Rough Diamonds

By Emily on August 12, 2012 at 1:12 pm

At Bario-Neal, we have a high standard for ethically sourced materials. One of the more traceable ethically sourced materials that we work with is our rough diamonds. Many of the human rights abuse issues associated with the diamond industry happen in the cutting and polishing process. With rough diamonds, there is no cutting and polishing, virtually eliminating these possibilities. You can read more about our ethically sourced rough diamonds in Alyssa’s interview with Kerin, here.

Working with rough diamonds in fine jewelry is relatively new. Most of the information and research on diamonds is specific to cut and graded diamonds. Aside from that, there is very little information on the internet about rough diamonds and how they are used in jewelry.  Because of this, it is easy to misunderstand or under-appreciate rough diamonds.

Rough diamonds come in a vast variety of sizes, shapes and colors and each of these characteristics contributes to a stone’s rarity and thus its cost.  Unlike cut diamonds, there is no certification system available for rough diamonds and so the dealer inspects and determines the color and clarity of each diamond.  Once diamonds are cut, inclusions are a lot easier to hide because of the facets of the stone. In their rough state, inclusions are easy to detect to the naked eye. This is not necessarily a bad quality (as it would be for a cut diamond), but rather contributes to the natural beauty and brilliance of the stone.

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A Sunny Sunday at the Shop!

By Emily on August 12, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Complete with new chalkboards… Hope you are all enjoying the weekend!

Jeweler’s Row

By Emily on June 8, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Bario-Neal works with several specialized craftspeople on Philadelphia’s historic Jeweler’s Row to hand-make many of our pieces.  Composed of nearly 300 small, family-owned businesses, Jeweler’s Row is home to the oldest jewelry district in America (est. 1851) and continues to thrive as a creative and manufacturing hub in the industry. Jeweler’s Row is on the block of Sansom Street between 7th and 8th, just a short walk from our Philadelphia shop.

In addition to being the oldest jewelry district in America, Jeweler’s Row is also the site of the first row homes built in the US. Architect Thomas Carstairs designed the row homes of what’s now Jeweler’s Row for the developer William Sansom, around 1799-1829.  Formerly known as Carstairs Row, the row was one of the first housing developments in the US. Unlike previous row housing that featured varying heights, widths and brickwork among the structures, Carstairs purchased the entire block and built 22 uniform buildings.[1] Today, the block has several jewelry stores as well as workshops and has been greatly modified over the years, but retains some of its historic feel with a cobblestone street and some original brickwork.[2]

We work with several jewelers from the row including casters, enamellists, engravers and stone setters. Many of these businesses have been around for decades and been passed down for generations, creating a vast network of experience and expertise in specialized jewelry crafts.

 The casting company we work with is a local, family-owned business that has been in business for over 26 years. They work with recycled metal from a local refinery and they do all of their own casting and molding at their shop on Jeweler’s Row.

 Our enamellist has worked in fine jewelry enamel and decorative metalwork for over 25 years. Also located on Jeweler’s Row, she works on trade-based jewelry as well as custom work and antique restoration.[3]

For our hand engravings, we work with two wonderful engravers on Jeweler’s Row, Pat and Charlie. Pat’s grandfather started the family business in the 1930’s and the company is 3 generations old. Charlie is a WWII veteran who came back from the war and wanted to be a jewelry designer. At the time, there were very few jewelry schools, and the industry was even more of a family business than it is now. Charlie attended the now-defunct Philadelphia Engraving school on the GI bill and has been engraving ever since. When engraving a piece, we bring either a drawing or written text to Pat or Charlie. All of the engraving is done by hand with careful precision.

 We also work with a number of craftspeople who specialize in stone setting and/or engraving but also help us with resizing, laser soldering, and repair work on heirloom jewelry. Jewelers’ Row is an important part of our work at Bario-Neal. It allows us to support a strong local craft and manufacturing community and to learn from the experience and mentorship of experts in our field.




Custom Design

By Emily on April 29, 2012 at 6:07 pm

If you are interested in having a custom piece of jewelry made below is information as well as images of custom projects describing different fabrication methods used in our design process.

Wax Models

Many of our rings start out in wax before they get cast into metal. The process is called ‘lost wax casting.’ The wax we work with is not quite like candle wax but has more plastic, making it easier to carve. Certain changes are easier to make when the design is in wax before we cast it in metal. When the design is complete, we take the wax model to a local craftsman in Philadelphia who will make a mold of our model.  A one time use plaster mold is made from that wax. The wax is melted out of the mold and metal is poured into the mold through a process called centrifugal casting. The piece is then cleaned and finished in our shop. If pieces need additional work in wax we will make a rubber mold of the model as well.  A similar process is used for our non custom pieces which are reproduced from the rubber molds that we keep at our studio.


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Heirloom Jewelry: Refining and Redesigning

By Emily on April 22, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Bario-Neal is happy to work with your heirloom and old jewelry. Below are some options and considerations for working with us to repair, redesign or reuse your heirloom jewelry.

Reusing and Recycling Heirloom Metal
Option 1- Metal Credit:
If you would like to recycle your heirloom metal, we can add your heirloom pieces to the larger pool of recycled gold that we work with and give you a credit for the value of the metal, which we call ‘metal credit.’ We will test the material, weigh it, and give you a credit for the value based on the day’s silver, gold, platinum, or palladium price.

Option 2- Small Batch Refining:
Another option is ‘small batch refining,’ using the exact material from your heirloom jewelry in a new piece from Bario-Neal. This process is more labor intensive and also means you will be working with the same color and karat of gold as the heirloom jewelry for the final product. For example, if you are using heirloom rings in 14K white gold to make a new set of bands, the new bands will also be in 14K white gold. The small batch refining process requires the piece to be melted down separately and not combined with any other metal during this process. The cost for the small batch refining is $175, in addition to our labor charges, which depend on the complexity of the new design.

If you do want to refine out and re-make using the pure gold, but make something in another metal.

Repair and Redesign
Heirloom Metal
The possibility of adjusting or redesigning heirloom jewelry is specific for each piece. Because we cannot determine the quality of heirloom jewelry, or any past damage or repair, there is always the risk of damage to your heirlooms when we work on them. The more information we have about the piece, the better. For example, if you have an appraisal or certificate to an heirloom piece, please bring that in as well. Bario-Neal is not responsible for any damage to heirloom pieces.

Heirloom Gemstones
Similarly, working with heirloom gemstones can also be risky. Many gemstones (especially older stones) may be cracked, chipped, or damaged before we receive them. They may also be imitation stones, which are not detectable. The pre-existing damage may not be apparent until we pull the stones from their settings or begin working on the new project. Some gemstones can change in color when exposed to heat or can chip when being reset. Before working with heirloom gems we ask that you have them appraised and that you sign a waiver. Bario-Neal is not responsible for any damage to heirloom gemstones or diamonds.

Need to edit: Define ‘heirloom’ – loose, new stones bought somewhere else. (High quality diamond, stones are lost, certain types of diamonds). Difference between colored gemstones and diamonds.

Mohs Hardness Scale

By Emily on April 22, 2012 at 12:37 pm

The Mohs scale of mineral hardness was developed by German mineralogist, Frederich Mohs in 1812. The scale is used to characterize stones relative hardness and scratch resistance.  The method of determining hardness is by testing the ability of a harder stone to scratch a softer stone. The scale ranges from 1 to 10 with 1 being the softest and 10 being the hardest.  One thing to keep in mind is that the scale is purely an ordinal scale. That being said, sapphires are twice as hard as topaz and diamonds are four times as hard as sapphires, despite their numbers on the Mohs hardness scale.

A mineral’s hardness is its ability to resist scratches. A mineral’s toughness is its ability to resist being fractured.

Below is a list of some of the most common gemstones we work with, including their ranking on the Mohs hardness scale as well as its toughness.

Gemstone Mohs Hardness Scale Toughness*
Diamond 10 Good
Sapphire 9 Usually excellent
Ruby 9 Usually excellent
Alexandrite 8.5 Excellent
Spinel 8 Good
Aquamarine 7.5 Good
Emerald 7.5 Poor to good
Amethyst 7 Good
Citrine 7 Good
Malaya Garnet 7 Fair to good
Rose Quartz 7 Good
Smoky Quartz 7 Good
Tourmaline 7 Fair
Peridot 6.5 Fair to good
Moonstone 6 Poor
Tanzanite 6 Fair to poor
Opal 5 Very poor to fair
Turquoise 5 Generally fair
Pearl 2.5 Usually good

*Toughness scale: poor, fair, good, excellent

If you are looking for a durable stone, diamonds, sapphires and rubies are the best options.

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.

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