Jewelry Nomenclature: Gem RingsJewelry Nomenclature: Gem Rings

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Jewelry Nomenclature: Gem Rings

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Men and women of all ages wear rings. Some rings symbolize significant events, such as engagements or graduations. Other rings are worn purely as ornamentation. Designs range from simple to ornate, and there is surely a style for every taste. Typically, jewelers create rings from precious metals, such as gold, silver, and platinum. However, you can also find rings made of nickel, stainless steel, and other less expensive metals.

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solitaire setting
White gold solitaire ring with a "green gold" irradiated rock crystal (quartz). Ring and photo by Mauro Cateb. Licensed under CC By 2.0.

Basic Terminology of Gem Rings

Some rings are made only of metal, such as a simple gold wedding band. Others feature gemstones or other decorations. Traditionally, rings are worn on the ring finger, which is the digit adjacent to your pinky. Now, people may wear rings on every finger, including the thumb.


The basic component of a ring, the shank wraps around the finger. Ring shanks come in many styles, sizes, and shapes. Some have stones added, while others are made solely of metal.

unadorned shanks
Examples of unadorned gold shanks

Ring Guards

ring guardPurchased separately, ring guards aren't part of actual rings. Fitted inside rings, their spring mechanisms open to allow people with arthritic or enlarged knuckles to pass rings over their fingers. Then, they tighten to fit securely and hold the rings in place.

Gem Ring Types

In this article, we'll focus on different types of gem rings and their parts.

While many types of rings are available today, gem cutters will likely encounter only a handful of types on a regular basis. Familiarize yourself with these gem rings and their settings. You'll then be better able to visualize them when reading a description or identify them in pictures without descriptions.

Solitaire Ring

Usually simple in style, a solitaire ring features a single large stone, typically bezel or prong mounted. Of course, solitaire gem rings with ornate bands and designs can be encountered. Diamond engagement rings are commonly solitaires. You can also find solitaire rings with other gemstones, including sapphires, emeralds, and tanzanites.

gem rings - diamond solitaire
Diamond solitaire ring. Photo by Guian Bolisay. Licensed under CC By-SA 2.0.

Cocktail Ring

Rarely simple in style, a cocktail ring usually features a large gemstone surrounded by smaller stones. The smaller stones may form a halo around the larger stone or groups on either side of the band. Cocktail rings can be made of precious metals and real gems or less expensive metals and faux stones, as is common in costume jewelry.

gem rings - cocktail ring
1960s platinum cocktail ring, featuring 5 carats of diamonds. Photo by Sage & Simple. Licensed under CC By 2.0.

Pinky Ring

As the name implies, pinky fingers sport pinky rings. These rings appeal to both men and women because of their versatility. However, the designs differ significantly. On the one hand, men's pinky rings typically feature more metal with smaller gemstones, if any. On the other, women's pinky rings typically resemble gem rings worn on other fingers, though on a smaller scale. Alternatively, they may be all-metal rings with an attractive design.

gem rings - pinky ring
Pinky ring. Photo by Daniel R. Blume. Licensed under CC By-SA 2.0.

Class Rings

These popular gem rings are worn to commemorate high school or college graduations. Usually, class rings feature a stone in the center, the school name around the stone, and designs engraved on either side. Designs may touch topics such as graduation years, majors, and activities. Based on wearers' preferences, jewelers can make class rings of precious metals and real gems or less expensive metals and simulated stones.

gem rings - class ring
Class ring. Photo by Tyler. Licensed under CC By-SA 2.0.

Ring Enhancer

Ring enhancers protect and showcase other rings. Commonly used as part of a wedding ring set, a ring enhancer is a ring with a gap in the middle, in which you place another ring, typically a diamond solitaire engagement ring. During the wedding ceremony, the groom slides the ring enhancer into place, completing the wedding band set. Thus, the bride can wear both her engagement and wedding rings on a daily basis.

wedding ring and enhancer
This 14K white gold wedding ring set features an engagement ring with an approximately 1-ct, marquise-cut diamond and tapered baguette-cut side stones and a ring enhancer with 1-ctw diamonds. Photo courtesy of and Greenwich Auction.

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