*This is a paid post from an APW Sponsor*
Bario Neal is a jewelry company whose work I love. (Love, love. Half the time I’m photographed you’ll see me wearing one of their bracelets that I asked my mom for on my thirtieth. And I’m pretty sure it’s high time for me to get this one too.) But more than loving Bario Neal’s work, I also love their values. Wedding jewelry is one of those areas of wedding planning where you often feel like you have to make compromises you don’t want to make. (I call this the “blurry eye” decision making, when you realize all your choices are shitty so you just sort of blur your eyes and pick, and try not to think about it.) It can be really hard to find jewelry where both the stones and the metals are sourced ethically, and the business itself functions with ethical practices. Particularly because at the end of the day, you just want a ring that looks GOOD. You don’t want to look at your engagement ring for years to come and try to convince yourself you really love it because damn if it wasn’t made ethically. No. You want your engagement and wedding rings to be stunners, things you’re head over heels in love with, but also feel good about because of how they were made.
And that’s where Bario Neal comes in. First, they have some of the best jewelry design around (and not just for rings), and it keeps getting better. My love affair with them started in the first months of APW, when a reader sent me a link to their knottedrush ring (which has become an all time APW favorite). These days, a quick peak at their rings page causes an intense emotional reaction because… I just love everything so much. They’re covering the gamut from diamonds in the rough, to the best of classic with this simple emerald cut diamond. Their vintage inspired work is to die for (and I’m real picky on that front, as the wearer of a hundred-year-old ring). And they flat out make simple and indie better than anybody. And that’s not even getting into their custom work (check out this story… gut punch).
But beyond that, Bario Neal sources everything ethically. They give details on the variety of places they source ethical stones, and they recently expanded that commitment to providing all fairmined gold as well (you can read more about what that means here, if you’d like). Plus, they’re a women-owned independent business that has supported marriage equality since before it was cool.
Today, we’re lucky enough to get to see exactly what the life cycle of a handcrafted Bario-Neal ring looks like. Because admit it, you’re a little curious. The ladies of Bario Neal told us a little about what you’re looking at, in a way that really drives home what it means to be a jewelry designer and artist.
The idea for the geometric cut out ring started with these beautiful half-octohedron or sawn octohedron diamonds that we are using. The polished, “flat” faces have a lot of depth, and we really love the irregular squares of the outside line of the diamond when you look at the flat face. We wanted the setting to reflect the shape of the half-octohedron, but also have a setting that spreads out across the finger and has some open space. It’s rare to see the half-octohedrons set with the flat face up. Usually it’s more pyramid style, and we wanted the stone to be flush with the ring/hand, which led to the idea of casting the stone in place.
Rough diamonds are so difficult to set, so it was really tempting to design a ring where the rough diamond didn’t have to be set, but the ring was actually cast around the stone. This ring took a year in the design and modeling stages. Both working the half-octohedrons and the process of casting in place were relatively new to us, so there was a lot of experimenting.
This is similar to our custom design process—sketches, then either a cad or wax model, then revisions, and more revisions, and even more revisions, trying out several versions of the idea. In fact, here you can see in the sketches, wax, and model photos some of the changes that we made—removing the sort of sloped, drooping aspect of the outside lines, flattening some of the most angular points.
We made some mistakes when shopping for my engagement ring and our wedding bands. They were mistakes that, thanks to an emotionally damaging robbery, we ended up being able to rectify. So I can actually, with authority I wish I didn’t have, tell you that you want to get this decision right. Do a little research beyond the mall jewelers. Looking at Bario Neal‘s artisan-made, ethical rings is a really good place to start. (And honestly? Finish.) Go lose yourself in their engagement rings and wedding bands. Or heck, just go buy a bracelet for yourself.