The Life Cycle of a Bario-Neal Ethical Engagement Ring

How ethical and beautiful engagement rings get made

by Meg Keene, CEO & Editor-In-Chief


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.

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. She has written two best selling wedding books: A Practical Wedding and A Practical Wedding Planner. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and two children. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit #NASTY

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  • Sarah E

    Can’t wait to visit these ladies in November to pick out our wedding bands. I’m so glad I found them here, and every time one of their sponsored posts run, I get more thrilled that I’m inching closer to actually seeing and purchasing their handiwork in the flesh.

  • M.

    Our wedding bands are from Bario Neal (thin Milla hammered band for me, wider Milla square for him in a satin finish). Picking them out in person with Anna was a highlight of wedding planning. I wanted one of EVERYTHING. And start to finish, great service, great products, great great great.

  • MC

    I loooove Bario-Neal! Just ordered my band from them two weeks ago and I cannot wait until it arrives! Possibly the most excited I have been about anything in wedding planning.

  • SarahG

    We just picked out and ordered Bario Neal wedding bands and I am psyched for them (Milla Square Comfort Band in 6mm for him, 2mm for me). I was a little nervous ordering them online, so it was useful to go to a big department store and try on widths and see how they actually looked on our hands, FYI (neither of us is a jewelry person, so maybe that’s not necessary for everyone). And then the clerk at the department store was really sexist (kept saying that he would want a bigger ring to not look “feminine”, whaat?), in stark contrast to the lovely person who answered the phone at BN, and it made me even happier to be ordering from them. YAY!

  • Sophie

    I love Bario Neal’s work! Fiance and I are thinking of ordering our bands from them.
    Does anyone have the fishtail band?
    Thinking about it for myself but not sure it’s the most practical. I’m worried about getting things stuck in it, and how difficult it might if I ever needed to resize down the road.

    • Meg Keene

      I’d talk to them directly about that, they will totally give you the straight scoop. As for cleaning though, that’s nbd. Get the right jewelry cleaner, and just give it a scrub with the brush every so often.

      • Sophie

        Got it. I’ll check with BN about resizing. Thanks, Meg!

    • I have that exact band and it’s pretty perfect. the actual detailing is pretty tight so nothing gets stuck in it. No idea about the resizing though…

      • Sophie

        Thanks for the info, Stephanie!

  • we live blocks from their philadelphia show, so this feature is such a treat! we didn’t end up buying my ring here (chose an antique from a shop nearby instead) but i have other jewelry from their boutique and each piece is simply beautiful

  • June

    We got my engagement ring from Bario Neal and we can’t wait to pick out our bands from them too! They were a dream to work with, and I love, love, love, love my ring so hard.

    • June

      Also, I should add- my fiance was thinking about doing a rush order for my engagement ring, and we really appreciated how up front Bario Neal was about their ability to do a rush order. They basically said they didn’t want to charge extra if they didn’t think it was possible. So, not only are their materials ethically sourced, they are also super ethical people! :)

  • pkinsktn

    I know that Bario Neal does custom work, but does anyone know if they can melt down old rings in order to create new ones? My Boyfriend would like to create my ring using his mothers ring. I would LOVE to have a ring made by Bario Neal but I’ not sure they do this. I figured I would leave this here incase they are answering questions on this thread =)

    • Meg Keene

      YES! I think they totally do stuff like that. Also, they are a really nice team, and tend to be totally open to finding ways to make things work, so I would TOTALLY get in touch. I just… like them a lot, and trust them as professionals.

      • pkinktn

        Thanks, Meg!

  • Kristin

    I’m planning on getting my wedding band from Bario Neal (saw their ad on here, thanks APW!). I visited them recently to get an idea of my options, because my engagement ring is vintage and a unique shape. I was considering a custom band, but it would have been out of my price range. The women there were super nice though, and the cool thing is they showed me how they can do a custom variation that would suit my needs and be much cheaper than a fully custom-made band. They went through all of the details and even wrote everything down for me for when I come back with my fiance. I would definitely recommend them!

  • GME

    So excited to see this post this morning. I love Bario Neal and I love that APW is so loyal to them. Like APW, I can’t recommend them enough! I first read about Bario Neal here and we very excitedly visited the Philadelphia store in February to look for an engagement ring. We worked with Sara and the entire process was just so easy, relaxed, personal and straight-forward. At first glance, my ring probably looks like a fairly traditional engagement ring (it’s an Avens ring with a circle cut moissanite stone), but it’s delicate in a way that I haven’t seen in similar rings. I still get a thrill when I look at my finger, and I think I will for many years to come! Sara was also great on email and very patient as we figured out how two grad students could pay for even this very modestly priced ring, and, after the ring had arrived, gave me good, non-nonsense advice on how to keep it clean. We had such a great experience that even my husband-to-be, who I don’t think has worn a piece of jewelry in his life, is excited to visit the store again to pick out our wedding bands.

    Now if only Bario Neal were in the business of wedding planning too …

  • That top ring is my exact wedding ring, minus the diamond, and in platinum instead of gold. I love it- it’s so simple and pretty. Definitely recommend them- very easy to work with and quality.

  • SeverinIvan

    Brilliant, always good to see how experts create the art as well as the final masterpiece.

    Ivan | Diamond Heaven

  • Emma

    Any suggestions of what wedding ring to put with their knottedrush ring?