will introduce into a new world of Filipino artistry. And as she nears the 38th year of collecting, Maria still holds this purpose with perseverance and resilience, adding, “My journey in building my collection began almost 38 years ago, and even then, I had the future generation in mind.”

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