A comprehensive guide to ring settings will encompass both a discussion of styles and categories of ring designs, as well as specific information about the broad range of design elements and setting techniques that make up those styles. Different elements cross over between categories of styles. For instance, in a halo style, the center stone can be prong set or bezel set. By becoming familiar with both the components and the style categories you will be able to choose the best engagement ring for your taste and lifestyle.
This article consists of two parts. First we will discuss the general categories of engagement ring styles including solitaire, three stone, halo, and will also touch on designer brands. In the second part of the article we will go into detail about individual design elements and techniques such as prong, channel, tension, bezel and pave setting.
Engagement Ring Styles - Part 1
For over one hundred years the solitaire engagement ring has been the standard for generations of couples, and an iconic symbol of elegant simplicity. The traditional diamond solitaire is still the most popular choice for engagements, although newer and more ornate styles are more popular than ever. There are many kinds of solitaire ring settings, most of them sleek and relatively uncomplicated.
Legato Sleek Line Solitaire Engagement Ring
Vatche U-113 6-Prong Solitaire Engagement Ring
Danhov CL140 Classico Solitaire Engagement Ring
A bridal style that first appeared during the 1920’s, experienced a resurgence of popularity during the 1960’s, and is once again enjoying enormous popularity, is the halo engagement ring. Surrounding and tightly framing a center diamond with a row of small accent diamonds, halo rings create a dramatic statement that can give the diamond an even bigger look and impression. In this way they tend to enhance and accentuate the center stone.
Ritani 1RZ1322 French-Set Halo Engagement Ring
Guinevere Halo Solitaire Engagement Ring
Selene Halo Solitaire Engagement Ring
Diamond and Pavé Rings
Rapidly gaining in popularity is a new generation of engagement ring styles embellished with smaller diamonds. These diamond settings can be modern in design or made in a vintage motif that honors traditions dating back generations. Antique engagement rings are among the most popular styles today.
Simon G. TR431 Caviar Diamond Engagement Ring
Verragio Classic 901R7 Diamond Engagement Ring
Legato Sleek Line Pave Diamond Engagement Ring
Three Stone Rings
The three stone diamond ring is not only highly symbolic, but it is aesthetically pleasing and adaptable to many different variations. Representing “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” it is a sentimental choice for both engagements and upgrades to commemorate key anniversaries. There are a multitude of options for shoppers looking for three stone engagement rings.
Vatche 310 Round and Pear Three Stone Engagement Ring
Trellis 3 Stone Engagement Ring
Tacori 56-2RD Sculpted Crescent 3 Stone Engagement Ring
Brand name designer bridal jewelry is experiencing a dramatic surge in popularity. While this is not a specific style category, many shoppers are particularly attracted to the distinctive look and feel of a particular designer. Brands such as Tacori, Verragio, Simon G, Ritani, and Danhov have gained a devoted following for their quality and artistry.
Tacori HT2548CU Petite Crescent Diamond Engagement Ring
Simon G. MR1394 Fabled Diamond Engagement Ring
Verragio AFN-5013R-4 Beaded 3 Stone Engagement Ring
Diamond Setting Types and Techniques - Part 2
The Prong Setting
The iconic engagement ring is the tiffany, featuring a classic thin band supporting a simple six prong setting for a solitaire diamond. It was developed by Tiffany and Co. in the 19th century and is still the single most popular engagement ring style to this day.
Classic 6 Prong Solitaire Engagement Ring
Danhov CL117 Classico Solitaire Engagement Ring
Elegant Solitaire Engagement Ring
Long considered the gold standard in engagement ring settings, the prong setting remains the single most popular setting style. The prong setting uses thin metal posts or prongs extending from the base of the ring to secure the gemstone in place. This setting style anchors the center diamond while raising it above the rest of the ring, creating an elevated profile that presents the stone prominently.
Vatche 1535 Melody Diamond Engagement Ring
Rounded Open Cathedral Diamond Engagement Ring
Engraved Cathedral Solitaire Engagement Ring
This dramatic and elegant cathedral setting takes the vaulted cathedral as its inspiration, with arches from the band rising up to meet the center stone, providing a fluid visual transition from the band to the diamond.
The number one advantage of the prong setting is the exposure of the diamond which can reveal both top and side perspectives. Few diamond settings expose as much of the stone to the light while still holding it securely in place. The classic variation of the prong setting, the tiffany-style setting, was developed to allow as much light as possible to enter the diamond, making the center stone the entire focal point of the ring. This is why the prong setting has remained the most popular diamond setting for solitaires, where the simplicity of the ring demands that the center stone be given full prominence.
X-Prong Trellis Solitaire Engagement Ring
W-Prong Solitaire Engagement Ring
Vatche 319 X-Prong Three Stone Engagement Ring
The X-prong or trellis style is a type of prong setting that crosses one support over the other, forming a simple an intertwined design that adds visual interest while maintaining simplicity. Similar to the trellis, the W-prong style features an interesting cut-out shape and an unexpected side profile.
Most prong styles are referred to by the number of prongs used, a small difference that can drastically alter the look of the ring. The classic Tiffany style has six prongs creating a very circular look. Four-prong styles are very common, and are particularly popular on smaller stones that might tend to get overwhelmed with more prongs. Three-prong styles are not commonly seen on engagement rings, but are very popular for stud earrings. Styles with even more prongs are sometimes seen.
Verragio D-120 Solitaire Engagement Ring
Tacori 57-2RD Sculpted Crescent Diamond Engagement Ring
Ritani 1RZ1698 Halo Diamond Engagement Ring
The split prong is an increasingly popular choice. It appears to double the number of prongs from 4 to 8 or even from 6 to 12.
With prongs there is a tendency to think more is better from a security standpoint. But a four prong mounting is capable of securing the stone even if one prong is pulled away or broken off entirely. Depending on your sense of style and aesthetics, and your concerns about security of the center stone, there will be a prong style that is right for you.
Legato Shared-Prong Diamond Engagement Ring
Ritani 1RZ2716 Five-Stone Diamond Engagement Ring
Petite Diamond Engagement Ring
For those looking to minimize the hardware and maximize the view of accent diamonds, the shared prong style is a popular choice. Basically each prong in the setting secures two diamonds set back to back.
The two reasons people might not opt for the prong setting are wear ability and durability. For those with an active lifestyle, the prong setting, especially one with a high profile, can sometimes snag on clothing or make accidental contact with other objects during activity with your hands.
And from the standpoint of protecting the diamond, a prong setting is not as damage resistant as the bezel setting. Someone with a extremely active lifestyle might be better off with a bezel or partial bezel setting. However, as long as the ring is worn under normal conditions and the prongs are inspected regularly, prong-set diamonds can be worn for years without any problems. If you choose a prong setting, make sure to check frequently to make sure all the prongs are undamaged and are making secure contact with the stone.
Individual Prong Styles
There are also different styles of the prongs themselves. Typically they are rounded, but they can be squared off or even claw-like with a very pointed look. Often you will have the option to have prongs on the center diamond tailored to your preference.
Simon G. LP1935-D Delicate Diamond Engagement Ring
Tacori 2584RD Flat-Edge Solitaire Engagement Ring
Vatche 191 Swan Solitaire Engagement Ring
The Bezel Setting
Long appreciated in Europe, the bezel setting has played an important role throughout jewelry history. Although not as popular as the prong setting, the bezel setting is gaining fans and is being used in new and more creative ways today. The bezel setting encircles the center stone in a metal rim, or bezel, with a lip that extends slightly above the girdle. It can be full, in which the metal completely encircles the stone, or partial, in which the bezel cuts away and reveals part of the stone's side profile. It is one of the most secure settings for a diamond, and offers the most protection, which make it perfect for someone very active with their hands. The partial bezel setting combines the security of the bezel setting and the side profile view of a more open style.
Cameron Bezel Solitaire Engagement Ring
Simon G. MR2549 Fabled Bezel Solitaire Engagement Ring
Heavy Half-Bezel Solitaire Engagement Ring
The main practical advantage of the bezel setting is security. A bezel setting is custom-made for the stone that it will hold, so it is always exactly the right size. The outer girdle (the widest portion of the stone) is placed in a small notch inside the bezel setting, and then the top lip of metal is burnished down over the stone. The stone is held in place by the pressure exerted by this lip, and the result is a low profile sleek look that is very wearable. The bezel enables the stone to sit low on the finger with nothing to snag or catch on, making it an excellent choice for someone very active.
Because the girdle is the most vulnerable part of a diamond in daily wear, a full bezel provides maximum protection. For a similar reason it is also a good choice for heirloom diamonds that may already have some chips at the girdle. A bezel can hide these signs of wear and tear and prevent further damage.
A variation of the bezel setting is the flush setting, in which a seat is cut directly into the metal. The stone is placed directly into the opening and a small amount of metal is engraved over the girdle. The table of the diamond sits at or just slightly above the surface of the metal. This technique is generally used on smaller diamonds accenting the band.
Champagne Petite 3 Stone Engagement Ring
Champagne Petite Pave Diamond Wedding Set
Petite Champagne Pave Diamond Engagement Ring
The main disadvantage of the bezel setting is that it blocks a small amount of light from entering the diamond, especially from the side. However, most of the light returning to the eye of a well-cut diamond enters through the crown. Ideal cut diamonds look fine in well crafted bezel settings. Cleaning is another possible issue to be aware of. Dirt and film can become trapped under the bezel, and the pavilion can often be difficult to access in bezel settings. It will be important to practice good home cleaning techniques and to have your bezel set diamond professionally cleaned once in a while in order to keep it looking its best.
The channel setting is a technique that involves setting diamonds into a channel or groove in the metal. The stones are set side by side in a straight line and the tables of the diamonds are essentially flush with the metal at the top of the channel. Channel setting creates a clean modern look with no prongs to break or catch on things. Round brilliant diamonds are used commonly, but princess cuts are perhaps even better suited to channel setting creating a continuous line of diamond as their straight edges meet one another without any space showing.
Princess Channel-Set Diamond Engagement Ring
Vatche 1020 6-Prong Channel Diamond Engagement Ring
Cathedral Channel-Set Diamond Engagement Ring
A common variation on this theme is the “bead set” channel. While not a channel setting technically, the diamonds are set down in a line between rails and are secured by tiny prongs made with beads of metal. The diamonds appear to be set within a channel and like true channel set diamonds, their tables are essentially flush with the top of the channel.
Ritani 1RZ2493 Micropavé Diamond Engagement Ring
Scarlet Diamond Engagement Ring
Bead-Set Diamond Engagement Ring
Among diamond settings, the tension setting one of the most unusual and bold styles to hit the market in years. For someone looking for something unique and modern, the tension setting, and similar tension-style setting, is an interesting option. In this style the diamond appears to be suspended in air, not held by any prongs or bezel. In a true tension design the inward pressure of two opposing sides of the setting is what holds the diamond in place.
Vatche 1544 Mia Pave Diamond Engagement Ring
Lilly Solitaire Engagement Ring
Katie Pave Diamond Engagement Ring
In a true tension setting the sides of the ring are usually bold and heavy in order to give the setting the strength to maintain pressure on the stone and resist pulling apart which would reduce the tension and loosen the diamond. Small shallow arching grooves are cut in both sides of the metal for the girdle of the diamond to sit in securely, and creating the appearance that it is floating in air.
The practical disadvantage of the tension setting is in a real sense its stylistic advantage. That is, there are no prongs or bezel securing the diamond. Therefore, if tension is reduced through accident or wear over time, the diamond can come loose and even fall out. True tension settings should be closely inspected on a regular basis and any looseness should prompt an immediate trip to the jeweler. Personal jewelry insurance is also highly recommended for this style.
A variation that gives a very similar look is the’ tension-style’ setting. In this technique there are supports tying the two sides of the ring together to prevent accidental separation. Normally the supports are underneath and not very noticeable allowing the style to evoke the same sense of the diamond suspended in air. This is generally a more practical way to achieve the unique and modern look of tension while maintaining adequate security.
Melée Settings - Diamond Pavé
The word melée (pronounced “melly” or “meh-lay”) comes from the French word for a mixture, and refers to small diamonds used to embellish an engagement ring or other piece of jewelry. Diamond melee is used in pavé setting. Pavé is also a French word meaning ‘paved’, as in a cobblestone street paved with bricks. The stones are set very close to each another with minimal gaps in between, creating a surface of solid sparkle.
Danhov LE116 Per Lei Diamond Engagement Ring
Simon G. MR2459 Passion Halo Diamond Engagement Ring
Verragio DL-106R Braided Halo Diamond Engagement Ring
The building block of the most intricate diamond settings is the pavé setting, in which many small gemstones are set closely together and tightly packed. Each one is held in place with nearly invisible metal beads, so this setting style can also be generally referred to as “bead setting”. The term ‘bead setting’ is usually used in association with slightly separated melee or when the stones are set in single lines. If the diamonds are extremely small, the setters work under a microscope to create the tiny prongs and set the diamonds. This level of workmanship is often referred to as a micro-pavé.
Armed with these terms and images, you will be surprised at your newfound ability to identify and understand different engagement ring designs and design elements. The diamond settings described above account for nearly all engagement ring settings - although they can be combined endlessly into new and innovative styles. Simply by understanding your favorite setting types, you are well on your way to finding that perfect engagement ring.