The Ethereal, Ancient Art of Enamel

By Constance on February 22, 2018 at 2:09 pm

The union of chance and material. This describes perfectly the ancient process for the ethereal art of enamel. To realize our signature pieces, we work with Joan Strott Alvini, an experienced artist and one of the first women to work on Philadelphia’s Historic Jeweler’s Row. Part art, part science, the look of each drop of color is as important to us as the form.


Ancient, ethereal art of enamel

Contemporary Enamel: An ancient art gets a modern update.


Like a ceramicist searching for the perfect glaze, our enamelist experiments with a cabinet of potions to create the colors, which react to each metal differently when fired. Once the chemical combination is perfect, forming the exact shade also depends on the translucent suspension of colored glass. Then, like the metal itself, the molten liquid becomes a solid as the glass flows into our grooved, organic forms, reflecting light under the surface like a pool of water.


Ancient art of enamel

The Senna collection began as a single sleek black circle.


Though our enamel designs are modern, this process is ancient. Enameled rings from the 13th century B.C. were found during the 1952 excavation of a tomb in Kouklia, Cyprus. Believe it or not, the process hasn’t changed much in the last 3,000 years!

Enamel is glass fused to a metal surface. Most often, the glass is a blend of silica (or sand), soda, lime, and borax. This mix creates a clear, colorless enamel called flux. It can be transparent, opaque or opalescent (translucent), and an enormous range of colors can be made by adding metal oxides to the flux.


Ancient, Ethereal Art of Enamel

Enamel was applied to pottery and stone in ancient Egypt, and used on metal by ancient Greek, Roman, Russian, Chinese, and Celtic cultures.


The color range and handcrafted quality of glass enamel, aka vitreous enamel, makes it a beautiful and long-lasting choice. Because the glass binds to the metal when fired, glass enamel can only adhere to specific alloys of precious metals. When worn with care, it can last for several lifetimes. The less durable, cheaper alternative, Resin enamel– not so much. More of a fashion than a forever choice, Resin, aka cold enamel, is essentially plastic and scratches easily.


Ancient, ethereal art of enamel

We create long-lasting glass enamel rings, earrings and bracelets in a range of colorful shapes.


Alvini reminds us that many of the colors we see today are made with the same pigments as those used by early Byzantine artists. Transparent cobalt blue, for example, is created from black oxide of cobalt and powdered flint glass. Opalescent colors require the addition of more oxide of tin. After the enamel is applied, the entire piece is fired in a kiln. During firing, the enamel powder melts, flows, and hardens to form a smooth and durable surface.

Enameling metal surfaces uses a variety of techniques. A few of the most common techniques used in jewelry are:


  • Champlevé, where troughs or cells carved into the surface of a metal object and filled with vitreous enamel.
  • Cloissoné, which uses thin wires to form raised barriers which contain different areas of enamel above the metal base.
  • Limoges & Grisaille, where enamel is painted on.
  • Plique-à-jour, in which enamel is applied in cells, with no backing, like stained-glass.



Production process of a Cloissoné vase by Ando Cloisonné Company in Nagoya.


We asked Alvini a few questions about her own studio practices and how she works safely with substances like cadmium and barium. Most of what Joan describes are common-sense safety measures:


“Don’t eat, drink, or smoke in the studio. Always wash hands frequently and clean work benches with wet towels or rags. Always wear a mask when sifting powders and grind under water.”


Many enamelists have struggled lately with tighter restrictions on metal oxides and other substances used in the process. In particular, lead-bearing vs. lead-free enamels is an industry debate worth noting. U.S. regulations made it difficult to produce lead-bearing enamels. The last domestic supplier, Thompson Enamel stopped making them in 1990. But with this art, it’s the preferences and needs of the artist that determine the success of the materials.


“The important thing is to teach people how to work with these materials correctly and safely.” –Joan Strott Alvini


Contemporary enamel jewelry

We have two new diamond halo designs: the Senna Diamond Halo Ring and the Enamel Arc Halo Ring.


Another important element of working with enamels is controlling the waste stream. Alvini uses a precious metal drain trap to catch all the waste she generates while grinding wet. Along with metal dust, this is sent to a refiner to trap all waste and filter out toxic materials.


We made a short video of Alvini in her Jeweler’s Row workshop. Watch below to see this talented artist’s process:



Shop our entire line of enamel jewelry here. Interested in using this colorful, ancient technique in a Custom Design or personalizing one of ours? Just get in touch with your idea via our Custom Design Questionnaire.



Meet Your New Spring Jewelry Love

By Constance on March 2, 2017 at 10:53 am

Feeling like this winter of literal doom and gloom will never end? Looking for signs of Spring? The Bario Neal Spring 2017 collection is here! Join us in celebration of this fresh take and you just might meet your new spring jewelry love.


Spring Jewelry 2017

Stacking the possibilities with our newest additions to the Helia family: The Ray, The Ray Fringe and the Open Lash Rings.


Our latest Spring Collection goes beyond the season’s trends to launch unexpectedly complementary additions to previous collections, to invigorate our entire line. Featuring new classics with new imagination, our latest release really ties it all together.


Bario Neal Spring Jewelry 2017

Perfect for spring: the incredible lightness of sparkly jewel clusters

Speaking of bringing us together, the best place to start is with our newest spring jewelry clusters– stacking bunches upon bunches of ethical diamonds and gemstones, these sparklers will light up the room.


Bario Neal Spring Jewelry 2017

An unexpectedly beautiful match-up: The Linea Band paired with our Opal & Morganite Cluster Ring

Explore two new colorful cluster gemstone rings, each with a jaw-dropping twist on the traditional. The Opal & Morganite Cluster ring (above) pairs a soft, billowy opal with angled, pear cut pink morganite and clusters of diamonds. The Garnet Cluster Ring (below) matches moody, deep-red, romantic garnets with experimental, clustered design. Similar in color to our rubies, these striking crimson stones are handpicked from rare Anthill garnets (umm, cute, tiny ants, mining your gemstones!) found in Arizona’s Navajo Nation and from Tanzanian mines. Perfectly straddling the vintage-yet-modern aesthetic, they are destined to be classics for the unconventional.


Bario Neal Spring Jewelry 2017

How deep is your love: The Garnet Cluster Ring accented by our Diamond Cluster Band.


Next up, just time for spring love, our inspired new bands feature asymmetrical curves that hug the hottest rings in our collection.


Bario Neal Spring Jewelry 2017

Dream ring, meet your dream band: The Hex Sapphire Cluster Ring and Band Combo.


Perfectly complementing our colored gemstone dream ring, the Hex Sapphire Cluster Ring, the Hex Sapphire Cluster Band brings together three seafoam sapphires, three white Australian diamonds, four light champagne Australian diamonds for a natural, modern vibe.

Prefer your ethical gemstones to be of the diamond variety? No problem, the stunning Diamond Cluster Band features a .06ct baguette diamond, a .03ct princess cut diamond, a .03ct round diamond, three .02ct round diamonds, and three .01ct round diamonds, for an approximate total weight of .21ct. Want to mix and match? Go for it.


Bario Neal Spring Jewelry 2017

A Heavenly duo: The Diamond Cluster Band hugs our Diamond Cluster Ring “just so”.

If these additions weren’t exciting enough, we keep stacking the deck with killer additions to our newest lines.

The new Ray Ring conspires with the full set of our inspired, delicate emerald pieces to break your heart. Beyond versatile, it can be an understated, modern engagement ring or just that special something to celebrate yourself. Stack it with the perfect compliment, our new Ray Fringe Ring and the Open Lash Ring (also perfect for both your Ray and Lash stud ear stack or the Emerald Ray Ring).


Bario Neal Spring Jewelry 2017

Solid gold and green with envy: the Ray, Ray Fringe and Open Lash Rings and Ray Drop earrings.

Our latest statement earrings add to the dance of modern romance. The Ray Drops, Circ Drops and Circ Chandeliers – add the perfect combo of movement and large-scale drama to complete the Helia collection. Experience the play of light, the positive and negative shapes and cast shadow–  each hand-crafted beauty is a small work art.


Bario Neal Spring Jewelry 2017

Feeling light as air: Inspired by Calder mobiles, the Circ Hoops, Drops and Chandeliers.

Joining our iconic, modern Forma collection, the angular Linea Diamond Band and gestural Icon Band. These streamlined statement pieces provide a perfectly contoured companion to any ring in our collection – or make waves all on their own.


Bario Neal Spring Jewelry 2017

Whether for another or to celebrate yourself: The new Icon Band paired with our Pear Trillion and Trillion Rings.


We are especially proud of the new additions to Forma in the Lau series: The Lau Bracelet and Lau Mini Necklace take the iconic inspiration of the rainbow symbol, emphasizing our commitment to marriage equality and LGBTQIA rights, down to its most delicate, personal essence. Dotted with ethical diamonds in solid reclaimed gold, these pieces channel inner-strength, and pride– a daily reminder that love is love!


Bario Neal Spring Jewelry 2017

A rainbow in the hand and heart: The Lau Necklace, Bracelet and Studs and the Icon band

Next, we turn to some of the most exciting spring additions to our signature jewelry collections! Minimal, delicate classics with universal appeal, the Enamel and Shield Collections, mix simplicity in both monochromatic and colorful tones.


Bario Neal Spring Jewelry 2017

“It’s complicated” just got simple: the Senna Rectangle, Round, Square Ring with the Senna Studs.

Our revamped enamel line brings the ancient tradition of glass jewelry into the modern era with the Senna Collection. Longtime fan favorites, the Senna Round Ring and Senna Studs, now have two perfect complements: The Senna Square and Senna Rectangle Rings. Want to wear your commitment to love in all its forms, with the least fuss possible? These are the rings for you. Our wearable windows of true black and pure 18kt gold will never go out of style.

For our enamel work, we collaborate with an artist on Philadelphia’s historic Jeweler’s Row specializing in this traditional jewelry process. We hope our designs to do a small part in keeping both this dying art alive and ensures that “The Row” continues to thrive. Composed of nearly 300 small family-owned businesses, The Row is home to the oldest handmade jewelry and diamond district in America.


Bario Neal Spring Jewelry 2017

Ethical warriors meet their match: The Ruby Slice Shield and Shield Earrings

The Shield Collection re-imagines our Ruby Slice Pendant and Studs as deconstructed shield shapes. It’s about time to add a minimal pop of natural ruby red to your jewelry line-up. Likewise, the modern stripped down, Shield Earring in solid 14kt gold is perfect for whatever arrows life slings your way.

Simple, streamlined forms that might also help vanquish your enemies? Meet the growing Aira Collection, now even better with the lovely, delicate new Aira Morganite and Aira Mini Rings, accenting our popular Aira Ring.


Bario Neal Spring Jewelry 2017

Give ‘em the evil eye: The Aira Studs, Aira Morganite and Mini Aria Rings.

We contextualized three of our most beloved signature styles with new additions. The intricate, vintage-meets-modern Rose cut Filigree Round Ring features a white rose cut sapphire, for a romantic twist on the Rose cut Oval Filigree in pink sapphire.

Perennial favorites with a looser, more contemporary approach to filigree, the Gale Rose cut Diamond (formerly Aparna) and the Bend Ring are joined by another instant classic, the Bend Diamond Ring. By joining these modern interpretations of a traditional jewelry style together, we created another exciting new family: the Filigree Collection.


Bario Neal Spring Jewelry 2017

Old flames become new loves this Spring: From left to right, The Rose Cut Filigree Round and Oval, Gale Rose Cut Diamond, Bend and Bend Diamond Rings.

Did you know that at Bario Neal every stone matters? Traceability is often deemed too difficult for stones under ~.20ct. We decided this just does not go the distance for our ethical standards. That’s why we are proud to pledge that every stone you see in your beautiful cluster– whether it be Anthill garnets, Zambian emeralds, Montana sapphires or Australian diamonds– all are fully traceable from mine to market no matter their size. Want to go even further with a piece tailored especially for you? Our jewelry is crafted by a team of talented artists and designers, so it’s easy to personalize anything you see here with one of our array of hand-picked ethical gemstones.

Whatever your spring jewelry celebrates or symbolizes, remember that we craft our jewelry with a commitment to you:  to create a positive social and environmental impact with every handcrafted piece.





12 Days of Gifts: Resin Enamel Bracelet

By Constance on December 15, 2015 at 1:04 pm

12 days of Gift Ideas Resin Bangles

On the eighth day of our 12 Days of Gifts, let loose with the perfect present for the eccentric in all of us, the kaleidoscopic Resin Enamel Bracelet. This distinctive design pairs multicolored resin in a marbled effect, with a hand-cast, asymmetric oval shape.


12 days of Gift Ideas Resin Bangles

The Resin Enamel bracelet features marbled “cold” or epoxy enamel, a versatile alternative to glass enamel.  


This wild child comes in bronze in the three shown color patterns for mixing it up and plays really well with others in our line, like it’s slightly more sophisticated sister bangle, the Enamel Bracelet.  Get it for 25% off through 12/23 via the BNGood Holiday Sale, just in time for gifting!