How to Choose from Popular Engagement Ring Styles & Settings

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The choice of engagement ring setting is extremely important. It’s the first decision you should make in the process as it will determine to some extent what kind of diamond you’ll need to buy. To make matters worse, as you can see below, there are such a large number of different styles of engagement ring settings that it can simply get overwhelming.

To help you figure out what you want, it’s useful to take a look at recently purchased engagement rings. Blue Nile and James Allen both have galleries for this purpose.

The Guide to Engagement Ring Styles

Have the different styles of ring settings got you all confused? Looking for a simple explanation of terms like halo, pave, and prong? Well, we decided to write this article for you because we know that the world of diamond jewelry can be daunting.

Whether it’s an engagement ring and your first-time diamond purchase, or simply a gift for a loved one, we present to you our guide to ring settings, complete with definitions and photos for each term.

Once you settled on the right setting, contact us and we’ll be happy to pick the perfect diamond for you.

1) Prong Setting & Solitaire Setting

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The most common and classic ring setting is called a prong setting. A prong is a little metal claw that grips the diamond tightly, holding it in place. Prongs can be rounded, pointed, flat, or V-shaped (the latter being the most common for princess-cut diamonds).

Most prong settings feature either four or six prongs; with the former you can see more of the diamond, but the latter is more secure. A benefit of this setting is that there is a minimum presence of metal, so that there’s more diamond to see and more light that can pass through the diamond, thus adding to its brilliance.

Pros of a Prong Setting

  • Elevates the diamond, making it more prominent and noticed
  • Enables significant light to pass through the diamond—increasing the stone’s brilliance and fire
  • Complements and supports a variety of Diamond Shapes and sizes
  • Simple to clean and maintain
  • Offers a classic, timeless look

Cons of a Prong Setting

  • Can snag on clothing, furniture and other materials, especially if high-set (a lower-set prong may be best for those with an active lifestyle)
  • May loosen with wear (we recommend having the prongs inspected at least every two years to ensure the stone remains secure)
tiffany style solitaire setting

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Of the prong settings, the most common is the solitaire setting featuring one diamond or other precious stone. The solitaire setting draws all of our attention to the stone with little to distract us like other stones or fancy metalwork.

2) The Tiffany Setting

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In 1886, Tiffany & Co. scientifically developed a specific solitaire six-prong setting to maximize the light return on the diamond. This plain-band setting has come to be known as “the Tiffany setting,” distinguished primarily by the “knife edge” of its shaft and the design of its prongs.

While it is possible to obtain a similar setting at virtually any jewelry shop or website today, it will never be an exact Tiffany setting because Tiffany has trademarked their prong design.

Pros of a Tiffany Setting

  • Amplifies light reflection and brilliance due to raised diamond
  • Supports a variety of Carat sizes and Diamond Shapes
  • Easy to maintain and keep clean
  • Carries a classic look that will never go out of style

Cons of a Tiffany Setting

  • Can snag on clothing or other materials, especially if high-set (lower-set prongs are often best for those with active lifestyles)
  • Diamond may become loose with wear (it’s recommend to have the prongs inspected at least every two years)

3) Bezel Setting

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The bezel setting is the second most popular ring setting due to its modern look and suitability for an active lifestyle. Instead of holding the diamond with prongs, the bezel setting encircles the diamond, or center stone, with a thin metal rim custom-made to hold the stone tightly in place.

A bezel setting can be a full or partial setting: a full bezel completely surrounds the diamond whereas a partial bezel leaves the sides open. It’s a great choice for nurses, teachers, and others looking for a ring that won’t snag and will adequately protect the diamond.

Pros of a Bezel Setting

  • Secures the diamond more than a prong setting, making it an excellent choice for active lifestyles and careers
  • Offers a sleek, modern look
  • Does not snag on clothing and other materials
  • Protects the diamond well and prevents damage
  • Easy to clean and maintain (i.e. no prongs to routinely check)

Cons of a Bezel Setting

  • Tends to hide more of the stone than a prong setting
  • Achieves less light reflection and brilliance than a prong setting

In the picture below, the emerald-cut diamond is bezel-set in rose gold.

rose gold bezel setting cropped

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4) Tension Setting

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The tension setting is named for the tension of the metal band that secures the diamond in place; the result is that the diamond appears suspended between the two sides of the shank.

With the help of lasers used to calibrate the exact dimensions of the diamond, the jeweler expertly cuts tiny grooves into the sides of the band, or shank, so that the diamond, or other precious stone, is literally held by the pressure of the custom-designed metal band pushing into the sides of the stone.

Tension-style settings feature a comparable look of diamond suspension but are less expensive and complicated to make. The tension-style settings add an extra dose of security since they employ a prong or bezel setting on the side or underneath the diamond to anchor the diamond firmly in place.

Pros of a Tension Setting

  • Securely holds the diamond in place
  • Offers a unique appearance
  • Enhances light reflection, due to minimal metal surrounding the diamond
  • Provides a modern, stylish look
  • Requires less maintenance than a prong setting

Cons of a Tension Setting

  • Difficult and often expensive to resize
  • May cause a small Carat weight to look smaller, especially when thick metal is used
  • Though extremely rare, a stone could fall out of a tension setting if struck by an impressive outside force
tension setting

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5) Tension Style Setting

A popular engagement ring style is to mimic a tension style setting (like you see above), but in fact the diamond or gemstone is set in the band, typically as a bezel setting.

In the two photos below, the one on top (two-tone metal with pear shape diamond) is a classic tension setting while the one underneath is a tension-style setting. Notice the bezel setting around the round diamond in the tension-style setting.

Pros of a Tension Style Setting

  • Holds the diamond securely in place
  • Offers a more timeless look than a tension setting
  • Involves less maintenance than prong settings
  • Allows significant light to pass through the diamond, enhancing its brilliance and fire

Cons of a Classic Tension Setting

  • Often difficult and costly to resize
  • May cause a small diamond to look smaller, especially when a thicker metal is utilized
  • Although highly unlikely, if an extreme pressure from an outside force strikes a tension setting, there is a possibility the stone could become loose
tension setting edited

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Tension style setting

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6) Channel Setting

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The channel setting is a secure way to set smaller diamonds in a row into the band of the ring, making a metal channel of sparkling stones flush with the shank.

The diamonds, or other gemstones, are set closely together into the grooves of the channel and decorate the sides of the band or the entire band. This setting is also popular for wedding bands or stackable rings that feature only smaller stones and no center stone.

Since there are no prongs, this setting is also a good option for a snag-free and secure design. In the photo below, the diamonds in the shank are channel-set.

Pros of a Channel Setting

  • Securely holds diamond and protects it from outside forces
  • Enhances the ring’s sparkle with side stones along the band
  • Achieves a sharp design without losing stability
  • Unlikely to snag on clothing and other materials

Cons of a Channel Setting

  • Tends to require more time and effort with cleaning (dirt can become trapped in the channels)
  • Can be challenging to repair and resize due to numerous channels (it is possible the channels will become bent or misaligned, or that the side stones will loosen during the repair process)
  • May hide diamonds slightly more than prong settings
channel setting cropped

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7) Pavé Setting

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The pavé setting, pronounced “pa-vay,” comes from the French word “to pave,” as in paved with diamonds. By closely setting small diamonds together with minimal visibility of the tiny metal beads or prongs holding the stones in place, the effect is one of continuous sparkle.

The jeweler typically drills holes into the ring, carefully places the diamonds into the holes, and finally forms tiny beads, or mini-prongs, around each diamond to secure them into the holes.

This setting is also known as a bead setting and in the case of especially small stones, may be called a micro-pavé setting. Diamonds are said to be pavé-set when they are as small as .01-.02 carats and any smaller than that would be called micro-pavé.

Pros of a Pavé Setting

  • Highlights the center stone
  • Magnifies the ring’s overall brilliance with side stones
  • Provides extra sparkle to a lower-set or less sparkly center stone
  • Can be designed in a modern or vintage style

Cons of a Pavé Setting

  • Sizing and resizing can be quite difficult if the ring is pavé set around the full band
  • Although highly unlikely, minimal risk of losing side stones exists

We recommend confirming ring size early in the design process in order to prevent any problems with fit when the ring is finished.

pave setting cropped

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8) Halo Setting

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The halo setting refers to the placement of diamonds or other gemstones in a concentric circle or square around a center stone. The halo setting makes the center stone appear larger—a great option to boost the appearance of a small diamond—and it increases the overall sparkle of the ring.

A halo setting, then, can be a way to save money on a smaller-carat diamond while not sacrificing the overall appearance of the ring. In addition, adding a halo of colored gemstones or setting the halo diamonds with a different color metal can make for a contrast in colors.

Halos are often paired with pavé bands (see example below) but could certainly stand on their own with a simple unadorned band. And as the name implies, a double halo setting consists of two concentric circles of gemstones that encircle the center stone.

Pros of a Halo Setting

  • Boosts the appearance of a smaller Carat center diamond
  • Enhances overall sparkle due to surrounding stones
  • Securely holds and protects the center stone
  • Supports and complements a variety of Diamond Shapes
  • Contrast can be built with a halo of colored metal or gemstones

Cons of a Halo Setting

  • Tiny side stones may become loose
  • Resizing can be difficult depending on the number of side stones that line the band
halo setting cropped

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double halo setting cropped

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9) Cathedral Setting

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The cathedral setting is one of the most elegant and classic engagement ring settings. Similar to the graceful arches of a cathedral, this ring setting uses arches of metal to hold the diamond or other gemstone.

The cathedral may be set with prongs, bezel or tension setting since the defining characteristic of this ring is not how the diamond is held but rather how it is mounted with arches above the rest of the shank.

The arches can add extra height and make the center stone appear larger; they can also add cost-saving style for less money than adding more diamonds.

Pros of Cathedral Setting

  • Accentuates and highlights the center stone
  • Offers a unique and eye-catching design
  • Holds the center stone securely
  • Adds height and character with minimal expense
  • Can make the center stone seem larger and more prominent

Cons of Cathedral Setting

  • Can snag on clothes, furniture and other materials if high-set
  • Less streamlined than other settings like a bezel setting
  • Requires more time and effort to clean due to number of crevices
  • According to some, the curved features can distract from the center stone’s beauty if poorly designed
Cathedral setting cropped

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10) Bar Setting

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Setting diamonds separately between vertical bars of metal is another way to set precious stones.

Bar settings are similar to channel settings, but the difference is that channel settings enclose the diamond on all sides whereas the bar setting leaves the diamond exposed on two sides, held in place by the metal bars that secure the stones on the other two sides.

This setting can compliment a center stone or stand alone for an impressive wedding band or stackable ring. See the photo below of a bar-set eternity band.

Pros of a Bar Setting

  • Offers better visibility to diamonds than a channel setting (due to less metal)
  • Functions as a stackable ring, simple band or one with a stunning center stone
  • Securely holds stones in place with metal bars
  • Amplifies sparkle as stones are more exposed

Cons of a Bar Setting

  • Slightly less secure than a channel setting
  • Resizing can be more challenging or costly
  • Because stones are less protected by metal, there is a slightly higher chance of chipping
Bar setting croped

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11) Flush Setting

A flush setting, also known as a gypsy setting, sets the diamond into a drilled hole in the band of the ring so that the ring sits “flush” with the band of the ring.

Then the jeweler hammers the metal around the diamond to hold it in place. Because the jeweler must hammer in this piece of metal to hold the stone in place, this setting is not suitable for softer stones, which could crack in the process.

This type of setting is a popular choice for wedding bands, especially men’s wedding bands, as the diamond sits securely in the band of the ring and is therefore highly protected from chipping or falling out.

Pros of a Flush Setting

  • Affords active wearers the highest security, especially to those who work with their hands
  • Offers a sleek, polished, simple look
  • Delivers peace of mind, knowing the stone is highly unlikely to loosen or fall out
  • Provides significant protection to diamonds and other stones
  • Highly functional and practical

Cons of a Flush Setting

  • Reduces visibility of the stone
  • Limits the amount of light that passes through the stone (decreasing brilliance and fire)
  • Less likely to catch someone’s immediate attention

CLICK IMAGE to See Original Ring

12) Three-Stone Setting

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The three-stone setting is a versatile setting that can be used for engagement, anniversary, or any occasion. The three stones, set closely together, are said to symbolize the couple’s past, present, and future.

These stones can either be all the same size or, as is often the case, the center stone is larger than the two side stones. The most popular diamond shapes for this setting are the round brilliant cut and the princess cut.

It’s possible to personalize this setting with colored sidestones, such as sapphires, rubies, emeralds (see photo below), or other birthstones.

Pros of a Three Prong Setting

  • Maximizes on sparkle and brilliance
  • Allows for multiple larger stones (including ones of different colors)
  • Enhances appearance of center stone when paired properly with side stones
  • Provides opportunity for personalization and color contrast
  • Can achieve greater surface area of gemstone than a singular setting

Cons of a Three Prong Setting

  • Requires more cleaning and maintenance than a single stone design
  • When paired poorly, the two side stones can overpower or distract from the beauty of the center stone
3 stone setting edited

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13) Antique/Vintage Setting

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Many of the antique/vintage styles are designed to fit specific time periods of jewelry fashion, such as Art Deco, Edwardian and Victorian era styles. Often these rings feature intricate detail work such as filigree and milgrain.

Filigree is a kind of delicate metalwork that solders together tiny metal beads or twisted threads of metal to the surface of the jewel. And milgrain engraving is a type of embellishment added to antique style rings to give them that “antique” look of tiny balls of metal decorating the sides of the band and the crown of the ring.

Check out the photo below of an antique style setting with tiny yellow gold milgrain embellishments around the bezel-set round brilliant diamond and repeated all over the shank.

Pros of a Vintage Setting

  • Radiates with plenty of character and charm
  • Unique and intricately built
  • Enhances the beauty and prominence of the center stone when well-designed
  • Can be crafted to match a time period or personal style preference

Cons of a Vintage Setting

  • May require more cleaning and maintenance due to intricate design and crevices
  • If designed poorly, the setting may distract from the beauty and sparkle of the stone
  • If choosing an antique vintage setting—different than a new ring of antique design—extra time will be needed to ensure it is secure and well-maintained

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14) Cluster Setting

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A cluster setting “clusters” stones tightly together in order to look like a large diamond. It can either contain a larger center stone or cluster together stones of equal size.

In the example below, this cluster setting gives the impression of a 1.5 carat center stone, which is far larger than the actual small center stone featured in this ring. James Allen now has a line of cluster settings, called the “Royal Halo Collection.”

Pros of a Cluster Setting

  • Presents as a larger stone even though smaller stones make up the surface area and size
  • Emphasizes a unique look with plenty of dimension and texture
  • Provides a lower cost option than purchasing a large center stone
  • Can be crafted to form a distinct shape
  • May complement smaller hands or fingers

Cons of a Cluster Setting

  • Often requires more work to clean and maintain, due to number of stones and crevices
  • Smaller stones have the possibility of becoming loose and falling out
Cluster setting cropped

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15) Eternity Band

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Eternity bands are not a particular kind of setting per se; rather they are a style of band that is often used for women’s wedding bands or other special occasions such as anniversaries, birthdays and Valentine’s Day.

These bands get their name from the “eternal” presence of diamonds or other precious stones that decorate the entire band of the ring. Eternity rings are available in prong, channel, bezel and flush settings.

Pros of an Eternity Band

  • Delivers a sparkle that circles the entire finger
  • Adds personality and zest to the alternative simple or metal-only band
  • Pairs well with other rings, including engagement rings and wedding bands
  • Available in a range of styles, such as bezel and channel
  • Securely holds smaller diamonds

Cons of an Eternity Band

  • Can be difficult or costly to resize (and at times not possible)
  • Often requires routine cleaning of crevices and stones to maintain maximum sparkle
eternity band

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16) Shank/Split-Shank

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Here’s another term you may heard thrown around by jewelers. The shank refers to the band of the ring or the part that actually encircles your finger. Most shanks are round, but there are also square shaped-shanks and other more creative shapes.

A split-shank refers to a ring in which the shank splits into two separate shanks. See the example below of this pave-set split-shank band.

Pros of a Shank/Split-Shank Setting

  • Provides a unique, attention-grabbing appearance
  • Offers additional surface area to add side stones and sparkle
  • Leads the eye toward the center stone, making it more prominent and noticeable
  • Can be designed for either a modern or classic look

Cons of a Shank/Split-Shank Setting

  • Requires more cleaning than simpler settings
  • Less streamlined design, making it not as practical for those who do active work with their hands
split shank cropped

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HOW TO PICK A RING SETTING

Your ring setting is the foundation of your entire ring design. Selection largely depends on personal style and preference—along with the wearer’s lifestyle. Some settings lend better to active folks or those who do work with their hands, while other designs are more intricate with high-set stones. Consider also how often the ring will realistically be cleaned and maintained, as some settings require more upkeep than others.

Once you’ve chosen a setting, you’ll want to look for a diamond that complements its style and is well-supported by the setting. If you’re interested in selecting an exquisite diamond for your ring, get in touch with one of our experts who can help you review diamonds and ensure you’re not overpaying.


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