Pavé vs. Channel Settings

Engagement rings play an important role, serving as a symbol of a couple's commitment. Purchasing or designing the ideal engagement ring can be a daunting task because there are so many decisions to be made, such as metal, center stone, and accent stones. Often overlooked is setting style, or the way that the stones in your ring are set. There are almost endless setting styles–prong, bezel, flush, tension, bar, etc.–but for now, let’s focus on two of the most popular setting styles, channel and pavé. These are both very common in modern engagement rings and have their pros and cons. Once you know a bit more about each one, you can determine which you’d like for your engagement ring.

Before we can compare and contrast the two setting styles, it’s important to understand them individually.

Channel Engagement Ring Settings

First, let’s take a look at channel setting. A channel setting is a popular way to secure diamonds that creates a smooth and sleek appearance. It is characterized by stones that are held in place by a metal channel on either side. It is typically created by carving a groove into the metal band of the ring, and then the diamonds are set into this groove. While the majority of setting styles use prongs to secure the stones, channel setting is not one of them. Instead, the diamonds are held in the channel, which allows for the diamonds to be viewed uninterrupted. The metal is flush with the surface of the diamonds, which makes for a smooth surface and a contemporary look. The metal also protects the edges of the diamonds and minimizes the opportunity for the ring to snag on clothing or get damaged. Many different diamond shapes can be set in a channel–round, princess, baguette, etc.

Channel setting diamonds completed by an experienced jeweler. They will first create the groove along the surface of the metal depending upon the size and shape of the diamonds to be set. They will then arrange the stones next to each other, but not touching, to fit snugly within the groove. Once the diamonds are all in place, the metal on either side is essentially folded over the edges of the diamonds to hold them in place. After the diamonds are all tight in their setting, the metal is polished.

While we have covered the specifics of channel setting and the positive aspects of it, it’s also important to note that there are some downsides. Due to the way the stones are set, cleaning can be challenging and dirt may accumulate in the channels, which can reduce the sparkle. Resizing can be complicated and may cause stones to become loose, which would require more time to repair, thus increasing the cost. Given that the typical channel setting has a closed back (sometimes small drill holes are made for cleaning and light), the diamonds are exposed to less light, which can cause the stones to sparkle less. Despite these few concerns, channel setting is still a very sought-after style for the classic look. Before deciding for or against channel setting, it’s important to weigh all factors involved. With proper maintenance, channel set diamonds can certainly last the test of time.

Pavé Engagement Ring Settings

Pavé is another popular setting style for engagement rings. It is characterized by the setting of several smaller diamonds close together, thereby maximizing sparkle. The name of this setting comes from the French word "pavé," which means paved or cobblestoned–with good reason considering the setting style mimics the look of cobblestone in the way the diamonds are set close together. In pavé setting, very little metal is visible between the stones, almost entirely covering the surface of the metal and providing as much sparkle as possible. The stones are held in place with small prongs (beads of metal) that can be individual for each stone, or shared between several stones.

Pavé setting is also typically done by an experienced jeweler. The jeweler will start by creating small drill holes within the metal according to where each diamond is to be set. The diamonds are then placed individually into each drill hole at the same height to make sure that the surface of the jewelry is even. Next, small prongs are created using the metal surrounding each stone, and the prongs are folded over the edges of the diamond to secure them into place. Once the stones are tight, the jeweler will polish the metal and complete the piece of jewelry.

As with channel setting, it's important to note the downsides to pavé setting, so you can properly evaluate your setting style choice. Since the diamonds are set so closely together with this setting, they can accumulate dirt over time (this can be addressed with proper cleaning by a jeweler). Given the nature of the prongs and how small they are, they can be damaged and the metal can wear down over time, which could expose the diamonds to damage or loss. If you have a very active lifestyle, pavé setting may not be a good choice, since your ring can be damaged more easily. While these are necessary to consider, pavé set diamonds are a beautiful choice, as long as you properly care for your jewelry.

Pavé vs. Channel Setting Similarities

  1. Security: They both securely hold stones using metal, just in different ways. Whereas channel creates a groove to set the diamonds so they are held on either side, pavé utilizes small prongs. Both are equally proficient at keeping stones safe and in place.
  2. Versatility: Both channel and pavé setting styles can be utilized on any metal type–silver, gold, platinum, palladium, etc. They can also be used for any stone type–diamonds or colored gemstones. Because of this versatility, either setting style can be used to customize a design according to the customer’s desires.
  3. Sparkle: In both setting styles, the diamonds are meant to be the main focus and the setting styles allow for maximum light to reach the stones in order for them to sparkle. This sparkle of course enhances the brilliance of the ring.

Pavé vs. Channel Setting Differences

  1. Stone layout: Probably the most obvious difference between channel and pavé is the stone layout. With channel setting, the stones are typically in a straight line, equidistant from each other and with no metal between them. With pavé setting, the stones are sometimes random, and other times placed in a specific pattern, but all clustered together, with no space separating them.
  2. Metal usage: Another difference between the two setting styles is the metal usage. In channel setting, more metal is used since the row of stones is flanked by metal, sometimes narrow and sometimes wide. The metal within the groove is also visible between each stone, as the stones do not touch. In a pavé setting the metal is less visible in between, since the stones are set with very small prongs and directly next to each other.
  3. Upkeep: Regardless of the type of jewelry you have or the setting style, there is a general amount of upkeep that should be practiced. Each piece of jewelry should be checked by an experienced jeweler at least once every six months for loose stones or other concerns. This will assist with stone security and could assist with avoiding a loss. That being said, channel settings may require less maintenance, as there are no prongs to check or re-tip if they should break. On the other hand pavé settings are more susceptible to worn down or broken prongs, loose or missing stones, etc.

Both pavé and channel settings have their own charm, pros, and cons. Whether you choose one of the two, or one of the many other setting style options depends upon what you like, and your lifestyle. Either choice will be just a small part of what will be a beautiful representation of your relationship that you can wear for a lifetime.