Ethically Sourced Engagement Rings That Defy the Ordinary

The Philadelphia-based studio Bario Neal has become an industry leader in sustainable jewelry.

Photography by CODY GUILFOYLE

As jewelry designers, Anna Bario and Page Neal have always understood the magic of a powerful gemstone, but when they started in the field, they saw a gap in the marketplace: It was nearly impossible to find high-quality, beautiful jewelry that didn’t come at a cost to the environment—and so, they decided to fill that gap with the creation of their studio Bario Neal in 2008.

“[We believe] our most precious things come with a story,” says Neal. “Drawn to the imaginative possibilities of jewelry, yet disillusioned by industry standards that turned a blind eye to metal and gemstone mining’s environmental and human tolls, we began to envision how to make jewelry of lasting value and ethical origins.”

Every product sourced by Bario Neal has been carefully studied so that every detail about the product's life is known to the designers—that includes where the raw materials and stones come from, every person who touches the pieces of jewelry from start to finish, and how and where the pieces are made.

This strong attention to detail is evident in each piece of the brand’s collection, from the single colored solitaires adorned with gold, to the “cluster rings" containing a multitude of different gemstones in all shapes and sizes. By mixing sparkle and more subdued pieces that have a dull luster, the designers play with contrasts to create rings that speak to the modern, boho bride.

Photography by CODY GUILFOYLE

On Their Sustainable Design Process

“Our process is very much design-focused: We start with the aesthetics, then the craft and functionality. Then, we work out how to make it responsibly. That can mean researching new sources, new materials, or custom cutting gemstones. We handcraft the jewelry in our Philadelphia workshop and flagship store. We also work with a local community of craftspeople on Philadelphia’s historic Jeweler’s Row—the oldest jewelry district in the United States—to apply specialized techniques such as hand engraving or glass enameling.”

On the Difficulties of Sourcing Ethically

“[As] we only work with gemstone suppliers and mines that adhere to our sourcing and labor standards, it can, to an extent, limit our material options. For example, we have never been able to source beautiful deep red rubies, even though we often have requests for them. As a designer, you could view this as a hindrance, but I think that limitations can push you to think more creatively.”

Photography by CODY GUILFOYLE

On Their Famous Open Rings

"We wanted to design a ring that you could build your stack with or add onto your stack. At Bario Neal, we are all about piling rings onto your finger."

On Mixing and Matching Gemstones

"The jewelry is an expression of artistic visions, and thus, is always evolving," says Neal. "To me, one of the most interesting and constant challenges from a design perspective lies in how to actualize the delicacy of our designs, while ensuring the quality of the craft. Making delicate jewelry that will endure over the years is not simple. I am confident and proud of the care we take to design and craft jewelry that will last a lifetime."

Photography by CODY GUILFOYLE

On Creating ‘Feminist Engagement Rings'

"We intentionally design, craft, and price our rings with a fluidity that allows the work to symbolize a union, an accomplishment, or simply a statement. We engage our customers with the question, 'What do you want to celebrate beyond the traditional engagement celebration? And what ring stack would you choose as a physical reminder?'"

On Her Favorite Piece of Jewelry

"One of my favorite rings is the Avens Ring," says Neal. "It was one of the first diamond rings that we ever made, and we obsessed over its every detail. I love that this ring is such a classic piece, but is so much more delicate when compared to similar rings in the market. It’s a challenge to achieve delicacy and simplicity for jewelry designed to last a lifetime. When done well, it is so beautiful."

Published on March 06, 2018 - 3:15pm EST

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