Summary
With so many choices and designs, how do you pick the right engagement ring setting? Choosing a setting and style is one of the most important decisions you’ll make about your engagement ring.

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
pave twisted shank with halo setting - engagement ring setting

Knowing the words to describe a ring will help you narrow your search. This ring features a twisted pavé band and a sunburst halo. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

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.

Prongs

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.

Different fancy shapes may require a different number of prongs. For pear, marquise, and heart shapes, V-shaped prongs may hold the sharp corners, providing protection from chipping.

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.

Bezel

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.

bezel set asscher diamond - engagement ring setting

This bezel-set asscher-cut moissanite is certainly protected. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

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.

engagement ring settings - half-bezel

Unlike a full bezel, the half bezel in this engagement ring setting leaves the diamond somewhat vulnerable to chipping. Check out the video. © James Allen. Used with permission.

Tension

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.

engagement ring setting - tension-set diamond

This 1.50-ct diamond in a tension setting certainly gets a lot of light. Check out the video. © James Allen. Used with permission.

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.

faux tension setting - engagement ring setting

This faux tension engagement ring setting keeps the gem in place, another great option for a unique design. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Flush

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.

flush-set diamond - engagement ring setting

Despite the ancient origins of the flush setting, a flush-set diamond can have a rather sleek and modern look. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Settings for Small Accents and Wedding Bands

Pavé

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.

princess-cut diamond in pavé setting - engagement ring setting

This princess-cut engagement ring setting has a tapered pavé band and a pavé wedding ring that slots into it, making it even more unique. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Channel Setting

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.

blue zircon with channel-set diamonds - engagement ring setting

Channel-set diamonds certainly add extra sparkle in this wavy blue zircon engagement ring setting. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Bar Setting

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.

engagement ring settings - bar-set eternity band

This wedding band features bar-set diamonds, another option for diamond accents. © James Allen. Used with permission.

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.

Solitaire

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

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.

Three-Stone

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.

Side Stone

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.

side stones on floral - engagement ring setting

Emeralds accent the leaves in this floral moissanite engagement ring setting, emphasizing the nature-inspired design and also adding a pop of color. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Two-Stone

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.

Cluster

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.

cluster - engagement ring setting

An oval dome of small diamonds gives off a lot of sparkle, so it will look larger than one diamond for the same budget. © James Allen. Used with permission.

Embellishments

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

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.

filigree and amethyst - engagement ring setting

Airy filigree and a hidden diamond certainly make this amethyst ring unique. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

“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

Milgrain is decorative, tiny to small metal beads. Often a border decoration, milgrain can add texture and detail to an engagement ring.

milgrain - engagement ring setting

While milgrain adds interesting details to this ring, it also makes it harder to clean. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Engraving

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.

engraved band - engagement ring setting

Engraved detail complements this rose-cut diamond beautifully. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Melee

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.

Straight Band

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.

straight band - engagement ring setting

A straight band like this 0.91-ct diamond solitaire engagement ring setting is a classic, so it will never go out of style. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Cathedral

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.

cathedral style - engagement ring setting

This cathedral setting raises the enerald high above the finger, giving it more light. It also includes a “peek-a-boo” diamond seen only from the side. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Bypass

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.

princess cut with bypass setting - engagement ring setting

In contrast to flowing bypass rings with round stones, this unique engagement ring setting shows off the sharp geometry of a princess cut. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Split Shank

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.

cushion morganite halo with split shank - engagement ring setting

Above all, split shank styles look great with larger stones like this cushion-cut morganite. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

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.

engagement ring setting - half-pave band

A delicate half-pavé band certainly gives extra sparkle to this morganite engagement ring. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

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.

criss-cross - engagement ring setting

An engagement ring setting with a criss-cross pavé band will certainly turn heads. © James Allen. Used with permission.

Jewelers can also decorate bands with filigree, milgrain, or engravings.

filigree and milgrain band - engagement ring setting

This emerald ring displays leafy filigree and milgrain on the band, adding a botanical feel that certainly fits with the gem’s mossy green color. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Metal Finishes

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.

Oval Shapes

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

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.

Colored Gemstones

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:

Or, read more about how to choose these gemstones for an engagement ring:

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.

octagon halo - engagement ring setting

In contrast to the round diamond, an octagon halo gives this ring a geometric form. © James Allen. Used with permission.

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.

art deco yellow sapphire - engagement ring setting

The repeating patterns on this yellow sapphire ring are certainly Art Deco-inspired. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Double Bands

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.

double band - engagement ring setting

Featuring two pavé bands, this engagement ring will certainly give off a lot of sparkle. © James Allen. Used with permission.

Twisting Bands

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.

twisting shank with lab-made sapphire - engagement ring setting

Twisting bands give this sapphire ring a nice flow, reminiscent of water.  © CustomMade. Used with permission.

Classic Styles

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.

classic solitaire engagement ring setting

A simple, classic solitaire. © CustomMade. Used with permission.

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.