We’ll discuss everything you need to know, from how stones are held in the ring to how embellishments and finishes impact the overall look. You’ll also learn the terms to describe things like stone arrangement and ring structure, so you can make important style decisions. Finally, we’ll discuss vintage styles and the top engagement ring trends for 2019.
There’s a lot to consider when picking an engagement ring setting. By taking your time and looking at plenty of pictures, you’ll find the right setting for your engagement ring. [Reading time: 17 min]
Table of Contents:
- How is the Gemstone Held in the Ring?
- Settings for Small Accents and Wedding Bands
- Channel Setting
- Bar Setting
- Arranging Stones in an Engagement Ring Setting
- Side Stone
- Engagement Ring Structure
- Straight Band
- Split Shank
- Ring Band Shapes
- Bands with Sparkle
- Even More Styles
- Metal Finishes
- What Exactly does “Vintage” Mean?
- Popular Engagement Ring Styles for 2019
- Oval Shapes
- Pear Shapes
- Colored Gemstones
- Geometric Design and Art Deco Vintage Styles
- Double Bands
- Twisting Bands
- Classic Styles
- Where Should I Buy an Engagement Ring?
How is the Gemstone Held in the Ring?
First of all, you need to make sure that your center stone is held securely in the ring. Just how secure it needs to be depends on your lifestyle.
In most rings, stones are held in place by prongs. For round shapes, either four or six prongs may be used. Six prongs provide a more secure setting, but four prongs will hold a stone well for anyone with a less active lifestyle or a smaller stone. Four prongs will also allow more light into the gemstone, improving its sparkle.
Prongs can snag on clothing, making them less ideal for those with active lifestyles. Still, they allow a lot of light to reach the gemstone, creating more brilliance and fire. The most commonly used setting, prongs are a classic and timeless choice.
Although secure, prongs can loosen with time and wear. Have a jeweler check the prongs of your engagement ring every year to ensure that the stone remains firmly held.
For those with very active lifestyles, chipping and snagging a ring stone can be worrisome. A bezel setting will completely protect the outer edges of the gem. With a sleek and modern look, bezel settings certainly provide the best protection.
While easy to maintain and worry-free, bezel settings hide part of the stone, making it appear slightly smaller. They also reduce the amount of light hitting the stone, which reduces brilliance and fire.
Some settings employ a half bezel to hold the gem in place. While this will still hold it securely, it doesn’t provide the protection against chipping that a full bezel would.
Specially made ring bands can also hold gemstones in place with tension. This setting provides both security and plenty of light, but resizing is difficult and expensive.
Tension settings can also make small diamonds appear smaller, since the metal is typically thick.
Some settings employ a tension style, where the stone appears to be tension-set but is actually held by additional structures behind the stone. These settings still allow plenty of light to reach the stone but will be easier to resize.
An ancient method of setting gems, a flush setting, also called a “hammer” setting, provides great protection for the gemstone. A jeweler drills a hole into the ring metal, places the gem, and hammers metal around it to hold it in place.
This setting provides great protection and a sleek, understated look. However, since the gem needs to be smaller than the band, only smaller stones are flush-set.
Settings for Small Accents and Wedding Bands
Small accents stones add sparkle or color to a ring or band. Thus, many modern rings employ pavé-set diamonds to create the effect that the ring is paved with diamonds. Pavé-set diamonds are held by tiny prongs and can be quite close together, creating a stunning effect. However, this setting isn’t the most durable. Prongs can snag and loosen with wear or during resizing, and you may lose these diamonds if you don’t regularly take the ring to a jeweler for maintenance.
Channel-set stones are better protected than pavé-set stones. This setting employs metal bands on either side of a row of diamonds or accent gems. Channel settings are great for jewelry for those with active lifestyles, but they can still make resizing difficult. In addition, damage to the metal channels can make the ring hard to repair.
Jewelers can also employ vertical bars of metal to set accent diamonds. Since the vertical bars cover less of the gem, this provides slightly more sparkle than a channel setting but also slightly less security.
Arranging Stones in an Engagement Ring Setting
There are many ways to arrange diamonds and other gemstones in rings. How you decide to present the star of the show — or whether there is one at all — constitutes one of the most important aspects of the engagement ring setting.
The classic solitaire will never go out of style. The most popular ring setting of all, the solitaire features a single stone, usually a diamond, and always makes a good engagement ring choice. Better yet, the setting itself is less expensive than other engagement ring settings.
Halo rings are another popular style. With a ring of diamonds around the center stone, they have a ton of sparkle, and the center stone actually appears larger. While most popular for smaller diamond center stones, halo settings also look great with large diamonds or colored gemstones.
In a three-stone ring, the center gemstone is flanked by smaller stones on both sides. Representing the past, present, and future, three-stone rings are also great for increasing sparkle. In this arrangement, smaller side stones will make the center appear larger.
Featuring more than three stones, side stone rings are a great way to make your engagement ring setting unique and special. While the center stone remains the star of the show, small and often colorful accents add character to the band.
Two-stone rings, or “toi et moi” rings, represent two souls coming together. Typically, both gems are the same size and shape. While some prefer the look of identical stones, others may prefer to mix and match.
In a cluster setting, a jeweler sets several stones close together so they resemble one large center stone. If you like the appearance of a large stone but not the cost, a cluster setting might be right for you.
While some prefer plain and simple jewelry designs, others want a more intricate engagement ring setting. Here are some terms you might encounter when shopping.
Filigree refers to intricate, decorative metalwork where a jeweler takes a strand of metal and twists it into a decorative shape, then solders it to the jewelry. It often results in a lacy and delicate appearance.
“Scrollwork” is a common type of filigree. Engagement rings with scrollwork feature S-shaped metal decorations, curving in on themselves like the ends of an unfurled scroll. “Vining” filigree lends itself to nature-inspired designs. Filigree can also create geometric, Art Deco-style symmetric forms.
Milgrain is decorative, tiny to small metal beads. Often a border decoration, milgrain can add texture and detail to an engagement ring.
Jewelry can also have engraved elements, where a jeweler cuts into the metal to create images. Similarly, relief refers to a deeper engraving technique. Here, a jeweler will carve away material to create a background and engrave the foreground in more detail.
This term refers to small diamonds or colored gemstones, most often pavé or even tinier micro-pavé diamonds.
Engagement Ring Structure
Whether you’ve chosen a solitaire or a three-stone ring, there are still many different types of rings to choose from.
The classic and most common style, a straight band goes around the finger with the base of the prongs or bezel setting attached to the band.
In a cathedral setting, intricate filigree and sometimes accent stones decorate the sides. This setting raises the gems higher, allowing more light to hit them. However, these high-set stones are also more susceptible to bumps, scratches, and snags, so a cathedral setting may not be ideal for those with an active lifestyle.
The ring shank in a bypass setting looks like a single turn of a screw. With the band touching the upper part of the stone on one side and the lower part on the other, bypass rings symbolize two parts becoming one.
Some modern ring styles incorporate a split shank. Here, the ring band splits in two near the gem setting, creating negative space. Sometimes, the four pieces of metal become the prongs holding the gem in place.
Ring Band Shapes
On top of these options, you can also add more style and personality to the band of the ring. For the greatest comfort and classic style, a rounded band is perfect. If you prefer just a little bit of flair, you could opt for a knife edge band, like the one used in a Tiffany setting. Or, to make the center stone appear larger, you could pick a band that tapers to a narrower width near the stone.
Bands with Sparkle
Diamond-encrusted pavé bands are popular, since they add sparkle without drawing attention away from the center stone. Pavé diamonds can either go fully around the band or just halfway. Channel-set diamonds in the band are another option with greater durability.
Even More Styles
Rope or cable-style bands have two or more strands of metal elegantly twisted around one another. Infinity bands take it one step further, leaving open, negative space between the strands that resembles the symbol for infinity (∞).
You could also opt for two bands, either parallel to one another or criss-crossing to make an “X” under the center stone.
Jewelers can also decorate bands with filigree, milgrain, or engravings.
Not all jewelry is finished to a high polish. While most prefer the glossy look, some prefer other finishes. If you want a less flashy design that won’t show so many fingerprints, take a look at these finishes.
What Exactly does “Vintage” Mean?
Technically, vintage refers to something at least 20 to 30 years old. In terms of engagement rings, vintage usually refers to the ring’s style, not its age. If someone has been hinting that they want a vintage engagement ring, they usually mean one with intricate metalwork rather than a simpler design. (However, if they frequent second-hand and antique shops, they may actually prefer an older piece).
Vintage engagement ring settings can certainly have a number of different styles. Art Deco involves symmetry and repeated geometric patterns, while Edwardian jewelry involves intricate filigree, often scrolling and floral design. Victorian jewelry often includes rows of diamonds.
Still, the term “vintage” is a type of catch-all that some jewelers use to imply a more intricate and involved engagement ring design, even if it incorporates more modern elements.
Popular Engagement Ring Styles for 2019
If you’re looking for a trendy engagement ring, you’ll want to know what’s popular this year. So, take a look at these trends and see what catches your eye.
Not all diamonds are round. While round diamonds are the most popular shape, more and more people are opting for fancy shapes. For example, oval-cut diamonds are some of the top-trending stones, and there are some great reasons to choose them. These shapes aren’t just cheaper than round diamonds, they also have larger surfaces for the same carat weight! Furthermore, their elongated shape even makes the finger appear longer and slimmer, and with their great sparkle there’s little reason to pass on these shapes.
Oval-cut diamonds can look like a slight twist on the classic round. They’re also a great choice for colored gemstones. Read our buying guide for oval-cut diamonds for more on these great shapes.
Pear shapes are quite popular, too. Furthermore, they have a similar price point and face-up size as ovals. Pear-shaped diamonds are more unusual, but this shape dates back hundreds of years. In nature-inspired rings, pears can symbolize water and rain, but they also look great in antique and simpler settings.
These shapes are also wonderful for colored gemstones and are top choices for ruby and sapphire rings. However, these shapes aren’t easy to judge, so read our buying guide for pear-shaped diamonds before choosing one.
As more and more brides seek something unique for their engagement ring setting, many opt for colored gemstones. Whether as small accent stones or the star of the show, a gem with a pop of color adds a personal touch to a ring.
Blue gemstones are particularly trendy, especially sapphire and aquamarine. These gemstones are durable enough for ring use and certainly have great color. As center stones, surrounding them with a halo of diamonds will add bright sparkle and interest. Alternatively, as side stones for diamond rings, they will add color without distracting from the diamond’s sparkle.
Of course, the world of colored gemstones offers many more options. If you’re not sure which gemstone to choose, check out some of these options:
- 10 Rare Engagement Ring Stones that Won’t Break the Bank
- 7 Stunning but Delicate Engagement Ring Stones
- Ten Big, Beautiful, and Affordable Engagement Ring Stones
- Ten Rare and Expensive Engagement Ring Stones
Or, read more about how to choose these gemstones for an engagement ring:
- An Incredible Union of Colors: Choosing Opal Engagement Ring Stones
- Choosing Pearl Engagement Ring Stones
- Colorful Options: Choosing Topaz Engagement Ring Stones
- Red and More: Choosing Garnet Engagement Ring Stones
- Something Blue: Choosing Sapphire Engagement Ring Stones
Geometric Design and Art Deco Vintage Styles
Hexagonal and octagonal patterns offer an unusual geometry for engagement rings. These shapes are often used for halo settings around a round center stone.
Repeating patterns found in Art Deco-inspired engagement rings offer another kind of geometric symmetry. Art Deco styles are typically more intricate but also less likely to look dated a few years from now.
Using two bands for the engagement ring, or an interlocking wedding band, gives the engagement ring a completely different look. Though it may overwhelm a smaller diamond, double bands are perfect for elongated shapes like oval, pear, marquise, and emerald cuts.
If you’re looking for a more low-key trend, try this one. Rope-style bands give an elegant twist to a classic solitaire or halo ring. Whether polished metal or pavé, this trend gives some texture and interest to the ring without distracting from the center stone.
If none of these trends are quite what you’re looking for, don’t forget the classics! Solitaire and halo settings are still extremely popular. Pair them with a plain band for a simple look or a pavé band for extra flair.
Where Should I Buy an Engagement Ring?
An engagement ring is a personal and expensive purchase, so you’ll want to be sure that your ring has high quality and exceptional beauty for a fair price. For the best prices and excellent quality, we recommend creating an engagement ring online from a setting and a loose stone that you choose yourself.
While many companies allow you to create your own ring online, look for those that allow you to see the center gemstone before you buy. With online video options, you can see for yourself the diamond’s sparkle or the gemstone’s color and judge how well they perform. You can also see if they have unattractive clarity imperfections or off shapes. Without this, you’ll only have the company’s word that your ring will be beautiful.
To create your own ring, we recommend using James Allen. With hundreds of thousands of diamonds on offer, each with a 360° video to view their performance, you’ll be able to find your dream stone. Plus, they offer tons of engagement ring settings and allow you to preview what your diamond will actually look like when set in the ring!
However, you’ll have a hard time finding a quality colored gemstone through James Allen. Most of their gemstones are overly dark or light or simply poorly cut.
If you’re looking for a colored gemstone ring, or if you just can’t find the right setting for your diamond, consider designing a completely unique, custom ring using CustomMade. Their jewelry experts will create the perfect setting with you, and set it with a diamond or colored gemstone ideal for your budget and style.