The Quest for the Perfect Circle:
NeoMetal Threadless Circular Barbells
NeoMetal has always strived to be at the forefront of innovation. From the day our founders invented threadless jewelry we kept asking ourselves, ‘how else can we use this technology?’ Circular barbells had been on our minds for quite some time, and after years of dedication to design and expert craftsmanship, we officially brought NeoMetal Threadless Circular Barbells to the industry in February 2022.
The journey to launching this product was a long one…25 years to be exact. When NeoMetal filed the design patent for threadless jewelry back in 1997, a circular barbell application was included in the drawings, but the design process turned out to be a bit more difficult than our founders expected.
Original drawings from NeoMetal's 1997 design patent on threadless jewelry.
The Basics of Circular Barbells
Before we get too caught up in the bygone days of NeoMetal’s past, let’s take a step back and talk about circular barbells in general. Circular barbells, sometimes called horseshoe barbells due to their shape, are a popular piece of body jewelry. They are most frequently used in septum, inner ear, and nipple piercings, and come in a wide array of gauges and diameters, making it extremely versatile.
Traditionally there are two different threading options found in circular barbells, external and internal. Externally threaded jewelry has the screw thread cut into the barbell.
This type of threading is not preferred because it creates a rough surface, with possible sharp edges, and can cause trauma when passed through the tissue during insertion and removal of the jewelry. Internally threaded jewelry has the threads on the removable ends, and the barbell is drilled and tapped. The end of the jewelry that passes through your skin is smooth and avoids any possibility of scraping tissue with threads.
For a long time, these were the only two threading options for circular barbells, and as the originators of threadless jewelry we just couldn’t accept that!
As the name implies, threadless jewelry does not have any threaded pieces. Instead, the jewelry is held together by tension. It works in two parts: the pin (whether a ball, gem, geometric shape, or any of our other ends) gets inserted partially into the shaft of a labret post or barbell and then is slightly bent before being fully inserted into the shaft where tension takes over. Threadless jewelry is the preferred style of jewelry for many piercings, especially nostril and ear piercings because of its ease of use, and security. Before we launched our circular barbells, there weren’t any high-quality, reliable options for threadless circular barbells.
Making Circular Barbells Threadless
When designing our circular barbells, our goal was to machine jewelry as close to a ‘perfect’ circle as possible. Now, we know these don’t really exist outside of the realm of mathematics, but on a basic level we were trying to avoid finishing off the barbell with a straight end, making it look more like a horseshoe or magnet. At first, we thought a perfect circle shape would make it nearly impossible for our threadless pins to fit.
When manufacturing internally threaded circular barbells, making a perfect circle is arguably the easiest part of the manufacturing process. The barbells are curved first and then drilled and tapped. With threadless circulars, this doesn’t work. When you create the circular curve first, it is impossible to tap a 3/16” long hole without blasting out the side of the barbell. A threaded end is shallower, so this isn’t a risk.
We knew our barbells needed to be machined straight, and then curved into the correct shape after, so the next design hurdle was creating a curving gig. Curving after drilling a straight shaft means you run the risk of crushing the ends shut, so our gig would need to be delicate enough to not crimp the ends of the barbells closed while also being ergonomically friendly, and fast enough to constantly curve barbells to meet the demands we knew the industry was going to have for these pieces. We struggled for years with that delicate balance, which contributed heavily to the 25-year delay, especially in the smaller internal diameters (IDs).
Using Threadless Circular Barbells
We know with any new product, there will be a learning curve (no pun intended), and we are vulnerable to the fresh perspective of new adoption. Our threadless technology is easiest to use when inserted into a straight shaft. It’s what our customers, and their clients, are the most familiar with. Our circular barbells, especially in 5/16” (7.9mm) and 3/8” (9.5mm) IDs, require a different technique than the classic bend. In most cases, inserting a straight pin into the curved shaft will naturally create enough tension to hold the two pieces together. Sometimes, a slight bend in the direction of the curve is necessary. With the 5/16” and 3/8” IDs, two bends at the 1/3 and ½ way point of the pin work best.
We understand not everyone is going to love threadless circular barbells. Throughout the history of our company, our customers have been our best sounding boards and most important, helping us to learn even more about jewelry and how it is used, making it possible for us to manufacture even better products in the future. At the end of the day, our team is extraordinarily proud of our first threadless circular barbells, and we can’t wait to see more of them adorning septum and daith piercings around the world.
Septum Piercing image courtesy of Krystle Pena, @aurorapiercings
Daith piercing courtesy of Shorty, @shortypiercer