Engagement rings settings are available in a wide range of styles and precious metals. The styles range from the elegant solitaire to the elaborate antique settings to the exquisite pave settings. It is always best to choose the shape and size of the diamond before choosing the ring setting because the diamond is the expensive component of the ring and most ring settings only will accommodate specific shapes.
An engagement ring setting has two major components:
- The shank is the band of metal that encircles the finger in ring settings.
- The head, or in the case of three stone rings – heads, which hold the gemstone(s) in place in ring settings.
The shank can contain hollows, grooves, filigree design, or channels in which other smaller gemstone accents can be set. There is almost an unlimited variety that can be put together to create special effects for engagement ring settings.
The head holding the main gemstones can be prong set, bezel set, channel set, invisible set or prong set. Small diamonds set in the ring setting can be pave set, bead set, flush set, or cluster set.
Prong set is the most common method for holding a solitaire diamond in a ring setting. A prong setting puts the emphasis on the diamond rather than the metal holding it. Prongs are the little metal claws that bend over the edge of the stone to hold it securely in place.
One reason they are so popular is that they are relatively easy to adjust to the exact size of an individual stone, even if it is slightly larger or smaller than usual. Depending on the shape of the diamond, there might be three, four, five, six or even as many as twelve prongs.
The prongs can come from a common point on the shank as in the classic solitaire style head, or they can come from a basket. With the basket style, the prongs can be slightly smaller in size because they are supported by a basket framework as opposed to the solitaire style where the individual prongs are only supported at their common base. A basket style also allows the diamond to be set lower since the prongs can come up straight to the diamonds girdle whereas the solitaire style must have the diamond higher to allow enough spread in the head to accommodate the size of the diamond.
Bezel set is a collar of precious metal that wraps around part of the diamond. This is an ancient setting technique that also looks very streamlined and modern. The bezel set is more labor intensive than the prong setting since it must be fashioned to exactly fit the size and shape of the diamond.
The outside dimension of the bezel must conform to the outside dimension of the diamond and be slightly wider. A seat is cut into the bezel and the diamond is set into the seat. The top of the bezel is then carefully hammered over the diamond so that about 10% of the diamond is covered.
The traditional bezel, also known as a solid bezel or full bezel, has the collar go completely around the diamond. A variation of the bezel is known as the half bezel where the bezel is split into two sections, each arcing around just a part of the diamond. The bezel or half bezel can be excellent choices for diamonds that inclusions visible from the side. Since bezel covers the diamond from the sides, it can conceal inclusions that would otherwise detract from the appearance of the diamond.
Channel set is particular popular in eternity bands and tennis bracelets since channel setting protects the diamonds extremely well. None of the edges are exposed, so they are not subject to hard knocks or general wear and tear.
A variation of the channel set is called the bar channel or bar set. Here metal bars rise to the top level of the diamonds and are visible between the stones. These bars have a channel that the girdle fits in and the bottom of the diamond fits in a snug base for each stone.
Invisible setting is the most elaborate type of setting. With invisible set diamonds, the stones seem to float in a grid or covering a surface with no metal showing at all. Generally square or princess cut stones are used to provide a continuous titled surface where each stone is carefully trimmed to fit perfectly next to its neighbors. Then tiny grooves are cut in the back of the stone, on its pavilion.
The stones are held together using a variety of techniques including: a network of wires, pins, bars or plates trilled to fit the stones. Not all invisibly set jewelry is built to last, so be cautious about bargain pieces. An invisible set ring setting is very difficult to repair if a stone pops out or breaks.
Since invisible set stones are usually in group of stones, they are almost never used for a center diamond. Since the diamond is actually cut with a groove or drilled with a hole for invisible set fastening, this damaging of an expensive center diamond is not recommended. There are many other setting techniques that do not damage the diamond and should be used for expensive stones.
Tension set diamonds have the stunning visual effect of the diamond floating in the ring with no support from below. The diamond is basically pressed by the girdle on each side by the ends of the ring. Each metal end has a small groove called the ‘seat’ into which a small section of the girdle fits.
Tension set rings are manufactured with special alloys by a sophisticated technique which enables the metal to retain its memory. Depending on the style, tension products have anywhere from 65 to 95 pounds pressure on center stone. The precious metals are especially hardened and this is accomplished by pressure or by thermal treatment. This special treatment to the precious metal results in the precious metal having a certain springiness which will grip the diamond without the necessity of a bezel or claws.
Significant surfaces of the ring setting can be covered or paved in diamonds. The pave set style attempts to cover the surface with tiny diamonds, creating what appears to be a coating of sparkling diamonds.
Tiny diamonds are placed in small holes that have been drilled out of the ring shank. Pave set diamonds are usually very uniform in size, evenly spaced and set in uniform rows. The more precisely cut the diamonds, the better the ring setting will look when it is finished.
Brilliant cut round diamonds are generally used for pave rings settings since they provide the most sparkle. After it is positioned in its hole, tiny bits of metal from the surface of the shank are pushed over the edge of each diamond, forming tiny beads to hold the diamond in place.
The cost of pave set ring settings is determined more by the bench time in setting all those diamonds rather than the actual cost of the diamonds and precious metal. As the pave technique has been improved over time, many top end designers have gone to micro-pave which is pave setting using very tiny diamonds under a microscope. The skill of the setter is the key to the quality and final appearance of pave ring settings. Extremely talented setters and a great amount of time produce works of art in the pave rings settings.
Bead set is similar to pave set, except that the diamonds tend to be a little large and spaced a little farther apart. The beads holding each diamond are a little larger and may even be engraved or decorated. On a shank that does not taper across the top, each diamond would be the same size. When there is a taper, the diamonds are often graduated with larger stones in the wide area and smaller stones in the narrower areas. By varying the size of the stones and the size of the beadwork, the ring setting designer can create very unique looks.
Flush set diamonds are sunk into the mounting until they are nearly level or flush with the surface. Only the table of the diamond and some of the facets on the crown are exposed. While this technique does not allow maximum light to enter the diamond, this subtle look has become increasingly popular.
The flush setting is also used for larger diamonds. Because it provides considerable protection for the diamond and allows the diamond to be set quite low on the finger, the flush setting is popular for men’s diamond ring settings.
Cluster set diamonds are seeing resurgence in recent years with the right hand rings that are a groups of individually set diamonds in unique patterns. Some cluster set ring settings are arranged in the form of stylized flowers, some form geometric patterns and others are seemingly abstract arrangements of small diamonds.
Regardless of the type of engagement ring setting you are considering, please give us a call if you have any questions. We are happy to find the best center diamond and then help find the engagement ring setting that you will enjoy for many years.