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Ring Setting Guide

Engagement ring sitting on flat surface

A ring is more than just something that adorns the fingers. A ring is a symbol – an expression of personal taste, or a sign of an enduring commitment.

Going back thousands of years, rings have gone through an evolution starting as simple pieces made out of common metals, to what they are now today – treasures crowned with jewels and gems.

The ring setting – which refers to how a gem is fixed to the ring’s band – plays a pivotal role in determining the overall look of the piece.

In this article, we discuss the different types of ring settings and explore the most popular options available to help give you guidance in selecting your next piece.

Ring Settings: High Set vs Low Set

Put simply, ring settings can be categorized as either high or low set, depending on the height at which the setting is placed with regards to the band.

Two rings side by side comparing their setting heights
Fig 1. Comparison of setting heights between two rings.

It’s important to remember that this categorization doesn’t describe the way the gemstone is “set”, rather it just describes the height of the gemstone relative to the band.  This height plays a role in determining the overall look of the ring, and also in dictating how “easy” it would be to wear in different everyday situations. 

A high set ring is one in which the gemstone’s setting is elevated on top of the band. With the gem uplifted in this way, its visual impact is amplified, having more of a “wow” factor to onlookers. 

With a high set ring, the visual prominence of the gemstone does bring with it some drawbacks. In lifting the gemstone up off the band, the prongs of a high set ring can be more susceptible to being caught and damaged. This also applies to the gemstone itself, too – having the gemstone protrude outwards can make it more vulnerable to bumps and knicks. 

Having this in mind, wearing a high set ring in some situations may prove impractical, such as when one is doing laundry, or gardening work, for example. Having your ring caught on clothing or surfaces as you do work can make it not only inconvenient to wear, but also stressful, knowing that you could damage your precious ring. 

At the opposite end of the high set ring is the low set ring. As the name suggests, a low set ring is one in which the setting sits closer to the band. 

Contrasted with a high set ring, a low set ring has a more subtle profile, and oftentimes sports gemstones of lower carats (a higher carat diamond would need to be set higher off the band to fit). Besides a more subtle profile, the advantage of a low set ring is that they’re less prone to getting caught and being damaged, and thus overall more practical to wear in different everyday situations. 

 

Some Popular Ring Settings & Their Features

When it comes to both aesthetics and durability, each ring setting has its own advantages and disadvantages. 

Understanding their characteristics can help you in finding the right setting for your particular case and needs. 

Below are some of the more popular ring settings you’ll be likely to encounter on your jewelry journey

 

Prong Setting

Prong Setting Illustration

Prong Setting

Considered as one of the classic and premier settings, particularly for engagement rings,  the prong setting is one in which metal prongs extend from the ring’s band to cradle a gemstone. 

This setting can incorporate a number of prongs – from four, to five, to six, or even more. 

Since prong settings elevate the gemstone above the shank and only cradle it with small claws, light exposure to the gem is maximized. 

This does lead to parts of the side of the gem to being potentially exposed, but it’s the cost of having a large amount of light exposure which is required for a high degree of brilliance, fire, and scintillation. 

Given the delicate nature of prongs and how they protrude from the ring, periodic prong maintenance with this setting is necessary. 

Bezel Setting

Bezel setting illustration

Bezel Setting

The bezel setting is one in which a metal rim encircles the gemstone, holding it in place. It’s known to be one of the more secure settings that sports a more subtle look. 

With the metal perimeter that holds the stone, there are no worries of any prongs being caught or bent, leading to a loose grip. 

The drawback to this is that the metal “pillow” reduces the amount of light into the gem. This can reduce its maximum brilliance. 

This setting is ideal for those who live active lifestyles and those who want to wear their ring daily in different environments. 

 

Channel Setting

Channel setting illustration

Channel Setting

The channel setting is characterized by two rails on the band, by which the gemstones are set between them. 

There are no dividers between each stone, rather, they are set side by side between the “tracks”, leading to a sleek, streamlined look.

Like with the bezel setting, channel set rings are a great choice for those who want to wear a ring in a variety of conditions and not worry about getting prongs stuck or caught. 

With the rails set along the band, restyling a channel set ring can prove to be challenging.

 

Tension Setting

Tension setting illustration

Tension Setting

A tension set ring is one where the gemstone is set between the band, and held together by the pressure of the shank. 

This gives an illusion that the stone is “levitating”, since it’s not held in place by any supporting metal. 

Without any metal supports, the stone in question also has the pleasure of getting a high degree of light exposure, which helps maximize sparkle. 

While this does give the ring a unique look, note that this setting can be fragile. With the levitating gemstone, the stone’s sides are completely exposed and can be prone to damage. 

Since the band plays a pivotal role in this setting, resizing rings like these is incredibly difficult, if not impossible.

 

Basket Setting

Basket setting illustration

Basket Setting

Similar to a prong setting, a basket setting features claws that protrude outwards to cradle the gemstone, but at the same time features an additional band of metal to act as a “basket”, holding the gemstone in place. 

While the basket setting does add another secure element to holding the gemstone, the “basket” can block potential light from entering into the stone. 

 

Pavé Setting

Pave setting illustration

Pavé Setting

Coming from the French word pavé, which translates to “paved”, this setting features multiple stones and gives off the illusion that the band of the ring is “paved” with gems.

In the pavé setting, multiple gemstones are each held together by small prongs in close proximity. This minimizes the visibility of the metals and helps bring out the visual impact of the multiple stones. Typically, white gold is the metal of choice in this setting since it helps conceal the metal to amplify this effect. 

It should be known that there are different styles of pavé settings, each making use of different methods of holding the gemstones in place – bars, beads, prongs, etc. 

While a pavé setting can be used for the ring as a whole, this setting is often used for the supporting stones of a ring. The paved field of gemstones adds more sparkle to the piece, and acts as a great accompaniment to the main stone. 

With multiple stones and prongs, the pavé setting is delicate and may require a mindful eye when worn and periodic prong maintenance. 

 

Cathedral Setting

Cathedral setting illustration

Cathedral Setting

The cathedral setting is distinguished by the arches that extend from the ring’s band to create a platform that holds the gemstone in place. The name is aptly suited, since when viewed from the side, a cathedral set ring’s arches resemble that of an actual cathedral. 

Note that since a cathedral setting raises the gemstone of the shank, it is susceptible to hits and bumps. That being said, with the support of the arches, this setting does generally have more security when compared to other high set rings.

 

Bar Setting

Bar setting illustration

Bar Setting

Similar to the channel setting, the bar setting employs metal bars to separate and fasten the gemstones. 

In contrast to the channel setting though, which makes use of two rails to hold the group of  gemstones in place, in a bar setting, vertical bars are set between each gemstone to hold them in place. 

Although the design is relatively secure, the exposed edges of the gemstones may be more vulnerable to chipping or damage.

Bar settings are typically seen in wedding bands, stacking rings, or as accents in engagement rings. 

 

Halo Setting

Halo setting illustration

Halo Setting

The halo setting is characterized by a central gemstone that is surrounded by a perimeter of smaller stones – creating a “halo” effect. 

This setting exudes elegance. With the support of the surrounding stones, the visual impact of the central stone is amplified. 

To make it even more stunning, on a halo style ring, multiple rows of halos can be added. Halo rings can feature different diamond shapes as well, such as round halo, pear halo, and so forth. 

Ring Settings: Closing Thoughts on Finding Your Match

Choosing a ring setting is a personal process that should align with both your style and lifestyle. 

Do you want a piece that exudes elegance and luxury? Or are you looking for something more subtle, and easier to wear in your day to day activities?

Having a good understanding of the diverse options and their characteristics will help you to make an informed decision to find a match that fits you. 

Should you need any help with choosing the best ring setting for you, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Kim Quang team. 

As a local jewelry store owned and operated in San Diego, we dedicate ourselves to helping our clients make educated decisions on jewelry. 

With one of the largest showrooms of fine jewelry in the city, we have a myriad of rings with different settings to choose from. 

Whether you gravitate towards the timeless elegance of a prong or cathedral setting, the refined modernity of a bezel or tension setting,  we can help you find the perfect ring that suits you. 

If you’d like to create something custom, we can also help with that too.

Our mission is to not only help you find a piece that looks brilliant, but also one that you’ll love and cherish for years to come.