You only need two things to custom design an engagement ring at Bario Neal: a client who wants one-of-a-kind jewelry and our creative, skilled team. You might have to make one or two tough decisions along the way (like diamonds or white sapphires?), but everything that goes into handcrafting custom rings with us is - our clients swear - fun.
"I never thought about jewelry before, but the whole process kind of opened my eyes," Mick Waterhouse says about custom designing a cluster engagement ring with Erin Murphy, who he proposed to in September. "It was fun, every time that we jumped on a call or sent emails back and forth to Bario Neal. It felt like a special time."
The Bario Neal team pretty much shows up to work every day to make people happy with jewelry (OK, all the delish restaurants near our showroom don't hurt). We're passionate about helping clients who want a custom designed ring find the design that truly matches their style and love.
"Getting to know people when they are designing an engagement ring is pretty magical," says Anna Bario, Bario Neal co-founder. "When we're working with clients, a lot of it is reading them. With a custom design, we're interpreting and enjoying the experience right along with them."
How to Start Custom Designing an Engagement Ring
Whether or not you make an appointment to visit our Philadelphia showroom, the best place to start your custom design with us is our Custom Design Questionnaire. If you don't have ideas already about what you want in a ring, filling out the form will help.
If you make an in-person appointment, expect to spend about an hour in our Philadelphia showroom. (Here’s a breakdown of how our personal engagement ring shopping visits go.) We’ll ask all about you and tell you all about us. Then we’ll start creating. Why wait?
"We had ideas going into the meeting, but I think Ariel really kind of turned both of our expectations on their heads," says Pam Lashbrook. She and her spouse-to-be, Sarah Morrison, met with Bario Neal's Ariel Yaroslawitz in Philadelphia to custom design Pam's engagement ring. "I knew that I wanted an Asscher cut stone, but I don't think that we had really thought about including anything of color. We were going to stick with white sapphires. Then Ariel mentioned the iolites, and we thought they were beautiful." The couple also liked the connection to Sarah's Zodiac sign, Cancer. "Her horoscope always talks about her being a moonchild, so we thought having these little half-moon iolites on either side would be a good combination."
If you can't visit the showroom, we'll work with you via phone, email, and Skype - whatever your time zone.
After looking at some ethical jewelers in London, where she's based, Steph Siddall found Bario Neal online. "The ethical jewelers I looked at in London weren't a fit for my style. But I absolutely loved all of Bario Neal's rings, so I was really pleased that we were able to make it work from London."
The Los Angeles-based Mick and Erin started their ring with an appointment at a trunk show. (We announce our pop-ins to other cities on Instagram, so follow us there for news plus plenty of ring inspiration.) They brought an heirloom diamond in the setting of what had been Mick's grandmother's ring” and an idea to use the stone in a cluster engagement ring for Erin. Bario Neal's Sarah Francks talked them through different approaches, and suggested they keep the heirloom ring as a solitaire."
"The family ring is still special on its own that way, and then we designed a second cluster ring," Erin says. "I don't think we ever even thought about just getting one ring after that again. I feel like in that hour we got so much done and hit the ground running." After that first meeting, they continued with the team in Philadelphia by email and phone. "Everybody that we talked to was just so helpful," Erin adds.
Before you visit or start a long-distance custom design, you can do budget research with the build a ring feature on our website. Click on any engagement ring from our collection and select "Build Ring" to get a good idea about pricing.
P.S. According to our clients who work together as a couple to custom design an engagement ring, teamwork doesn't dampen how special this time is. "I think it was actually really kind of romantic to work on it together because every time I look at the ring it's really a representation of our partnership and our ability to work together," Pam says. "I mean, obviously it's gorgeous, but when I look at it, I think of the process that we went through together to create it."
Find Design Inspiration for Your Custom Engagement Ring
"Our collection is a good starting point. People like what's in our collection and the style, but sometime they just want a personalized touch. That's usually done through the stones, or maybe changing a band from round to square," says Aliyah Gold, Gemstone and Custom Design Specialist at Bario Neal, about where to look when beginning a custom design. "Sometimes that won't work, and then we start from scratch."
Pam's Asscher cut white sapphire ring is based on the Avens Ring. "It was really nice having so many rings to look at and compare in the showroom because it was easy for me to point to something and say, 'I like that.' Then we were able to break it down and say, 'Why do you like it? Why don't you like it?' And that, I think really helped," Sarah Morrison says.
Erin's solitaire engagement ring with the heirloom diamond is based on Bario Neal's Allium Diamond Ring.
There are dozens of personalized rings on our website to spark your imagination. Many of them were inspired by other custom rings. Remember that there's many ways to change a design and make it uniquely yours. "We made the Custom Pear Sapphire Cluster Ring, and put it on the site, and since then we've ended up making slightly different versions, like the Custom 7mm Pear Cut Blue Sapphire Cluster Ring with Sapphires," Aliyah says. "It's a similar layout but with different stones and some subtle design changes."
Choosing Ethical Stones for Your Custom Ring
"I read a Human Rights Watch report about how so much jewelry is unethical. I was shocked and it was something I had never really thought about before, the implications of not knowing where your jewelry is made or where it comes from," Steph says.
When she found out that Bario Neal sources ethical gemstones from many countries and diamonds from Canada and Australia, she and her now fiancé, Matt, started to think about their love of travel. "We had an amazing holiday in Canada a couple years ago. So knowing we could get a diamond from Canada gave us the idea of getting the stones from places we've been," she says.
In addition to the Canadian diamond in her cluster design with four stones set in a gold b and, Steph's engagement ring has a white sapphire from Sri Lanka (where the couple spent a 2015 holiday). Two smaller colored stones are an aquamarine gemstone from Mozambique (where they got engaged), and a sea foam from Madagascar. The latter is a promise of future happy travels. "We've never been to Madagascar, but we really want to go. And I think we're going to go there on our honeymoon," Steph says.
Our ethical sourcing sometimes requires an open mind. "The Custom Bi-Color Sapphire and Pink Trillion Sapphire Linear Cluster Ring was an interesting one," Aliyah says. "That client had an exact vision, and there were so many different colored stones and custom cuts. She was open to allowing it to grow and change depending on the stones that were available."
If the color of your gemstones in your custom designed ring is your biggest priority, Aliyah recommends sharing an image of the color that Bario Neal can give to stone suppliers. "We have a client at the moment who is looking for a sapphire that is the 'color of the galaxy,' with blues and purples. It will be a challenge, but I'm excited to find something," Aliyah says
Picture Your Custom Engagement Ring
Our sales associates, designers, and in-house CAD (computer-aided design) designer work together to create precise CAD renderings that help clients see their future ring from several angles. This step is a chance to tweak the look. You don't have to be an architect to understand the images, and a Bario Neal team member will go over the drawings with you.
"I was surprised at how much detail I was able to see. I was surprised at how much info I was able to have at different stages. That meant I didn't have any moment of worry that we picked the wrong thing because we could see how it was progressing," Steph says.
When it comes to changes, we want to be helpful and patient. The goal, after all, is for you to walk away with a ring you're hopefully going to wear forever - so we want you to take the time you need.
"There were times where we were second-guessing what we wanted. Nothing was over the top, it was just all minor tweaks, but there was just this sense of uncertainty at times on our end, but Aliyah and everyone else we worked with at Bario Neal was always receptive to us flip-flopping, and changing around things, and just kind of thinking things over," Mick recalls.
For a $200 design fee, our CAD work can also help clients who just can't decide.
"Sometimes a client is in between two different ideas. Before they commit to an exact ring they want, we can render it in two different ways," Aliyah says. "Maybe they're not sure if they want it in white gold or yellow gold, and we can send both drawings. Then they can decide if they want to move forward with one of the designs."
Custom Designed Rings are Accessible
With Bario Neal, "custom design" doesn't mean a free-for-all with your bank account. While we go into each custom project with an open timeline - because we handcraft each ring in our Philadelphia workshop and allow for your changes along the way - we do welcome clients who want to get concrete about budget.
"I had no idea how much things cost, and we had a budget in mind. So I was able to tell Bario Neal what style and stones I really liked and the budget we had, to see what's realistic," Steph says. "That was really good. They could tell me what was in the budget."
Sarah Morrison says she and Pam appreciate that working on a budget didn't mean sacrificing their vision of a truly personalized engagement ring. "We'd seen a picture of a ring that was about $10,000, a five-stone Art Deco ring. It was absolutely beautiful and we thought, that's the one. Then I remembered I work at a nonprofit," she says with a laugh. "But it was really neat to look at other Bario Neal rings and say, 'Okay well how can we get a similar vibe to that while staying within what we can afford?'"
Custom Designing Is About Relationships, Not "Point and Click"
While some jewelry companies offer an online-only, multiple choice design for "custom" rings, our clients get to work with experienced and skilled people such as Aliyah, who fell in love with jewelry design in high school and went on to study it in college. We think it makes a huge difference.
"My role is to be able to transform from idea into reality," she says. "Being a designer, I know what is possible and how the ring will structurally need to function in order to make what they want."
Mick values the expertise Bario Neal brought to Erin's ring and how Sarah Francks explained to him and Erin how cluster rings come together functionally and aesthetically. "My advice after going through this custom design is to definitely consult with someone that knows what they're doing," he says. "While we all know what we like in certain looks, those don't always work well together when you go to produce something. The technical jewelry design that they were able to provide us with went a long way early on."
Bario Neal's website is designed to be helpful in the custom design process, but we think a big investment like an engagement ring deserves our full attention and the back-and-forth relationships that we build with clients.
"I never would have been able to process the vision for what it would all look like once it's actually in a ring," Steph says. "Bario Neal made it so easy. Every step of the way, from choosing stones and layout."
Sarah Morrison says she and Pam they learned a lot when they visited the Philadelphia showroom. "At our appointment, I did pick up a lot of terms in that one day," she says. "I've since forgotten them, but in that moment I felt very educated and it was really neat just to understand what it is that the jewelers are doing."
They were so happy with Pam's engagement ring, they returned to Bario Neal for their wedding bands. Sarah's band is hammered platinum. Pam's complements her engagement ring. There will be five white sapphires set to curve around and hug the stones on the engagement ring.
So, fair warning: One custom designed ring might lead to - more rings.
When Erin mentions that they too plan to get their wedding bands from Bario Neal, Mick teases, "Oh, you're getting a third one?"
She answers, "Yeah. Duh."