Christine Cayetano Brigino
Designing Jewelry for a Cause
What’s a sister to do when her siblings, who have always been her closest friends, move across the country? For Christine Cayetano Brigino, a nurse at Columbus LTACH, a long-term care facility in Newark, N.J., the question answered itself after a family trip to the Philippines, the country where her parents were born and raised.
It was there that Brigino and her two sisters, Gail and Karen, hatched the idea that became the Cayetano Legacy Collection of eye-popping handmade necklaces. The sisters had already talked about going into business together. Not only would it be fun, they thought, but it would also keep them close. It would provide a “common ground,” literally bridging the geographic divide among them (Brigino lives in Newark, Gail in Los Angeles and Karen in Atlanta).
During the trip, their idea was fueled by the desire to create something to showcase the natural beauty of the Philippines while giving back to a country far removed in almost every respect from the privileged upbringing the sisters enjoyed on the East Coast.
The Cayetano Legacy Collection does just that. The amethyst, agate, mother of pearl and turquoise are all sourced in the Philippines and every piece is handmade there, too. In fact, the sisters started a training program with their vendors to teach villagers how to craft the jewelry. By creating jobs, they hope to boost not only the local economy, but also the self-reliance and self-esteem of people deflated by third world poverty.
“We had an idea and ran with it,” says Brigino, who draws inspiration for the pieces from the indigenous stones and the unmistakable color and light of the Philippines. While she’s responsible for the design of the collection, Gail is in charge of marketing and Karen supervises the production. “We have different personalities and skill sets, and we each bring something different to the business,” Brigino notes.
It works. Just a year after the company was launched, the necklaces, which range in price from $59 to $189, are selling well on their website, cayetanolegacy.com, and the sisters hope to break into the big department stores soon. “Our pieces make a statement…and also an outfit,” says Brigino. Next on the horizon: laptop cases, bracelets and earrings, which will incorporate the same Filipino stones used in the necklace designs and will be manufactured in—where else?—the Philippines.
“My sisters and I were always close, and now, thanks to our business, we’re even closer,” says Brigino of the bimonthly conference calls, which include as much personal chitchat as business discussion. Though Brigino doesn’t have much downtime—she works three 12-hour shifts as a nurse and the remaining four days a week on the jewelry business—she’s not complaining. In fact, she feels blessed to have both careers. “Fashion has always been a passion of mine. As for nursing, I will absolutely not quit, ever. I love being a nurse.”