In the jewelry lexicon, certain terms—such as gemstone or band—are more recognizable and well known by the general public. However, other terms such as setting are often not well understood by novice shoppers. In order to determine which setting is best for your engagement ring it first helps to understand exactly what a setting is.
The 7 Types of Ring Settings
There are seven different types of engagement ring settings: prong, tension, bezel, channel, bar, pave, and gypsy. Each one gives your ring a unique aesthetic and has its own set of pros and cons.
The Prong is the most common type of setting. It consists of three to six prongs, or claw-like appendages, that hold the ring’s gemstone in place. There are a few sub-categories of the prong setting. These include: pointed, rounded, flat, and V-shaped. Each of these is best suited for a specific type of gemstone shape. For instance, heart, marquise and pear shaped gemstones are best suited to a V-shaped prong, while flat prongs are best for emerald cut stones. The more prongs used, the more security the setting provides. Yet too many prongs can overshadow a smaller stone. Some benefits of the prong setting include, maximum light exposure, lower cost (less metal means less money), ease of cleaning, and the ability to securely hold even the most fragile stones. Some disadvantages of the prong setting are its tendency to get caught on clothing or in hair, as well as the likelihood of accidentally scratching the wearer if the prongs are high-set.
A tension engagement ring setting creates the appearance that the gemstone is floating in the middle of the band being compressed by the two ends of the metal ring. This setting is stunning to look at, but is limiting in scope as only extremely hard gemstones (diamonds, rubies, and sapphires) can withstand the pressure required to hold the stone in place. The advantage of the tension setting is that the stone is exposed to a tremendous amount of light. However, the disadvantages are that it is difficult to resize the ring at a later date and repair options are limited if the ring is damaged, as only the manufacturer can fix it. Tension settings also provide less protection for the stone.
Bezel settings are created by metal edges that partially or fully surround the perimeter of the gemstone. The advantages of a bezel setting include, protection of the gemstone’s underside, security of the stone (because it’s kept firmly in place), creation of a smooth surface on the ring, and concealment of any preexisting flaws in the stone. Also, depending on the metal selection of the band, bezel settings can make a stone appear larger. However, also depending on the metal selection, the bezel setting can interfere with the natural coloring of the gemstone.
A channel setting occurs when stones are wedged next to each other between two rows of metal, with no metal separating each stone, creating a channel of gemstones in the band of an engagement ring. These stones can be round or square, though it’s important to note that square stones are more expensive. Channel settings secure the stones well while creating a smooth and unobtrusive surface of gemstones on the band. However, a channel setting is not recommended for delicate gemstones such as emeralds or opals. Finally, keep in mind that with a channel setting it’s extremely difficult to resize the ring at a later time.
Bar settings are similar to channel settings, except that they use thin vertical bars of metal to hold the stones in place. The advantages of a bar setting are that the surface of the ring is relatively unobtrusive and the design puts a contemporary spin on a classic style. Unfortunately, some may find the slightly uneven design a bit uncomfortable.
Pronounced “pah-vay”, these settings incorporate three or more rows of small stones, fitted into the ring. The rows of stones are level with the surface of the ring, and the metal of the ring (preferably something that matches the stones) is raised up to form beads which secure the gems in place. A pave setting gives the appearance of bigger and more numerous diamonds. However, the surface of the setting is not very smooth, so it’s not recommended for gems other than diamonds. Pave settings are also not as secure as other alternatives.
The gypsy is a popular setting for men’s rings. With gypsy settings the gemstone is placed flush into the metal of the band so that the gem does not protrude from the setting. The gemstone appears to be nestled into the metal of the band. Some advantages of the gypsy setting include, the security it provides for the gemstone, and the ability to conceal any flaws present in the stone. However, the gypsy setting is time-intensive to create and more expensive as a result. It’s not recommended for fragile gemstones.