While the legendary “4Cs” get a great deal of mention in engagement ring advice, the truth is that there is a fifth facet that can make or break a beautiful ring: the setting. While the stone is arguably the show-stopping centerpiece of an engagement ring, the right setting can enhance everything from cut to color, make a small stone appear larger, and even safeguard stones against damage or loss. With more spouses-to-be designing their own special engagement rings and enhancing ready-made styles, knowing your way around popular types of engagement ring settings will make your search for the perfect combination even easier.
Engagement Ring Settings: More Than Aesthetics
Though they’re designed to physically hold the shimmering stone of your choice securely in place, settings set the tone for a ring’s style. The setting can be made in a wide variety of precious metals, and much like the cut stone itself, it should reflect the tastes of both the individual wearer and the couple to be wed. Traditional metals used to create engagement rings include gold of varying karat purity - 24k, 20k, 18k, 16k, 14k, and 10k - as well as the silver-toned platinum. For more contemporary looks, there are virtually no limitations other than structural integrity concerns, and metals ranging from rose gold to sterling silver have been incorporated into modern rings.
Some basic questions to ask yourself when shopping for an engagement ring setting include:
What color metal do I want? Yellow gold may be traditional, but the wearer’s wardrobe and jewelry preferences should be carefully considered. After all, they’ll be wearing this ring for awhile, if not permanently alongside their wedding ring. Considering the type of stone is important too, whether they chose a mined diamond or a simulated lab created diamond, it is important to find a setting that compliments it appropriately.
How high do I want the stone to sit? This is an important factor, as some individuals find that a stone perched too high in a setting catches on hair and clothing, or scratches items near the hand.
How wide of a band do I need? The band, or shank, of a ring affects the ring’s durability, the comfort of the fit, and how well it “sits” on the finger.
Will this engagement ring be a standalone piece? If a wedding band will be added later to wear the two as a set, different types of settings for engagement rings will work better than others. The same idea applies if spouses-to-be intend on wearing matching commitment jewelry.
Do I want any engraving, such as initials or a personal message? If an engraved sentiment is important to your proposal and expression of affection, wide bands will be easier to personalize and read on the inside. Most unique engagement rings will require a band that is specific to its style.
How active is the future ring-wearer? If the wearer frequently hits the gym, plays contact sports, or uses their hands for manual labor, a setting designed for durability will work best at keeping stones secured.
The Elegant Eight
The first dazzling appearance of a diamond ring to signify a proposal came at the hands of Archduke Maximilian of Austria. He presented the trinket - widely believed to be the first “engagement ring” - to his betrothed Mary of Burgundy. That ring featured an “M” spelled out in tiny, precious diamonds, but most engagement rings today use one of eight more familiar shapes. These types of engagement ring settings are as beautiful and varied as the love they celebrate:
The Prong Ring Setting: Arguably, the most well-known design in engagement rings, prongs are thin pieces of metal that wrap a cut stone from beneath. This claw-like setting may use simple rounded-end strips of precious metal, or the prongs themselves may be angled at the ends for a more substantial grip. While this design is commonly paired with a rounded stone and brilliant cut, it can hold nearly any shape or size of stone. The more prongs, the more secure the stone is in the setting, though they may also prevent some light from entering the stone. Most jewelers recommend a routine check of prong settings and placements whenever the ring is cleaned, just for safety’s sake.
The Halo Ring Setting: As its namesake implies, a halo setting “rings” a larger stone with a series of smaller stones. The reason for this design is multi-faceted (no pun intended): the overall effect of the collective stones can resemble a single larger stone, they make the center stone seem larger by comparison, and the extra sparkle they add brings a contemporary twist to a classic solitaire base.
The Bezel Ring Setting: This style “frames” a cut stone with a thin layer of metal, effectively securing it along the girdle (side) of the stone’s edge. If other settings for engagement rings resemble a pedestal, the bezel resembles a picture frame that encloses a stone along its edges. The top or “head” of the cut stone and the metal of the bezel work together to form a smooth top surface to the finished ring, though the bezel does rise a bit at the edge. This makes it an excellent choice for active wearers or individuals that want to avoid catching hair, clothing, and other debris in ring prongs or raised settings.
The Channel Ring Setting: If the band of a ring were a ravine filled with diamonds, it would be a channel-set style. This exceptionally sparkling style shows off a series of neatly-aligned, smaller gems for a front-to-back, end-to-end dazzle that catches the light at every angle. A technique commonly seen in high-end, heirloom-quality pieces, the only drawback to this lovely design is that it will likely need to be cleaned more often, as more between-stone spaces mean that it could eventually look dull and become dirty with regular wear.
The Bar Ring Setting: While the name may be a bit self-explanatory, this unusual style is fresh and unexpected. A spin on the channel setting, this design intersperses stones with thin bars of metal, visually “sandwiching” them between strips of the band’s precious metal. The top and bottom of each set stone are left exposed, which makes for a beautiful impression that’s anything but ordinary. This is a good choice for wearers that do not plan to do a great deal of manual labor or engage in athletic hand-related activities that could loosen or dislodge the stones.
The Gypsy Ring Setting: Similar to the bezel setting, a gypsy ring setting focuses on a flush top edge to the engagement ring as a whole, making it one of the most secure options for wearers concerned about losing or damaging their gems. This setting, however, eliminates the slight “bump” formed by the bezel framing, and instead sinks the stone into the metal until it’s completely flush. This look has a vintage feel to it, and can also be used alongside another setting type - e.g. bezel setting for a large center stone with gypsy settings for smaller accent stones.
The Tension Ring Setting: Like a pair of jeweler’s tweezers, the tension ring appears to “grasp” a cut stone on either edge, giving it the impression of floating in the setting. The strength of an individual stone is important in the tension setting, as softer stones could chip or break: Nexus Diamond alternative stones are both beautiful and strong enough to sparkle in this chic modern option. When selecting a tension-style setting, it’s crucial to have a professional ring size measurement done beforehand: for obvious reasons, it’s a bit difficult to resize.
The Pavé Ring Setting: Equally popular for fine jewelry as a whole and engagement ring settings in particular, the pavé style is a close cousin to the channel-set design. The main difference between pavé - pronounced pah-veigh - and channel-set stones is the space between stones. Channel-set gems have a clear distinction, where pavé gems are set directly against each other, giving a seamless impression. This creates a “trompe l’oeil” (meaning trick of the eye in French) effect that appears as one or more large stones with many facets.
Which Engagement Ring Setting Is Best?
Learning how to shop for an engagement ring is like finding the perfect partner: it takes time, a bit of patience, and a willingness to fall in love. The right setting for your proposal will depend largely on the size, shape, and style of your stone(s), and whether you’re looking for a solitaire style, vintage style, or a multi-gem design. A prong design, for example, is ideal for a single stone with a high vertical “height,” but a gypsy setting would be more appropriate for the same solitaire on a wearer worried about “snagging” their ring on clothing or hosiery.
For surprise proposals, finding the ideal engagement ring style can be challenging, but hints can be found in your partner’s current accessories. Pay close attention to their favorite or everyday pieces of jewelry: if there are cut stones used in these, how are they held in place? If a favorite bracelet or pendant has made it through their daily life unscathed, it’s a good indication a similar ring setting will be warmly received.
Your engagement ring, like your proposal, should feel beautiful, comfortable, dazzling, and yet still comfortably familiar. Picking a beautiful setting is the perfect way to set your love story “in stone!”
1 “8 Engagement Ring Settings to Know About (Plus How to Choose the Right Setting for You).” The Knot, (no publish date), https://www.theknot.com/content/engagement-ring-settings-101. Accessed October 24, 2019.
2 “Anatomy of an Engagement Ring.” Malak Jewelers, (no publish date), https://malakjewelers.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/anatomy-of-an-engagement-ring/. Accessed October 25, 2019.
3 Reid, Kate. “What Is Gypsy Setting?” Larsen, October 25, 2018, https://www.larsenjewellery.com.au/blog/what-is-gypsy-setting. Accessed October 25, 2019.
3 “16 Engagement Ring Styles & Settings You Need to Know About NOW.” The Diamond Pro, September 20, 2019, https://www.diamonds.pro/education/ring-settings-styles/. Accessed October 25, 2019.
*Diamond Nexus strives to provide valuable information, while being clear and honest about our products. The Nexus Diamond™ alternative is a patented lab grown stone that, among all simulants, most closely imitates the look, weight and wear of a mined diamond, with two exceptions - it is absolutely perfect in every way, and it costs significantly less. Price points and environmental facts expressed in this blog were taken from popular online retailers and may vary. Learn more about the environmental impact of mining by visiting our blog.