Why Bario Neal Chooses the GIA Certificate

By Emily on February 28, 2012 at 3:06 pm




The article below is to help you in your search for the right diamond. Hopefully this will clarify why there are such big price discrepancies between GIA and EGL diamonds.

Every cut diamond over .25 carat that we work with comes with a Gemological Institute of America (GIA) certificate. The certificate describes the stone’s color, clarity and cut as well as its dimensions and other specifications.  After it is carefully examined and graded by the GIA, the stone is also assigned a reference number that can be used to review all of its specifications through GIA (this number is also helpful in case the certificate is ever lost, so we advise customers to record a copy of the number).  At Bario-Neal, we almost always choose the GIA grading certification rather than the EGL (European Gemological Laboratory).  Before choosing a certified diamond, it is important to know the differences between the two most popular certifications, GIA and EGL.

Established in 1931, the GIA is considered the world’s most trusted certification on diamonds, colored stones and pearls.  GIA is responsible for developing the universal grading system, the 4C’s, and the GIA International Diamond Grading System.  The four C’s refer to the carat, clarity, cut and color of a diamond.  As a nonprofit institute, the GIA upholds the highest standards of examination and grading. The GIA is very stringent  and consistent in how they grade diamonds and is trusted worldwide.

A much cheaper certification, EGL was established in 1974. The EGL is known for developing the SI3 rating for diamond clarity as well as being the first lab to grade diamonds under 1 carat in size. EGL is much more loose with their gradings and because each EGL location is independently owned, the grading is not nearly as consistent as GIA’s.

Generally when comparing an EGL certified diamond to a GIA certified diamond, it is usually two color grades and one clarity grade lower. For example, an EGL certified diamond with G color, VS2 clarity is comparable in quality to a GIA certified diamond with I color, SI1 clarity. That being said, the EGL certification may seem to offer a higher graded diamond, though the stone may not necessarily be as valuable as its certificate claims.  Furthermore, rings with GIA certified diamonds may be appraised for much higher values than rings with EGL certified diamonds. Because of GIA’s strict and consistent grading system, a GIA certified diamond is sure to be more valuable than an equally graded EGL certified diamond.


Metal Properties

By Emily on February 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm

This article describes in detail the precious metals we use at the Bario-Neal studio, and we hope it will be helpful in choosing the right material for your commitment band or engagement ring.

What does the karat refer to? Karat is a unit of measurement for gold. 24 karats is pure gold, or 100% gold. The higher the karat, the more pure gold a metal contains. Because pure gold is quite soft, 24kt gold is not used in jewelry but simply used as a reference for measurement. The most popular gold, 14kt yellow gold, is 14 parts pure gold and 10 parts other metal (also called alloy). So 14kt gold is 14/24 karats, or 58.3% pure gold. 18 karats can be figured out the same way: 18/24 = 75% pure gold.

What type of metal should I get if I am hard on my hands? What is the hardest metal? What metals resist scratching best? If you are hard on your hands, we recommend platinum or palladium.  Because of their ductility, platinum and palladium will not break or wear thin the way gold will. Platinum and palladium will sooner bend or deform than crack, which is usually an easier repair.  All metal will scratch overtime but you may notice it most on softer metals such as sterling silver.

What type of metal should I get for my engagement ring if it is a delicate setting style? Because of its strength and density, platinum is the best metal for rings with delicate settings.  As mentioned above, platinum will not wear away so the prongs will never become thin, as they would if they were in gold.  Palladium is not recommended for delicate setting styles. If you are interested in a yellow metal, then 18k yellow gold is a good choice as well.  If platinum doesn’t work with your budget and you’re interested in a white metal, 18k white gold or 14k white gold are also good options.

Will a brass or bronze ring turn my finger green? Yes.  Brass and bronze react with acids in your skin when you sweat.  The oxidation of the metal then rubs off on your finger turning it green. This is the same type of oxidation that happens to bronze sculptures or copper roofing, but instead the bronze is reacting with acids and chemicals in the air. In the past we have made rings with an inner band of gold and the outer band made of brass. This is a great solution if you really love the color of brass but want to avoid the skin discoloration.


How do I know if I am allergic to nickel?  If you’re allergic to nickel, your skin will turn red and become irritated where you come in contact with the metal. About 1 in 8 women have a nickel allergy. White gold is the only metal we work with that is alloyed with nickel so all other metals are considered nickel free. Therefore, platinum, palladium, 14kt yellow, 18kt yellow 14kt rose, 18kt rose and sterling silver are safe to wear if you have a nickel allergy.  Sometimes wearing a necklace that has a 14kt white gold chain is not always the best judge to decide if you have a nickel allergy because it is not worn every day. Because of this, customers in the past who thought they did not have an allergy discovered that they did indeed after wearing the ring for a couple months. If you are unsure about having an allergy or not, consider wearing jewelry containing nickel for a longer period of time, rather than just a day or two. If your skin becomes irritated from a ring that does not contain nickel, consider having it cleaned or cleaning the ring yourself.

Platinum: Platinum is a very strong and naturally white precious metal. It is also very dense and therefore the heaviest. It does not tarnish and is hypoallergenic. All of these qualities contribute to platinum being the best metal to work with- especially for prolonged wear. It is the purest precious metal we work with, containing 95% pure platinum and 5% ruthenium. Ruthenium is of the platinum family and is alloyed with platinum to make it harder.

Continue reading Metal Properties

Mercury in Artisanal Gold Mining

By Anna on February 20, 2012 at 8:36 pm

credit: Artisanal Gold Council

Mercury pollution is one of the greatest risks in artisanal gold mining, the term used to refer to small-scale mining done primarily by hand in more than 70 countries worldwide. Artisanal gold mining (ASM) produces about 20% of the world’s gold, and an estimated 20 million people conduct ASM.  ASM is also the world’s leading source of mercury release into the environment.

Miners use mercury to separate gold from ore and silt, in a process called mercury amalgamation. The mercury attracts and binds with the gold. The mixture (or amalgam) is washed to remove any remaining silt, and miners typically then light the amalgam of gold and mercury on fire, to burn off the mercury. The mercury is thus released into the air and waterways, causing risks to human health as well as watersheds.

Several mercury recapture (or retort) systems exist, though they are not used by the majority of artisanal miners or small-scale refiners and ‘gold shops.’ These reclamation systems not only prevent much of the release of mercury into the air and water, but also recapture the mercury -an expensive resource for artisanal miners- for re-use.  Green Leaf Gold and the EPA describe a couple of great examples of these devices:

Green Leaf Gold – Mercury Recovery a Success!

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – International Actions for Reducing Mercury Emissions and Use

While the reclamation systems drastically reduce the amount of mercury released into the air, water and land, the systems are a significant expense for artisanal miners. A miner who might bring in $300 a month in gold sales would have to spend half his/her monthly income on the device.

One of the biggest issues in mercury pollution and ASM is a lack of education about the dangers of mercury exposure. The United Nations Environment Programme works to “protect human health and the global environment from the release of mercury and its compounds by minimizing and, where feasible, ultimately eliminating global, anthropogenic mercury releases to air, water and land,” and describes the ASM sector as the largest global consumer of mercury.


For more information:

UNEP Global Mercury Partnership

Artisanal Gold Council

Mercury Watch

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

 credit: Artisanal Gold Council

credit: Artisanal Gold Council

credit: Artisanal Gold Council

Interview with Kerin Jacobs of The Raw Stone

By Alyssa on February 8, 2012 at 1:03 pm


Bario Neal talks with Kerin Jabobs of The Raw Stone about the benefits of using rough diamonds, diamond mining in Canada, and the movement toward ethical gems.

When did you start your company The Raw Stone and what made you want to do it? I started The Raw Stone in 2009. Before I began the business I worked in social media in San Francisco and venture capital in China. I worked with many high tech companies that were doing amazing, cutting edge things. But, I realized that this high tech path was not allowing me to do something that I felt very important. Essentially, I wanted to focus my life’s work on raising the ethical bar of an ancient, pervasive industry.

Did you start The Raw Stone by yourself, and do you now run it with other people? I did start it by myself and continue to run it. When I started it, I received a great deal of help from a community of ethically-minded professionals in jewelry-related industries. There are a lot of people out there who really want to see a business like this survive. These people continue to support from behind the scenes.

How did you go from internet and venture capital to precious gems? I’ve been fortunate enough to travel throughout the world throughout my career and meet people in many different countries who have worked in the gem and jewelry trade. Over time,it became clear to me that the jewelry business needed someone who sources ethical gemstones, does all the background research, and has relationships with organizations such as the Tanzania Women Miners Association (TAWOMA – a non-governmental, non-profit organization that facilitates women miners in Tanzania to acquire the resources they need for the development of safe, environmentally sustainable, and profitable mining).

I know that you source some of your rough diamonds from Canada–can you give a little background on Canadian diamonds, and why they might be preferable? Canadian diamond mining happens mostly in the Northwest Territories, and there is one mine in Ontario. People realized that diamond deposits were there not long ago. No one was living there, and no one owned the land, so basically whoever dropped a flag first had claim to that land. Larger companies started flying airplanes low over the land and dropping flags wherever they could, thereby staking the land as their own. Eventually, these large companies developed mines in these areas.

The type of mining that occurs in Canada is open pit mining. This type of mining is the most safe type of mining for workers in developed countries, and due to Canadian labor and mining laws, we can be assured that laborers are working with safe equipment in safe circumstances. Unfortunately, the flip side of open pit mining is that it is not environmentally sound. This means that the beautiful, vast wilderness of northern Canada now has several deep mines that have been found to disrupt the ecosystem. While there are no ethical issues involving human rights and labor, the practices are in no way environmentally sustainable.

Continue reading Interview with Kerin Jacobs of The Raw Stone