Diamond or Not? White Diamonds Aren’t the Only Gems for Unique Engagement Rings—Look to Natural Diamonds, Moissanite, and White Sapphire Rings Too

By Sarah on August 8, 2018 at 3:27 pm

Engagements aren’t just a matter of the heart. Don’t get us wrong. We live for our clients’ stories about finding each other and falling in love. (Seriously, tell us more. You met how???) But getting married can be a think piece all in itself, and your head might quickly start to spin when you think about big decisions, like choosing an engagement ring. When you visit one of our showrooms, in Philadelphia or New York City, to look at engagement rings, expect to have fun. But we’re also ready to answer serious questions about ethics, sustainability, and sourcing that you might have as you choose the right gemstone for you.

Diamonds are the most popular choice for engagement rings, but there are two other lovely colorless gemstones you can also consider: moissanite and white sapphire. We’ve made unique engagement rings using all three. Each can work for a couple who’s thinking about how communities and the environment are impacted by gemstone mining.

  • Moissanite is a colorless gemstone that is produced in a lab, so there’s no new mining involved.
  • For many Bario Neal diamond engagement rings, we use reclaimed diamonds. These are stones previously set in other jewelry, and buying reclaimed is the eco-friendliest choice. Not only do you avoid more mining, you’re not tapping into the energy involved in lab manufacturing either.
  • We source our white sapphires from a family-run sapphire mine in Sri Lanka that works on a small scale and strives to have a light environmental footprint. If you buy a white sapphire engagement ring, you’re supporting ethical small business owners and in turn their community’s economy. Mining means jobs for the miners and financial stability.

You’ll want to make the decision that feels like a fit for you, and when you visit our Philadelphia or New York City showroom, we’re happy to help you find an engagement ring gemstone that works for your heart and head. To start, here’s more on these three gemstones along with some design inspiration.

 

Moissanite Engagement Rings
L to R: Custom Moissanite Linear Cluster Ring, Custom 2-carat Oval Moissanite Cluster Ring with Diamonds
Moissanite Engagement Rings

Even if chemistry class made you yawn, it’s impossible to not be intrigued by a gemstone growing in a lab. Moissanite is actually a natural mineral, silicon carbide, though it’s rarely found in nature anymore. A chemist, Henri Moissan, is credited with first identifying it “” at the site of a meteor strike in Arizona in 1893. In the 1990s, some scientists (who probably did not fall asleep in front of their Bunsen burners in high school) figured out a way to produce the silicon carbide crystals that Moissan, when he first saw them, thought were diamonds. North Carolina-based Charles & Colvard filed a patent and started growing moissanite in a lab and selling the stones as an accessibly priced alternative to white diamonds. The company is Bario Neal’s source for moissanite today.

If there’s a giant stone in the perfect custom engagement ring design you have in your head, and budget is top of mind, a moissanite could be your go-to at about half the price of white diamonds. (A half carat diamond ring in a four-prong setting at Bario Neal retails for around $3,000. The same jewelry with a moissanite would start around $1,750.)

That accessibility has inspired some truly inventive collaborations with Bario Neal clients over the years, as you can see in this Custom Moissanite Cluster Ring. If you’re ready to swear those are diamonds in that ring, well, you’ve got good company.

“Most people can’t tell a difference between a diamond and a moissanite,” says Genna Fischer, Bario Neal gemstone sourcing coordinator.  

Diamonds and moissanite are so twinning, you can easily mix them in a stack “” or even in the same ring. The double-take proof is in this Custom 2-carat Oval Moissanite Cluster Ring with Diamonds.

At larger sizes, moissanite does tend to throw off rainbow vibes when sparkling, whereas a white diamond has a truer white/silver sparkle. Moissanite is nearly as hard as diamonds (at 9.5 on the Mohs hardness scale vs. a diamond’s 10) so they’re completely durable for a daily wear ring. If you’re passing on diamonds altogether but want smaller stones in your wedding band or encircling your center stone, moissanite comes in tiny melee sizes too.  

Diamonds have been the stars of engagement rings for decades and big marketing bucks go into generating a mystique around them, but we think moissanite has its own story to tell as unique-to-the-lab stones.

Two Bario Neal clients who happened to be scientists agreed. As a nod to their shared profession, they chose moissanite for this Custom Moissanite Linear Cluster Ring. Catalyst Wedding Co. called the engagement ring “seriously one of the coolest ideas we have heard.”

 

L to R: Custom Trillion Cut White Sapphire Bouquet Cluster Ring, Trillion Dyad Ring, Nikko Pear White Sapphire Ring
L to R: Custom Trillion Cut White Sapphire Bouquet Cluster Ring, Trillion Dyad Ring, Nikko Pear White Sapphire Ring
White Sapphire Engagement Rings

Sapphires are most famous in blue, but a white sapphire is another tempting and colorless gemstone for engagement rings, especially if you want a white diamond look without the diamond.

“White sapphires tend to have a bit more of a gray-blue undertone than a diamond, and you can see that,” Genna says. “A white sapphire looks different from a diamond or a moissanite. It’s its own thing. It’s more understated.”

We’re all for everyone being their own thing, so maybe that’s why white sapphires get us every time. There’s nothing not pretty about those undertones either, as you can see in our Custom Trillion Cut White Sapphire Bouquet Cluster Ring. There’s a reason that our Trillion Dyad Ring and its white sapphires stop wedding bloggers in their tracks.

Like moissanite, white sapphires are also more accessibly priced than white diamonds. They bring a less fiery but no less inviting look to an engagement ring, such as our Nikko Pear White Sapphire Ring.

“White sapphires don’t have the across-the-room flare of diamonds, which make them a budget-friendly option for someone who wants a colorless gemstone that’s subtler and less sparkly,” Genna says.  

 

Quince Ring
Quince Ring
Diamond Engagement Rings

By using reclaimed white diamonds, heirloom diamonds, and Canadian-mined white diamonds, Bario Neal maintains high standards about ethics and sourcing and gives our clients plenty of diamond engagement ring choices.

Our Quince Diamond Ring might not look guilt-free, but it is “” right down to the tiny diamonds in the halo. Many jewelers can’t assure that such small stones, called melee, are ethically sourced, but Bario Neal makes sure ours are 100 percent traceable and ethical. (For a complete takedown of diamond myths, check out our helpful guide to diamond facts.)

If you’re looking for a true antique cut in a reclaimed gemstone, look to diamonds. The 1990s-born moissanite and more newly popular white sapphires come primarily in modern-day cuts.

L to R: Avens Asymmetrical Raw Diamond Ring, Kalmia Raw Diamond Ring, Avens Raw Diamond Ring
L to R: Avens Asymmetrical Raw Diamond Ring, Kalmia Raw Diamond Ring, Avens Raw Diamond Ring

Raw Diamond Engagement Rings

Raw diamonds bring a more rugged or natural look to an engagement ring. While you might be well aware of the harm that mining can bring to people and the environment, there’s, unfortunately, room for abuse in the processing of stones too. Unfair labor practices are connected to cutting and polishing diamonds in many places. Bario Neal’s ethical jewelry standards mean that we fully trace our gemstones as they make their way to us, so if you’re buying from us, you can trust that’s not the case for your engagement ring. Still, raw diamonds have their own aesthetic appeal, and their shape and appearance open up different setting designs with a natural glimmer.

 

Raw (or rough) diamonds in an engagement ring make for a quiet contrast between delicate and tough in our Avens Raw Diamond Ring and our Kalmia Raw Diamond Ring. If you prefer cluster to a solo look, look at our Avens Asymmetrical Raw Diamond Ring, which puts a raw diamond with sapphires.

 

We know you’ve got the heart part of this engagement ring business down. We’re here to help you sort through details like gemstones and metals and design “” and ethical sourcing and sustainability. Get started by filling out our custom design questionnaire or by making an appointment to visit us (remember: first-date stories welcome!) in our Philadelphia or New York City showroom today.

Get Ready to Fall in Love with Emeralds

By Sarah on October 13, 2016 at 9:56 am

This season we introduce our Helia Collection, featuring emerald cut, octagonal cut, and pave emeralds, sourced from a mining collective located in the Province of Northern Zambia.

 

The Ray and Sol Emerald Rings, shown in 18kt and 14kt yellow gold.
The new Sol and Ray Emerald Rings

 

At Bario Neal we go above and beyond to create a high standard of ethics focused on traceable diamonds, colored gemstones, reclaimed precious metals, and Fairmined gold. Inspired by the majestic emerald hue, we diligently searched for an emerald source that adheres to our environmental and labor standards.

After many years of research, we proudly release our star of the new Fall Collection, Helia: celebrating both the natural beauty of the emeralds and our partnership with the Zambian collective. The mining collective processes rough gemstones without introducing harmful chemicals to the environment, while rehabbing the mine’s waste areas by planting new trees in fresh soil. Moreover, the mine supports two local farms, and provides both a school and teachers’ quarters to the local mining community. This particular collective’s miners use screens to sort and pick the finest emerald crystals by hand, providing us with the lush hues showcased within the Helia Collection.

Co-founder and designer, Page Neal, describes this collection as being “inspired by architectural drawings and photographs of transoms and window frames.” From there, our enchanting Zambian emeralds led the way. Emerald is the green to greenish blue variety of beryl, a mineral species that also includes aquamarine as well as beryls in other colors. Emerald, most commonly know as the birthstone for May babies, is first known to have been mined in Egypt as far back as 330 B.C.

“Cleopatra was known to have a passion for emerald, and used it in her royal adornments.” – GIA

 

The Ray Studs, in 14kt yellow gold and tiny bead-set emeralds with the Sol necklace and Ray pendant.
The Ray Studs, shown with the Sol and Ray Pendants

 

Our Ray Studs and Pendant are yellow gold bursts, adorned with tiny bead-set pave emeralds. The Ray Ring features a traditional emerald cut stone held tightly by eight soft prongs. This minimal setting showcases the gemstone’s rich depth of color.

Sisters to the Ray pieces, the bright, shiny Sol Pendant, Hoops, and Ring, radiate glimmering flares of sunshine on any day. The Sol Ring features a large, octagonal cut emerald. With this piece, our design team explored unconventional stone setting options, resulting in the emerald being set low, table side-down, and secured by twelve prongs in various sizes. This uncommon setting style highlights our stone’s mesmerizing, magical glow.

One of our team’s challenges this season was seemingly simple: gold hoops. And after many, many rounds of prototyping- we rocked it. Inspired by Caribbean style and mobiles created by the prolific artist, Alexander Calder, we hand fabricated our giant Circ Hoops from solid square wire. They may be big, but they are as light and airy as they look.

The Circ Hoops in 14kt yellow gold.
The Circ Hoops in 14kt yellow gold.

 

Up next, meet the Forma Collection, an eye-catching array of modern treasures, defined by graphic shapes set with precious, ethically-sourced diamonds. All our white pave diamonds (also known as melee diamonds, weighing under .18ct each) are fully traceable and of recycled, Australian, and Canadian origin. We worked extensively to find a reliable black pave diamond supplier that meets our rigorous standards, sourcing through a trusted ethical buyer who travels to three different mines in Brazil, Canada, and Australia. To us, an ethical diamond isn’t just certified as conflict-free. We go deeper; working with a fully traceable supply chain, from mine to market.

 

The Forma Collection: Lau Necklace in 14kt yellow gold & sterling silver with white diamonds, Lau Studs in 14kt yellow gold with white diamonds, Aira Studs in 14kt yellow gold with white diamonds, Linea Pendant & Studs in 14kt yellow gold with black diamonds.
The Forma Collection: Lau Necklace and Studs, Aira Studs, and the Linea Black Diamond Pendant and Studs

 

Our Lau Studs and Necklace might be teeny tiny, but these delicate classics symbolize Bario Neal’s values bigtime. Inspired by the Fairmined gold logo and our longtime support of LGBTQIA rights and worldwide marriage equality, the rainbow shapes are channel set with 1mm white diamonds.

Fairmined is an assurance label that certifies gold from empowered responsible artisanal and small-scale mining organizations. It transforms mining into an active force for good, ensuring social development and environmental protection, providing everyone with a source of gold to be proud of.

Since our classic Aira Ring motif is so beloved, we decided to rethink it and shrink it, creating the mini Aira Studs. These diminutive diamonds are perfect for a second or third piercing. With this pair, our team envisioned affordable and timeless diamond studs, since we believe that everyone should be able to own jewelry of lasting value and ethical origins.

 

 

Aira Studs and Ring
Our Aira Studs and Classic Aira Ring

 

Other Forma Collection rockstars are the Linea Pendant and Studs. Our designers describe this bold pendant as a gestural squiggle, a quick scribble, and a border line- but what can’t be denied is how glam the black diamond/yellow gold combo is. And if the pendant wasn’t striking enough, how about the killer matching asymmetrical Linea Studs? The duo might just give you vixen super powers.

In case you haven’t noticed, we are cluster crazy. If you head over to our Diamond Ring, Gemstone Ring, Personalizations, or Custom pages, you’ll find a captivating array of sparkling, clustered constellations, designed for their lucky owners to wear and admire.

 

The Cluster Collection: Hex Cluster Studs, Ring, and Necklace in 14kt yellow gold. This collection features an array of blue-green and seafoam sapphires, aquamarine, and champagne diamonds.
The Cluster Collection: Hex Cluster Studs, Ring, and Necklace

 

Inspired by our most popular cluster, the Hex Sapphire Cluster Ring, is the Hex Cluster Pendant: a geometric bouquet of ethically sourced sapphires, and one champagne diamond surround a sublime Montana (Go USA!) hexagonal cut sapphire. Enter our new Hex Cluster Studs, featuring color-coordinating gemstone bunches”“ one champagne diamond, and one aquamarine adorn two blue-green sapphire sprinklings”“ the perfect, asymmetrical pairing.

While you’re checking out the new collections, please remember that when you shop with Bario Neal, you support the craft and manufacturing community of Philadelphia, environmentally conscious studio practices, and the responsible mining and sourcing of diamonds, gemstones, and metals. Thanks for helping us design an ethical way forward for the jewelry industry, one handmade piece at a time.

Want to see more? Explore the new collections in our Fall Lookbook.

The New Hexagonal Sapphire Cluster Ring

By Constance on April 14, 2016 at 9:54 am

 

Hexagonal Sapphire Cluster Ring

Introducing the dreamy new Hexagonal Sapphire Cluster Ring.

The concept of spring giving new life is one we fully embraced this year, choosing to debut the first part of our SS16 Lookbook, Spring Ceremony, highlighting an incredible new design”“ The Hexagonal Sapphire Cluster Ring.

The design combines a hexagon cut sapphire with an artfully clustered array of colored gemstones to create a gradient or ombre effect. Each hexagon is surrounded by an asymmetrically-placed champagne diamond, aquamarines, green-blue and seafoam sapphires. With an overall effect evoking a life-forming molecule, the Hex Sapphire Cluster ring is the perfect metaphor for a new beginning.

 

Hexagonal Sapphire Cluster Ring 14KY

The Hex Sapphire Cluster Ring looks great from any angle.

 

All of our gemstones are ethically sourced and of the highest quality, but these sapphires are special. In order for each gem’s inherent natural beauty and variation to shine, every arrangement is unique.

“Our hexagons are from Montana- go America! They are totally untreated from Gem Mountain. Each one is unique because they were cut in a way that saves as much of the original stone as possible.” ““Anna Bario

 

Natural variations in Hexagonal Sapphires from Montana

Natural variations in color and shape will occur in these Hexagonal Sapphires from Montana.

This cluster ring of colored gems in a sea of blue-green hues is a cool addition to both Spring fashion and bridal looks. The Hex ring is perfect for a bride looking for an alternative ring that shows off a strong sense of personal style.

 

Spring Ceremony, Bario Neal SS16 Lookbook. The Avens Round Cut Ring and the Curved Narrow Half-Eternity Band.

More new designs appear in our Spring Ceremony story, inspired by an artist’s touch.

 

Delicate, yet statement-making craftsmanship inspired the theme of pigment-tinted fingertips and vibrant colors. We adore the idea of the wearer as painter or other artist, in the studio, creating their own work, while wearing one of ours. From the artists of our handcrafted jewelry, the creative process extends to the wearer of a Bario Neal creation.

Joining the Sapphire Cluster Ring in this Spring story are two new classic designs, the Avens Round Cut Ring and the Curved Narrow Half-Eternity Band. In creating the story, we also reimagined our recent colored gemstone designs in Opal and Andalusite, and staples like the signature Linear Diamond Ring, into a complete collection to spark imaginations this SS16 and for seasons to come.

Shop Spring Ceremony and the SS16 Collection.