Choosing a Diamond Ring Setting

The two main parts of designing a ring are choosing the diamond and choosing the setting. Most jewelers offer a variety of settings and can recommend variations of their most popular settings. Below are brief descriptions and pictures of the eight most popular settings, along with advantages and disadvantages of each setting, to help you make the most appropriate choice.

Settings Summary

The key considerations are lifestyle, design preferences, and cost.

Lifestyle is a combination of work and hobbies. If they involve interaction with fine fabrics, delicate children, or rough sports, certain settings will be more appropriate than others. Design is a subjective criterion.

You will need to know the ring recipient’s design preferences, not just your own. Cost is obvious—certain settings require a more talented jeweler, more time, or more material. Those settings will cost more.

This table summarizes the settings information, but we encourage you to read the entire article to make a more informed decision about which setting to choose.

Settings Description Lifestyle Design Cost
Prong Claw-like, typically 3, 4, or 6 prongs holding gemstone. Diamond’s girdle is exposed to capture light but also exposed to damage. Prongs are likely to poke and scratch. An active lifestyle can chip or scratch the diamond. One of the most popular designs. Allows light to freely bounce through the stone, emphasizing fire and brilliance of the diamond. Setting: One of the least expensive to make due to relatively low amount of labor and moderate amount of metal material required.
Stones: Prong setting presupposes emphasis on the large center diamond; such a diamond can be more expensive than center stones for other setting types.
    Poor Excellent Excellent / Good
Bezel A metal rim surrounding diamond from all sides. Smooth surface protects ring and outside objects. A relatively popular setting, however, enveloping the diamond’s pavilion limits the sparkle. Setting: Relatively inexpensive to craft due to limited amount of labor and material required.
Stones: Emphasis is on the center stone, however, since setting limits sparkle, diamond does not need to be as high quality.
    Very Good Good Excellent / Good
Semi-bezel A metal rim partially surrounding diamond, exposing the girdle from two sides. The absence of sharp angles and corners makes semi-bezel almost as good as bezel for active lifestyle. Contemporary fashion. Combines advantages of a prong-setting (showing off almost as much of gemstone) and security of bezel (with some partial exposure). Setting: The semi-bezel setting is more laborious than bezel. Hence, it is slightly more expensive to make.
Stones: More light enters stone, allowing sparkle, so diamond should be higher quality than with bezel setting.
    Very Good Excellent Very Good / Good
Channel A number of smaller diamonds grooved in a row into the ring metal band. Used primarily for wedding bands or to accent larger center stones in an engagement ring The absence of any exposed sharp angles and corners makes channel setting excellent for active lifestyle. Contemporary fashion, linear design, popular for “eternity” rings. Setting: Moderately expensive compared to other settings.
Stones: Requires multiple, smaller gemstones, which are less costly than buying one larger diamond.
    Excellent / Poor Excellent Good / Excellent
Pav? Many smaller round or princess cut diamonds fit together to give appearance of continuous paving, like a cobblestone pavement. Stones are cobbled into the surface of the ring band through a combination of tapered holes and/or tiny prongs holding stones in place and next to each other. Some pav? settings use tiny prongs to provide additional security. These prongs are not as sharp as those in a prong setting but still can catch a thread from delicate fabric. Stones and prongs, however, are flush and level with the surface of the ring, which makes the setting significantly safer for active lifestyles. Multiple diamonds provide plenty of sparkle, brilliance, and fire. Curvy surfaces can help make design look more adventurous and contemporary. Setting: Labor intensive; expensive setting to create.
Stones: Requires smaller stones, which are less costly than buying larger diamonds. However, depending on the design, pav? may require significantly more stones than other settings.
    Very Good Excellent Good / Good
Flush A technique used to align gemstones with the surface of the ring metal. Diamonds appear recessed into the surface. This is probably the safest and most secure setting for an active lifestyle. Flexibility to “engrave” unique designs, mixing diamond shapes, positions, and the curvature of the ring surface. Setting: More labor intensive than prong, but still less expensive than most other settings.
Stones: The number and the size of the flush stones depend on the design. Deep mounting of the diamonds means less brilliance is expected; lower quality stones can be used.
    Excellent Excellent Very Good / Very Good
Bar Diamonds are held in place by tiny metal bars, perpendicular to the ring band. Diamonds are less secure than in a channel setting as they are partially exposed on the sides. Contemporary, linear design, often used in anniversary rings to hold several same-size diamonds in a row next to each other, separated by metal bars. Setting: Moderately expensive.
Stones: The number and the size of stones depend on the design. Typically, requires higher quality diamonds than channel or pav?, since stones are more central to the ring design.
    Excellent Excellent Very Good / Very Good
Invisible Many princess or round cut diamonds set into the ring surface, appearing as a continuous surface of gemstones uninterrupted by any metal holding them together. Invisible setting uses grooves cut into diamond pavilions to attach stones to the ring frame. Similar to the flush setting, this is one of the safest settings for active lifestyle. Diamonds set next to each other provide abundance of sparkle, brilliance, and fire. Associated with high-end jewelry. Setting: This is probably the most expensive technique, requiring skilled craftsmanship and substantial time and effort.
Stones: The invisible setting requires smaller gemstones, which are less costly than buying larger diamonds. However, many such diamonds are required to fill the continuous surface.
    Excellent Excellent Poor / Very Good

Prong Setting

The prong setting is the most popular design. Prongs are like little claws holding a diamond in place. They are usually placed at equidistant intervals around round stones or on the corners of other shapes. The number of prongs employed varies from three to six or even more.

Typically, for round solitaire diamonds, four- and six-prong settings are used. For pear shaped diamonds a more typical setting is a V-shaped prong, dictated by the shape of the stone and protecting the corners of the gemstone.

The more prongs, the more securely the stone is set in place. More prongs also can give the impression that a diamond is larger than it truly is. However, some people believe multiple prongs detract from the beauty of the stone.

Tiffany invented this style in 1886 and many people just call this setting by the company’s name. It sounds more elegant than “prong,” but they are the same setting.

Two popular design variations of a prong setting are the cathedral and the X-prong. Cathedral has two steep sloping arched canopies supporting a cluster of prongs, hence creating the impression of hovering prongs. An X-prong setting is simply crisscrossing prongs that from the side look like the letter X.

Advantages: Prong settings have two main advantages over other settings. First, more of a diamond stone is visible as prongs do not obstruct different angles of the view. Second, prong set diamonds are easiest to clean, since more of the stone is exposed.

Disadvantages: The main disadvantage of this setting is it can be easily caught in clothing or hair. Prong settings can also scratch other people. Many women tend to take the prong setting rings off when going to bed or playing with children because of that. Another disadvantage is that prong settings, especially those with fewer prongs, do not protect gemstone edges. Over time, the stone edges may become chipped.

Bezel and Semi-bezel Setting

A bezel is a band of metal surrounding a gemstone, extending slightly above the stone to better hold it in place. The bezel setting completely envelopes the diamond girdle and its pavilion. It is probably currently the second most popular diamond setting and has some clear advantages.

Bezel Ring Settings

Semi-bezel Ring Settings

Advantages: The most obvious advantage is the bezel setting protects the diamond’s edges from any damage, such as chipping. Another advantage is the complete encircling of the stone typically makes a smaller stone look larger.

Disadvantages: The bezel setting hides a large portion of the diamond in metal, so light cannot freely pass through the stone, making it less sparkly. In an attempt to address this issue, jewelers designed what are known as semi-bezel settings. In a semi-bezel ring, the metal rim around the gemstone doesn’t completely surround it, but instead looks like two partial metal bands on the sides of the gemstone. This type of setting provides the security of the bezel while allowing for more of the stone to be seen.

Channel Setting

In a channel style setting, a series of smaller diamonds form a row around the ring, not separated from each other but typically supported by walls of metal on two sides. A channel can encompass a short row of a few stones or the entire circumference of the ring. Channel settings are often associated with wedding bands, but they are also used to accent larger diamonds or colored gemstones in an engagement ring.

Channel Ring Settings

Advantages: The channel setting protects diamonds’ girdles from damage. A second advantage is that if the ring design does not include any large centerpiece stones (as in a typical wedding band), the ring is likely to be less pricey, since smaller diamonds cost less.

Disadvantages: Setting multiple stones in the channel requires more work than some other settings, so the cost of the setting increases. Some jewelers may use a shortcut by simply cutting a long groove in the ring, without making individual stone “seats” for each one. The problem with such craftsmanship is that it will make the stones less secure and overtime they may pop out of the groove and get lost.

Pav? Setting

The pav? (pronounced ‘pah-vay’) setting derives its name from the French word pav? (paved, like a cobblestone road). The ring’s band is literally paved with diamonds, fit into tapered holes or held in place by tiny prongs in a way that makes the surfaces of the gemstones look like pavement. Multiple small stones, commonly round or square, fitted next to each other in the ring’s surface, give the illusion of a continuous diamond surface. Often gemstones are cobbled in multiple rows (three to four rows is not unusual), to accent a larger center stone (a fancy color diamond or a colored gemstone) or simply to create a flat or curved centerpiece in and of itself.

If the stones are colorless or near-colorless, jewelers should use white metals for pav? settings to make sure the materials do not clash and interrupt the illusion of one solid surface. For yellowish stones, a yellow gold setting may be a better match.

Pav? settings can be used in combination with other settings. The recessed, smaller diamonds surrounding a larger central stone form a decorative border and add significant brilliance and fire to the ring. The additional brilliance from the smaller diamonds means the centerpiece stone can be of lesser quality than a stand-alone diamond and not detract from the ring’s overall appearance. A lower quality centerpiece diamond can lower the cost of the ring.

Advantages: Pav? settings accent the central diamond or colored gemstone to add brilliance and fire to a ring. Due to increased firepower of multiple stones cobbled together, the central stone may not need to be as large or as high quality, which can save some money (if not fully offset by the quantity of smaller stones and additional work on pav? setting).

Disadvantages: The key disadvantage of pav? settings is the risk of losing the diamonds. Most pav? settings use indentations in the band, rather than prongs that hold gemstones in place more securely. It is not atypical for a stone to occasionally fall out.

Flush Setting

In a flush setting (which is also known as a burnish or gypsy setting), each stone fits snuggly into a tapered hole drilled into the band. The diamond is held in the hole by a slight layer of ring metal that literally was hammered onto the edge of the stone by the jeweler. Interestingly, because this technique requires substantial pressure be applied onto each stone, only diamonds (and mostly those that have no cracks or other significant imperfections) can tolerate the procedure, due to their hardness. Colored gemstones, more fragile than diamonds, are rarely used in a flush setting.

Flush Ring Settings

Advantages: A flush setting secures the diamond’s girdle and pavilion. Accidental chipping or cracking is not likely with this level of protection. An additional advantage is the smoothness of the ring’s overall surface.

Disadvantages: The intense pressure required to create a flush setting means there is a risk the jeweler could crack the stone while setting it. Also, the expertise required to apply the setting increases the cost of the setting.

Bar Setting

The concept of the bar setting is somewhat similar to that of the channel setting, in that the diamonds are held in place supported on two sides by metal bars. The difference is that in the channel setting the stones are enclosed on all sides. In the bar setting, the stones are held in place by a thin bar of metal, perpendicular to the ring band, with the stones exposed on two sides, which increases both the sparkle and the likelihood of damage to the diamonds.

Bar Ring Settings

Advantages: The setting provides extra protection to the diamond’s girdle and pavilion, but not as much protection as the channel and flush settings. Another advantage is that the stones are typically level with the surface of the ring, which makes the ring less prone to catching or scratching.

Disadvantages: A portion of the stones is unprotected, exposing them to chipping or other damage.

Invisible Setting

This popular and labor-intensive technique was developed in France two centuries ago and made famous at the end of the 20th century by Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. In the invisible setting the stones (typically square shaped diamonds – princess or emerald cut – for better fit) are set next to each other without any visible metal holding them in place. To ensure that the stones do not fall out, jewelers create small grooves in the pavilion of the stones, slightly below the crown. These grooves slip into a metal framework below the crown surface in a way that makes the frame invisible from above, creating the appearance of a solid surface of gemstones. In some sense, the result looks somewhat similar to the pav? technique. The invisible setting creates the illusion of larger diamonds, and the technique can be used to create the impression of a larger central stone (consisting of several smaller ones) or to accent a larger central gemstone.

Invisible Ring Settings

Advantages: The invisible setting provides excellent protection of the diamonds from damage and wear and tear. It also is less likely to damage things that brush against the ring.

Disadvantages: The key disadvantage of this setting is the damage done to the diamonds when setting—jewelers have to cut the grooves in the diamonds, which diminishes the gemstones’ market value. This is only important if at some point the diamonds might be resold as loose diamonds.