Engagement Ring Cuts & Styles
07 Jun 2022
One of the most important steps in planning an unforgettable wedding proposal is having that astonishing engagement ring ready to go. But what kind of ring should you choose?
If you’re not sure, don’t worry: Most people are in the same boat. This short guide will help you to understand the different factors that go into an engagement ring. We’ll be looking at the material of the ring band, which gemstones to choose, and gemstone cuts, shapes, and settings.
Ring Band: Usually Gold, But There are Many Options
Today it is most common for engagement rings to be made of gold. You’ll have many types of gold to choose from: There is traditional yellow gold, white gold that looks similar to silver or platinum, and rose gold that has a reddish, coppery look.
Gold is measured by a purity rating called its “karat” (with a K):
• 24k gold is pure gold—but this is rare in jewelry because pure gold is incredibly soft and easy to scuff or damage. It is only available in yellow gold. Pure gold is hypoallergenic.
• 18k gold is 75% pure and retains the rich color of pure gold. It’s not hypoallergenic but still good for most people with sensitive skin, particularly yellow gold. While still delicate and susceptible to damage, this is the most practical karat to choose if you want “as much gold as you can feasibly have.”
• 14k gold is 58% pure and is the most practical choice, representing an excellent tradeoff between gold content and durability.
• Lower karats are really only for people who want to save money or want an exceptionally durable ring material.
Besides gold, platinum is also popular in engagement ring bands, as platinum is even rarer than gold. It also has the benefit of being far more resistant to scratching and scuffing, and it’s hypoallergenic like pure gold. The only thing missing is the golden color that so many people love.
Less common fine jewelry choices are palladium and silver. Silver is much more affordable—you won’t have to worry about the material price at all—while palladium is likely to cost in the same ballpark as platinum.
Ring Shapes & Cuts: How the Jeweler Crafts the Gemstone
Every gemstone on a ring is going to have a shape and a cut. These terms are often used interchangeably, but technically a given shape of a stone can have different types of cuts.
A ring’s shape is seen from the top: round, square, marquise (football-like), pear, oval, triangle, trillion (like a triangle but with swelling sides), etc. You should choose a shape that appeals to your honey. If you see a ring design you like but want a gemstone with a different shape, or other modifications, choose a jeweler who offers custom-made engagement rings.
The cut of a ring determines how much sparkle and brilliance it will have, how the colors will come out, and how these colors and light will be directed out of the ring. Cut is a very complicated topic, and there are many different cuts to choose from, but the International Gem Society has a guide to gemstone cuts that will help you understand.
Ring Settings: How the Gemstone Sits on the Ring
A ring’s “setting” refers to the way that the ring holds onto its main gemstone and secondary accent stones.
The most popular type of ring setting uses prongs to hold the stone in place—like a clasp except it can never be unclasped. Some of the most classic engagement ring styles use prongs.
Prongs are built into the design of the ring, creating a beautiful visual context. There are many different types of prong settings, including French prongs, basket prongs, floating prongs, and more.
The best type to choose depends on the size and cut of the gemstone, and on personal taste.
The other main type of setting is the bezel setting. A bezel is a lip of precious metal that surrounds the edge of the entire gemstone, holding it in place.
This is the most secure ring setting and a good choice for someone with an active lifestyle. It’s also a good choice for people who want to see more of the ring’s gold or platinum color.
Much less common is the tension setting. Tension settings use friction alone to hold the gem in place. This looks extremely impressive, as though the gem were suspended in the air.
Tension rings demand more technical prowess to create properly, making them more expensive, and are expensive to resize since the ring must be heavily rebuilt.
Pave, Channel, & Bar Settings
These settings typically apply to the small gemstones—usually diamonds—set around the entire band of the ring. Here the settings themselves are not usually meant to be seen.
The pave setting is similar to a prong setting, while the channel setting is like a bezel setting, forming a “channel” of gems like a river. A bar setting is like a channel setting but with two sides of the gems exposed, giving them more prominence.
Which Gemstone to Pick?
Choosing a gemstone is mainly about budget and personal taste. However, one trick you can use to get more out of your budget is to avoid the idea that “bigger is better.”
Gemstone weight is measured in “carats” (with a C). Gems become exponentially more expensive as their carat weight rises. This often isn’t worth it.
You can save budget by picking a less expensive gemstone (like moss agate or opal instead of emerald or ruby), using a bezel setting, choosing shallower gemstone cuts like the trillion, or by forgoing a solitaire gemstone in favor of a smaller stone accented by gemstone clusters or halos.
You’ve Chosen an Engagement Ring! What’s Next?
Along with picking out where you’re going to propose and how, picking the engagement ring is the most important part!
So congratulations! You’ve earned a break: Time to plan for your honeymoon!