A Guide to Engagement Ring Settings

When selecting an engagement ring, you have a dizzying array of questions to consider. What size and shape is best? What carat is “enough”? What cut quality should I aim for, and how does this impact my budget? Which of the Four C’s is most important for my money? What type of band would my significant other love, and should I opt for a traditional design or look into today’s most prominent engagement ring trends?

A Guide to Engagement Ring Settings | K. Rosengart

There’s certainly a lot to think about when buying an engagment ring! But here’s one aspect that can tie all of these elements together: settings. The right setting brings your expression of undying love to life - and helps you make the most of your budget by maximizing the beauty of the stone you’ve chosen.

The setting is a major aesthetic and practical component of the engagement ring; make sure you are armed with the information you need to make the best decision.

 

Why Your Engagement Ring Setting Matters

They say diamonds are forever; your setting should be able to stand the test of time as well. A setting is integral in:

  • The security of the ring. Diamonds are forever - and your setting ensures the stone stays put. Different styles, as we’ll see in a moment, offer varying types and degrees of security. The right choice often depends on preference, of course, as well as what type of work one does or hobbies one enjoys.
    • Its overall aesthetic. While the majority of a ring’s value is measured by its stone, the setting contributes significantly to the ring’s appearance. It can determine how much of the diamond is visible, whether it has a high or low profile, and how much metalwork is visible.
  • Cleaning and maintenance. To keep a diamond looking its best, it is important to get it professionally cleaned. Some settings make this easier than others - an important consideration particularly when an engagement ring will be worn daily.
  • Pairing with the wedding band. Think ahead to the wedding band; how will it fit with the engagement ring? Will they be stacked? Should you purchase a set? Will the wedding band be worn on the left hand while the engagement ring is worn on the right or only on special occasions? Again, we know there are a lot of questions to ask! Finding the answers is critical in helping you find your perfect ring.

That’s the “why” behind settings; now let’s dive into the “what” and look at some enduring styles that can offer you the aesthetic and practical features you want in a ring.

Getting to Know Your Settings

Prong

What Is It:

If you are shopping for an engagement ring, chances are you’ve glanced down at the fingers of engaged people to look for inspiration. You’ll undoubtedly see a great many prong settings. Tremendously popular, these feature metal prongs, similar to pins, that hold the diamond or other precious stone in place.

Typically there are four or six prongs, though you may see some eight pronged-pieces from time to time. Because the prongs keep the stone in place, four is slightly less secure than six. But consider the aesthetic as well; four prongs show more of the diamond.

Designers utilize pointed, round, flat, and V-shaped prongs, and the choice is informed by the type of diamond the engagement ring will hold. For example, an emerald cut stone is best protected by flat prongs, while a marquise will be safer with V-shaped prongs.

Why It’s a Good Choice:

Prong settings allow the diamond to truly shine; the stone is raised and there is minimal metal to distract from its beauty. This also allows maximum exposure to light, which optimizes the diamond’s sparkle and brilliance. These styles are also easy to clean so they continue to dazzle.

But Consider:

With the prong setting, most of the diamond’s girdle (the perimeter of the stone that separates the crown from the pavilion) is exposed. This can leave the stone more vulnerable to damage. And because of the raised profile, rings can get snagged in clothing, hair, and make wearing gloves a challenge.

 

Bezel

What Is It:

Here, the stone’s perimeter is surrounded entirely (full bezel) or partially (partial bezel, which holds two sides while leaving openings on the remaining two) by a strip of metal. The top of the stone is typically flush with the setting.

Why It’s a Good Choice:

The bezel setting (particularly full) offers incredible security against stone loss and damage, such as chips or nicks. These styles can also disguise imperfections on the diamond’s girdle. You can further enhance a stone with your choice of metal: a white metal, for example, can make a white diamond look bigger. Choosing this setting can be a great way to maximize your budget and purchase a stunning, contemporary ring.

But Consider:

With a bezel setting, you’ll “lose” some of the diamond as it is hidden by the metal. (Though, if you’re trying to compensate for flaws, this “con” becomes a “pro”). There is a tradeoff here: in some cases, the increased level of metalwork is reflected in the price.

 

Cathedral

What Is It:

If you want to make a dramatic statement, the cathedral setting speaks volumes. In this style, the center stone, held by metal prongs or a bezel, is raised above the ring’s shank (the metal band). It is often adorned with smaller diamodns or precious gems. The result is an elegant, architectural look that highlights the beauty of the diamond.

Why It’s a Good Choice:

Besides its classic appearance, the cathedral setting shines a spotlight on the center stone. It can help you make a smaller diamond look larger. As well, because you can add detailing with melee diamonds or accent stones, you can add brilliance and sparkle to maximize the ring’s effect.

But Consider:

As with prong settings, the height of the center stone leaves it vulnerable to damage with regular wear. It is also much easier to get the ring caught on clothes, hair, and other “obstacles” of life!

 

Halo

What Is It:

Halo engagement rings feature a center stone encircled by smaller or melee diamonds. A single halo has one circle, while a double halo has two concentric circles of stones.

Why It’s a Good Choice:

If your goal is maximum shine and sparkle, halo is a great option. You can make a smaller center diamond appear larger and more brilliant. Melee diamonds are also less expensive than purchasing additional carat-weight diamonds, so you can make the most of your budget.

But Consider

The melee in halo styles are held in place by metal prongs (not visible in the final piece). Because of this, the number of stones, and the intricacy of the pattern, these rings are a bit harder to clean.

Note: If you like the look of halo settings, also consider pavé and micro-pavé. These also use melee to enhance the look of the center stone and to exponentially increase the “dazzle factor.”

 

Channel

What Is It:

This setting features a band with diamonds or other stones set securely into a channel or groove. Some have a center stone which is mounted on a bezel or prongs, and some have no center stone.

Why It’s a Good Idea:

If you are worried about losing or damaging stones, channel settings offer great protection. This can be a wonderful option if your significant other works with her/his hands (they work beautifully for men, women, and non binary folks), and the ring will not snag or catch, as happens with prong styles.

But Consider:

If you want to purchase a channel ring, you may have to sacrifice the element of surprise when it comes to your proposal. These engagement pieces are difficult to resize; you risk damaging or distorting the shape of the channel. It’s best if you have your significant other try it on to get the right fit.

Another “con:” the channels can make it difficult to clean around and behind the smaller stones.

 

Gypsy

What Is It:

One of the engagement ring trends we love is that there are more unisex or non-gender specific designs available. Gypsy is one of them: here, the stone is set into a hole in the band so it sets flush to the metal. Jewelers secure it by carefully hammering the metal into place.

Why It’s a Good Idea:

The ring is smooth, so its wearer will not snag it on anything. The stone is not only securely held, it is protected from everyday wear and tear, dings and damage. Another big plus: the design helps hide chips or nicks on the girdle of the stone. Whereas a prong setting would highlight flaws, gypsy conceals them. This means you have more options when it comes to the diamond itself, which can defray costs.

But Consider:

Gypsy settings take longer to render, so they may be priced at a higher point than a prong setting. Also, when you want this style, make sure to use a “hard” stone, like diamond. Emeralds and tourmalines, for instance, are undoubtedly gorgeous, but they’re too fragile for this method.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each setting. The goal is to find an engagement ring that will work both with its wearer’s sense of style as well as the practical demands of their life. If you need help, reach out to your jeweler. They have seen thousands of beautiful rings and can help you find the one - or create a custom engagement ring - that meets all your requirements.

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