We recently talked to Love Inc. to discuss the ins and outs of shopping ethically for your engagement ring. At Bario Neal, transparency and ethical sourcing are at the core of our mission, so we loved talking about our brand standards and processes. You can read our feature in Love Inc. magazine to learn more about the guiding principles behind Bario Neal and a Q&A with our co-founder, Page Neal.
Redefining Industry Buzzwords: What does "ethical" mean to Bario Neal?
Since our founding 15 years ago, ethical sourcing has been a huge part of our story. As sustainable practices become more of a consumer expectation, "ethical" seems to be more and more of a buzzword. Love Inc. asked Page Neal,
"Can you define what "ethical" truly means, and what couples should look for to ensure that the brands they're working with are actually ethical?"
"For us, 'ethical' means that we're taking steps to craft and produce products that avoid or lessen any social/environmental/economic/cultural/political harm. We take steps to maintain transparency in all of our sourcing and production processes…We launched with the intention to responsibly source precious metals and gemstones for our jewelry. While we were drawn to the imaginative possibilities of jewelry, we were disillusioned by industry standards that turned a blind eye to the harmful, widespread effects of mining. So, before we launched, we committed to doing things better — for the Earth, the people and communities within the supply chain, our customers, and in turn, our business."
"What does it mean to be ethical when it comes to jewelry? What are some ways that Bario Neal has committed to this?"
"Our talented production team crafts our pieces in-house in collaboration with eco-friendly regional manufacturers and specialized artisans, and all of our gemstones are fully traceable, which is relatively new to the industry. Our dedication to ensuring transparent gemstone sourcing has resulted in some industry firsts, such as custom-cut ethical origin baguette diamonds to traceable pave diamonds and gemstones. We also work with Fairmined Gold as we were one of the first jewelers in the industry to become a stakeholder. Our Fairmined gold is extracted by responsible small-scale and artisanal miners. Responsible mining lessens environmental impacts, improves safety for miners and their families, and reduces work-related violence. Fair mining is nature-minded, focusing on restoration efforts, protecting against water contamination, and avoiding the use of mercury or cyanide."
Gems that Shine From the Source: Transparent Sourcing
A common question we get from customers is about the difference between lab-grown and ethically-mined diamonds and how we screen our suppliers to ensure they align with our code of ethics. Love Inc. asked Neal,
"How do lab-grown diamonds differ from mined diamonds? Do you prefer to work with one type over the other?"
"We have a really great blog post about this. Working with lab-grown vs natural diamonds is pretty much the same; it's the sourcing and pricing end that is vastly different. Natural diamonds are formed deep in the Earth's mantle under extreme pressure and heat over millions of years. Meanwhile, lab-grown diamonds are created by humans in a laboratory and require no mining. Lab-grown diamonds have the same physical, chemical, and optical properties as natural diamonds and are made of the same material - pure carbon.
Like anything else, choosing between the two is a personal preference and we're proud to be able to confidently offer both types of diamonds from suppliers who pass our provenance process."
"Can you tell us a little bit about your supplier ratings, and the expectations that you hold your suppliers to in order to work with you? Are you finding it easier to find suppliers who can uphold those standards than when you first began?"
"I've been involved in our gemstone sourcing (provenance) interviews for the past few years, and I do think that consumer demand has created more opportunities for suppliers who are dedicated to increasing transparency in the industry. One of our suppliers recently noted that more and more buyers are starting to ask the same hard-sourcing questions Bario Neal has been asking for years. I was brought onto the production team to work specifically with the diamonds and gemstones because of the high demand we receive.
We work with a lot of small suppliers who work directly with brokers and miners and conduct regular site visits to ensure that their claims are verifiable. The more consumers use their buying power to purchase from jewelry companies aligned with their ethical values, the more the market will continue to shift to accommodate this type of sourcing practice."
Additionally, we're often asked about specific gemstones and the difference in sourcing emeralds compared to diamonds.
"Are certain gemstones/metals more difficult to source ethically than others?"
"Certain gemstones/colors/cuts are elusive and can be available one day and nearly impossible to source the next. Many are usually antiques and have been difficult to find this year, but weren't that hard to source last year," Neal responds, "Alexandrite is a natural gemstone that is rarer than a diamond, and we have yet to find a natural or lab-grown Alexandrite source that we feel confident working with."
Love in All Ways:
"Can you tell us a little bit about your dedication to the LGBTQ+ community and how you created non-gendered jewelry?"
"Jewelry should be a celebration of your personal style. At Bario Neal, we believe in creating beautiful, accessible pieces for any and everyone. It's at our very core that we dismiss the heteronormative ideals often pushed by the jewelry industry, especially at a time where LGBTQ+ people's rights are increasingly threatened. Our design ethos is gender-neutral and size-inclusive, and we love working with customers to create pieces that celebrate and reflect their identity and experience." Says Neal.