Designers Anna Bario and Page Neal didn't set out to craft the new Dez Opal with Rainbow Halo Ring and Dez Half Eternity Round Rainbow Band for the 10-year anniversary of their jewelry company, Bario Neal. They simply put pencil to paper and started their usual creative process - one that's intentional, honest, and can't be rushed. Yet the new rings are so vibrant, joyful, and unreservedly unique that they can't help but symbolize what Anna and Page have accomplished in the 10 years since they launched their jewelry design label.
With showrooms in Philadelphia and New York City, Bario Neal has evolved. Page and Anna wouldn't want it any other way since its start in 2008. But as the co-founders designed collection after collection and worked with countless clients (in person and long distance around the world) on custom personalized rings, they've grown without ever straying from a core belief that it's possible to create beautiful jewelry of lasting value that is also ethical and environmentally friendly.
Creating a Jewelry Company to Last
From the start, Anna and Page have never hurried jewelry design. Make Page pick just one word to describe their jewelry, and she says "thoughtful". They ask a ton of questions when they're creating new rings, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. They endlessly ponder proportion. They search for sources of gemstones that benefit miners and their communities. They dissect shapes. Not one prong setting escapes attention.
"We work hard to be what we present ourselves to be," Anna says, "and we come to everything we do with strong intentions."
Page thinks that's one way Bario Neal stands apart from many in the jewelry industry. "We take a lot of care in our design process to ensure we are building jewelry to last," says Page.
Designs from Bario Neal's very first collection, like the Avens Asymmetrical Ring, show that from the start, Anna and Page were laying a design foundation of cleanly modern yet classic, along with subtle asymmetry.
"The Reticulated One Diamond Band is another ring that represents the sculptural space from which many of our designs develop," Anna says. "The Avens and the Reticulated One Band might not exemplify what our design aesthetic is in 2018, but it's amazing how some of the first pieces that Page and I designed together really carry through into today's collections. Yes, we've created more signature settings and identifiable 'Bario Neal touches' over the last decade, but even in our earliest collaborations you can see the elements coming together."
In the beginning, being new to jewelry making gave Anna and Page a fresh design perspective and a freedom from rules. (That rule-breaking has become something of a theme for Bario Neal. See "12 Reasons We Love Breaking the Old "˜Rules' About Wedding Rings."
"In the beginning we were coming from a more artistic and less technical background," Anna says. "We didn't have preconceived ideas about 'this is how you do this'. Then, and continuing today, we love to make unrealistic plans. We've always had ideas larger than the framework of a small design label."
The pieces that Anna and Page each wear give a peek at their inspirations: architectural elements, industrial design, lettering, sculpture, even shoes - as well as their design aesthetics. Gold Circ Hoops are a go-to for Page. She loves that the earrings with their shapely wave are "playful and vibrant, but also classic," and she appreciates the balance of structure and fluidity. Anna regularly reaches for her Sapphire Slice Studs. "There are other pieces of ours that are more statement," she says, "but the sapphire studs are unusual and the marbling of the material is really interesting."
Page and Anna don't just love designing stackable rings at Bario Neal: they are big fans of wearing stackable rings too. Page likes to stack an Eternity Diamond Band on top of her white enamel wedding band, combining a traditional classic with a throwback vibe she dubs "'70s sundress." Anna mixes her plain gold wedding band (Bario Neal has shoppers for simple gold wedding bands well covered) with an Aldine Thin Band and a Half Eternity Narrow Diamond Band.
"I also wear a lot of pieces that are custom or that we made as models during our design process," Anna says. "I have a custom enamel hexagon ring that I really love. And a half-octahedron rough diamond ring that's a middle finger ring I always wear." (Bario Neal doesn't have these exact rings today, but talk to us about designing your own custom ring and we'll tell you all about raw diamonds, shaped-to-fit-you gemstone cluster rings, and more.)
Page's Senna Round Ring with black enamel is a good example of what Bario Neal is all about, she says. "It's simple, it's classic but it's also modern and uses the skilled technique of enameling," she explains. "When I look at jewelry that's out there in the world, I am often disappointed by the lack of nuance in the design. We're about being intentional, taking our time, and understanding how the negotiation of small measurements and techniques can make or break a design."
Building an Ethical Jewelry Business
"One of the primary inspirations for starting the company was that we had deep questions about the origins of the materials that we were working with and the people and places they passed through," Anna explains.
Anna and Page launched Bario Neal in 2008, but they started working on becoming ethical jewelry designers a few years before that. They did research and went to conferences to figure out as much as they could before officially opening their doors. They've been glad to see increasing awareness in the last decade of how a lot of gemstone mining hurts miners and their communities. And they continue to focus on ensuring that all Bario Neal jewelry is made with ethical, sustainable materials.
"We've been very involved in the last few years in the annual Jewelry Industry Summit," Anna says. "It was one of the first industry-wide conversations recognizing all the challenges that we face and all the opportunities we have to create benefits beyond just our companies and our clients, to all supply chains that we work with."
They are both proud that, after collaborating with the Alliance for Responsible Mining, Bario Neal was part of the consortium that negotiated the first import of Fairmined gold into the U.S. Anna even had a chance to visit Fairmined-certified mines in Colombia. Anna's engagement ring owes something to their pursuit of ethical sourcing. The yellow-peach citrine in her ring came from the Tanzania Women Miners Association, a group that works to make sure their community is helped, not hurt, by mining.
With human rights central to the mission, the right for every person to love who they choose has also been something Bario Neal has stood for from the start. Looking back on the changes in the last 10 years, Page says one of the most exciting moments was when same sex marriage was legalized in the U.S.
For Page and Anna, ethical and sustainable aren't trends or marketing ploys. As they look ahead to the next decade of Bario Neal, these principles will remain at the center of their jewelry design. "There are many more ways we can directly and tangibly support initiatives connected to the environment and human rights," Anna says. "I'd like to devote even more time to that."
Designing Bario Neal Engagement Rings
When Anna and Page first launched Bario Neal, they weren't focused on engagement rings, but when they did decide to design wedding jewelry, they started with the simple, classic Avens Round Diamond Ring. That was just the beginning. Since then, hundreds of happy couples have worked with Bario Neal to create personalized rings for marriage proposals and wedding bands.
"Anna and I both got married in the past 10 years," Page says. (Her rough diamond engagement ring is matte gold with a simple prong setting.) "So we were also at a time in our lives when a lot of our friends got married. Having our work be part of other people's ceremonies is very powerful. The rings that we make are a significant part of people's lives and to me that is incredibly inspiring."
Anna, Page, and many on the Bario Neal team have even been lucky enough to see some proposals over the years.
"At our New York shop, we see so many clients celebrating with City Hall weddings, and there's real romance to that," Anna says. "We had a couple who needed rings fast, and they had ordered an engagement ring and bands. So it wasn't a surprise, but they hadn't really done any ceremony around the proposal. When they saw the rings, they said, 'Can you excuse us for just a minute?' And they went out in the hallway and came back with tears in their eyes. It was truly sweet."
Many couples decide to pass on a complete surprise proposal and instead come into Bario Neal together to pick out an engagement ring or talk about custom designing a ring or wedding band. That doesn't mean the process can't have as much meaning and emotion. Lots of couples plan a whole fun day around their appointments. (We've got tips on planning a memorable engagement ring shopping appointment!)
Jewelry is, of course, part of the special life moments for Page and Anna too. Page got a new pinky ring that matches her Eternity Diamond Band to celebrate the birth of her daughter. Bario Neal's new-this-year Keepsake Collection, engraveable heirloom bangles for babies and children, echoes that family feeling. Anna and her husband add engravings to their wedding rings every couple years. She says her husband's Milla Shoulder Hammered Wide Band is his most prized possession.
Going for Another Decade of Ethical Jewelry Design
Bario Neal fans should expect to watch their favorite jeweler keep breaking the rules and pushing jewelry design.
"We've worked hard to build a strong foundation," Page says. "We have a fantastic staff right now. I am excited to see the business thrive and continue to grow with other people."
Page and Anna want to keep collaborating with other artists, like they did recently when they teamed up with Xavier Schipani on a print to raise awareness about LGBTQIA issues in the wedding industry, and commissioned K-Fai to illustrate tips on jewelry care.
"It's interesting to see other people interpret your work, to see it reflected through their eyes," Anna says. "It shifts your perspective and that's fascinating."
As they've come up on this 10-year anniversary, Anna and Page have been exchanging old emails they sent to each other when they were starting the company and laughing over their abbreviations and silly codes. Yes, there was some stress, they admit, but that was a motivator. At the end of the day, they say, they each had a perfect business partner.
"Anna is amazing at remaining calm and grounded and positive," Page says.
"Page is so good at keeping us moving forward, reminding us when something seems really challenging, that all we have to do is try," Anna says.