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Wedding & Engagement Ring Settings

Wedding and engagement ring settings are more than just about how a ring looks, they're also about protecting your diamond and any other precious stone.

So even though the setting you choose will have a big impact on the overall look of your ring, you need to make sure that the setting works for you and your lifestyle.

engagement ring trends 2012

Rings courtesy of JamesAllen

Let's start with the basics. The first consideration for your setting (or ring mounting as it's sometimes called) is what metal to use and your most common options are platinum and gold.

Pros & Cons of Platinum Settings

Platinum is the strongest, purest, and the most expensive metal choice for engagement and wedding rings. It will last for generations, won't wear away,  develops a great satin-like finish over time, and will never tarnish.

For the negatives, it's hard to repair and hard to polish (especially in comparison to gold). Given its strength and durability repairs are not very likely but if you want to keep that high gloss sheen as opposed to a satiny finish you will need to have the setting polished every few years.

Pros & Cons of Gold Settings

Although gold is the most common metal in bridal jewelry and wedding ring settings it is never pure or exceeds 18K. If it did, it would simply be too soft and could never put up with the wear and tear that wedding bands and engagement ring settings require since most of us wear our rings every day.

So they mix pure gold with other metal alloys in order to give it strength and bring down its purity from 24K. And, depending on which alloys are used you will end up with yellow gold, white gold, and rose gold settings—they are all real gold and one color isn't less valuable or more valuable than the other.

In comparison to platinum, gold is a softer, more malleable metal and can get damaged more easily however it is cheaper and easier to repair.

Types of Settings

The most popular styles of settings or ring mount fall into 4 categories.

Prong, Bezel, Tension, and Channel. The first three refer to how the diamond or center stone is mounted within the ring while a Channel setting almost always refers to detailing on the band.

Prong Settings

The prong setting typically allows more light into the diamond for maximum brilliance and sparkle. Which is the reason why they are so common. Who doesn't want more bling!

Prong settings are most often used to hold a diamond solitaire and secure it to the band.

prong setting

The prongs themselves are delicate stems of metal folded over to secure your diamond in its setting. If done properly they provide safety without becoming the focus of the piece.

If you have ever worn a ring that seems to constantly be snagging on everything, you know what a bad prong can do. We've had many a cashmere sweater ruined by a renegade prong.

Engaging Tip: Prongs can sometimes twist, loosen, or warp a bit so check them every few months to make sure that they're still as they should be.

You can do a quick and easy test to make sure that the prongs are not going to cause you heartache. Take a piece of paper and try to slip it under the prongs. If the paper fits between the prong and the stone, it is not secure enough and needs to be fixed by your jeweler.

Because so little metal surrounds the diamond light can easily pass through it which is thought to give more brilliance to the stone.

diagram of a prong set diamond

The prongs themselves are often platinum because of its strength and unique properties. No other precious metal is stronger, which is why it's used so often.

It's important that the claws hold the stone or diamond securely so even when a setting is made of yellow gold you will often see platinum prongs.

In terms of the number of prongs the general rule is the less prongs the more the diamond is exposed (and some say more desirable), so a 4 prong setting will show off your diamond more than a 6 prong and so on.

Anything above 6 prongs is more about style and design than about securing the diamond however 8 or 10 prong settings will be more secure simply because they have more claws.

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Bezel Settings for Wedding Rings & Bridal Jewelry

Bezel Settings are great for protecting the diamond. They're the perfect setting for an active lifestyle where you don't want to fuss and worry over your ring.

They basically consist of a metal band that surrounds the stone and keeps it in place (kind of like a picture frame) and are known for their durability and simplicity. It's that simplicity that also makes them so elegant.

diagram of bezel setting

As you can see in the diagram, the bezel is grooved to hold the diamond in place and has a lip above the groove to secure it even further.

One of the best features of bezel engagement rings is that it can make your diamond look bigger than it really is.

Because of the similarity in color between white metal (like white gold and platinum) and a diamond, and because of the way it completely surrounds the stone, it fools the eye into thinking that most of the size is taken up by the diamond. Obviously this isn't true when it the bezel is made of yellow gold.

With no exposed diamond edges the setting will never snag on something and your center stone will have no better protection.

Some people think that the diamond's brilliance will be reduced in this type of setting. It turns out that this just isn't true. The enemy of all diamonds, especially when it comes to its brilliance is dirt, and the bezel setting is one of the best settings to protect a diamond from dirt.

Because the setting is designed around the stone and is therefore a little more difficult to create, the bezel setting is typically more expensive than a traditional prong setting.

Tensions Settings & Engagement Rings

Tension settings or a tension mount are different terms that describe the same thing—a contemporary setting where a diamond seems to float between bands of metal.

diagram of tension setting

Tension settings squeeze the stone in place at the girdle (the edge between the top and bottom of the stone).

The girdle is then set within a groove in the band keeping it securely in place.

It's the combination of forming the metal around the stone and the groove that gives the setting its durability.

Although somewhat of a heated debate between professional jewelers many believe that because more metal (and stronger metal) is holding the stone in place that this setting is more secure than traditional prongs. Either way, this type of setting is very secure so do keep it in mind as an option especially if you're looking for more contemporary rings.

Tension set platinum engagement ring with a marquise diamond

It can be hard to imagine, so here's an example of a tension engagement ring that is available in platinum or gold.

We love the simple elegance of the design and how modern and classic it is. It's a piece that will never go out of style and one we'll never get sick of.

Because tension settings free the diamond of too much surrounding metal it will tend to catch more light and create more Bling!

And, because of the way the stone is mounted, designers can come up with some really striking contemporary pieces that would not be possible with any other type of setting.

Tension settings work well in platinum as well as gold. The issue with gold though is that the purer the gold the softer the metal so you need to make sure that the gold being used is strong enough to support this type of setting. Any reputable jeweler will make sure the gold has the proper alloys and never go over 18K.

On the flip side, tension set engagement rings are built to fit the finger securely so resizing is a little more difficult with these types of rings than more traditional settings.

Finally, any engraving of the inner band needs to be done only after the ring is perfectly sized so if you're planning a surprise guys, don't have this type of ring engraved until after you've given it to her and it has been properly sized.

Channel Settings for Wedding Bands & Engagement Rings

channel set engagement ring

Channel settings are just what you would think. A channel is created to hold the stones in place and are often found on a wedding band (many eternity bands are channel set) or on the band of an engagement ring.

The great thing about this type of setting is that the edges of the stones are completely protected much like a bezel setting so no chipping or snagging is likely. In bridal jewelry, the wedding ring settings are usually accompanied by a solitaire diamond held by a bezel or prong mount like the one shown on the right.

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The strengths and weaknesses of some of the most common ring settings need to be considered when making your ring selection. While all of them are secure, they each have their own unique properties that might make a difference to you in the long run.

Read more tips on wedding and engagement ring selections or explore other areas of the Engagement Experts website.