Custom gifts are undeniably the best types. They're thoughtful, require planning, and are certain to be treasured forever. Sofia Ungarino of Paper Gems Co helps capture special dates, events, and occasions with her custom hand-painted bottles that double as works of art.

The bottles are predominantly Veuve Cliquot (her favorite) and painted in several steps. After a base coat comprised of a variety of media and several layers of paint, Ungarino is able to being painting her client's unique design and finishing it with a tough acrylic coating. A white satin ribbon ties the package all together (literally).

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Ungarino grew up drawing and painting. "I created my first 'official' painting when I was four of a giant close-up of Princess Ariel's face. It's still on the wall of my studio, and is a reminder of the depth of natural passion and love which truly is the reason I'm doing what I am doing today."

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While at Baylor University, she was painting Valentine's Day cards locally and for family and friends (which makes up about half of her current business). During her last year as an entrepreneurship student, her final project was a business plan and she submitted her existing Valentine's Day cards business. 

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Sofia Ungarino

Following graduation, she decided to work on Paper Gems Co full-time. "It was a very scary decision to choose the latter, but also an obvious one. I was confident that with my education in entrepreneurship, God-given talent for painting, and supportive network, I was prepared to take on the challenge as what was originally a one-woman show."

She transitioned her business from Waco, Texas back to her hometown of New Orleans and entered the design space. She was asked by friend and mentor if she could figure out how to paint in her watercolor style on a bottle of champagne for a bridal shower. After that initial bottle was posted, she knew what it would mean for Paper Gems Co in the future. 

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Bottles start at $135 (minis start at $115) and can contain a quote, date, and up to five custom symbols. Everything that Paper Gems Co creates is high quality, refined, and tasteful, and holds class as a core value. Most bottles are wedding or engagement gifts, with a few being anniversary gifts or corporate "thank you gifts." Her greeting cards can be found around New Orleans in stores like Little Miss Muffin, Wildflower Nola, and Martin Wine Cellar.

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Ungarino has big plans for 2020 including offering creative wedding services (everything from invitations to place cards) and she's currently working on a watercolor monogram line for all types of stationery. She'll also be able to take more commissioned pet portraits and house landscapes.

"I am truly inspired by each person I work with in seeing the amount of love they are pouring into their gift bottles, and trusting me to capture their vision for them!"