Prong, channel, and beyond: Choosing an appropriate setting style for everyday rings

October 18, 2021

By Renée Newman

Figure 1: Prong-set sapphire (1.14 carats) by Dana’s Goldsmithing. Photo courtesy Dana’s Goldsmithing[1]
Figure 1: Prong-set sapphire (1.14 carats) by Dana’s Goldsmithing.
Photo courtesy Dana’s Goldsmithing

When selecting an everyday ring, it is important to consider more than its appearance and price. One should also make sure the ring is comfortable and practical, and that the gemstones are well-protected and secure. To address these issues, it is helpful to know the advantages and disadvantages of the various setting styles.

Claw (prong) setting

This is the most common type of setting, especially for ladies’ solitaire diamond rings (Figures 1 and 2). This style involves fitting the centre stone in a metal head or basket and securing it with a minimum of three prongs or metal claws.

Figure 2: Prong-set Canadian diamond (1.50 carats) by Dana’s Goldsmithing.[2]
Figure 2: Prong-set Canadian diamond (1.50 carats) by Dana’s Goldsmithing.

The shape of the prongs can vary. They may be rounded, elongated, or pointed. There are many decorative variations of this setting style. Tiffany & Co. popularized the claw setting for engagement rings when it introduced its signature, elevated six-claw Tiffany setting in 1886.

Advantages

Disadvantages

Channel setting

The channel style is often used for wedding bands, but may also be used to accent the centre stone of an engagement ring. Gemstones are suspended in a channel of vertical walls with no metal separating the stones.

Advantages

Disadvantages

Bezel (tube) setting

Figure 3: Bezel-set rhodolite garnet ring by Christine Dwane. Photo by Anthony McLean[3]
Figure 3: Bezel-set rhodolite garnet ring by Christine Dwane.
Photo by Anthony McLean

A bezel is a band of metal surrounding the gem and holding it in place. The bezel may either fully or partially encircle the stone (Figures 3, 4, and 5).

Advantages

Disadvantage

Bead or pavé setting

In this type of setting, gemstones are fit into tapered holes and set almost level with the surface of the ring. Once set, some of the surrounding metal is raised to form beads which hold the stones in place (Figure 6, page 36).

When there are two or more rows of stones set in this way without partitions between the stones, it’s called pavé—which, in French, means ‘paved’ like a cobblestone road. However, despite the distinction of rows, the jewellery trade often refers to any type of bead setting as ‘pavé.’

To help give the impression of a continuous diamond surface, it is customary to use white gold or platinum to support pavé-set diamonds, even if the rest of the mounting is yellow gold. Rhodium plating is added to further heighten this effect. If diamonds are yellowish, they tend to look better set in yellow gold without rhodium plating.

Advantages

Disadvantages

Figure 4: Bezel-set aquamarine ring by Corona Jewellery accented with partial bezel-set diamonds. Photo courtesy Corona Jewellery[4]
Figure 4: Bezel-set aquamarine ring by Corona Jewellery accented with partial bezel-set diamonds.
Photo courtesy Corona Jewellery

Generally, this is a risky setting method in terms of possible stone damage. While good diamonds, rubies, and sapphires can withstand the pressure of being pavé set, fragile stones such as emeralds, opals, tourmalines, and diamonds with large cracks might be damaged. Specifically, pavé setting does not provide as smooth of a ring surface as bezel, channel, and flush setting. Additionally, it may not be as secure as other settings.

Flush setting

Flush setting is a popular style for people who work with their hands and do not want to remove their rings. It offers good protection for gems because they are set flush in tapered holes and don’t protrude (Figure 7).

Québec-based jewellery fabrication teacher Christine Dwane divides flush setting into two types: burnish and gypsy settings. For the former, a burnishing tool is used to push metal all around the stone and the metal is pressed and hammered in place. For gypsy settings, a graver is used to raise slivers of metal that come up just above the girdle, securing the stone in place. Gypsy setting is not as risky as burnish setting. 

Advantages

Disadvantages

Jewellers’ tips on selecting a secure setting

While working on the eighth edition of her Diamond Ring Buying Guide, this author asked several jewellers what advice they would offer to those looking for a ring they can wear continually every day. Here are their recommendations:

  1. Select a setting with at least six prongs for claw-set large diamonds. This will help prevent the diamond from being lost if one prong breaks. Some jewellers recommend six prongs for any diamond weighing more than a half carat.
  2. Make sure bead-set stones are set low and protected by adequate metal.
  3. Avoid shared bead settings which have one bead securing two diamonds, as these are not as secure as settings in which each bead secures only one stone.
  4. Remember: the smaller a diamond is, the easier it is for it to fall out of a ring, as less metal is used to secure the stone. Half pointers (0.005-carat diamonds) in halo rings look attractive, but they may fall out if they are not set by an expertly skilled craftsman.
  5. Make sure channel-set diamonds have bars below them to help prevent the channel from widening (if this happens, it is more likely the diamonds will fall out). If you think you might resize the ring at a later date, avoid rings with channel setting around the entire ring.
  6. Avoid rings with pre-set gems. (To ensure maximum security, Christine Dwane advises gems should be set after the mounting has been cast instead of being set in wax.)
  7. Beware of thin, mass-produced rings sold on the internet for bargain prices. Jewellers who must face customers when stones fall out of their rings have more of an incentive to sell securely set diamond rings than a vendor who does not replace lost stones.

Jewellery buyers don’t typically analyze what setting styles would be best and why, but they should. Too often, jewellery that looks attractive at the time of purchase ends up being too impractical for daily wear. With a bit of forethought, however, it is possible to select a style that is not only esthetically pleasing, but functional as well.

That said, no matter how suitable the style, if a stone is not properly set in a ring, it can come out of its setting. To avoid this, it is important to work with professionals who place an importance on good craftsmanship.

[8]Renée Newman, BA, MA, GG, is a gemmologist, lecturer, and author of 14 gem and jewellery books. She wrote her first book, the Diamond Ring Buying Guide, in 1989 while working at the Josam Diamond Trading Corporation in downtown Los Angeles. A new eighth edition was published last year. Her newest book, Diamonds: Their History, Sources, Qualities and Benefits, was released on October 1. For more information about Newman and her books, visit www.ReneeNewman.com[9].

Endnotes:
  1. [Image]: https://www.jewellerybusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/opener_-2-Prong-set-sapphire-1.14-ct.-Ring-photo-courtesy-Danas-goldsmithing.jpg
  2. [Image]: https://www.jewellerybusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/fig2.jpg
  3. [Image]: https://www.jewellerybusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/fig3.jpg
  4. [Image]: https://www.jewellerybusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/fig4.jpg
  5. [Image]: https://www.jewellerybusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/fig5.jpg
  6. [Image]: https://www.jewellerybusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/fig6.jpg
  7. [Image]: https://www.jewellerybusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/fig7.jpg
  8. [Image]: https://www.jewellerybusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Renee-Newman-IMG_3263-300-dpi.jpg
  9. www.ReneeNewman.com: https://www.reneenewman.com/

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