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Trendy ring settings can be fun and unexpected, but they don’t always have the longest shelf life. There’s something to be said for a traditional engagement ring that will stand the test of time, and for the bride-to-be searching for exactly that, a cathedral setting is an excellent option. Classic and elegant, this setting elevates your stone in an aesthetic way and is a structural beauty.
What Is the Cathedral Setting?
The cathedral setting is an engagement ring setting that features a center stone flanked by arches of metal that come up from the shank. This raised profile secures the center stone in place, giving it a distinct profile while creating what looks almost like a basket on the underside of the ring.
“The setting is reminiscent of the arches in doorways and ceilings of Gothic style cathedrals, hence the name ‘cathedral,’” jeweler Rohan Agrawal points out. “The cathedral setting is a marriage of function and form.”
Meet the Expert
Rohan Agrawal is the co-founder and president of Azeera Inc, a family-owned online fine jewelry store.
The Pros of a Cathedral Setting
Cathedral settings are beautiful and easy to work with, and they are ideal if you want to accentuate your center stone. “You get the added support for the center stone with a distinguished raised profile to the ring,” says Agrawal. “A center stone that sits higher on the finger generally appears more prominent than in a lower setting. All of this comes without investing much more in the design, as the price difference between cathedral settings and simpler styles is marginal.”
This setting is also versatile and allows for your ring to stand out, even if it is a more traditional option overall. “They offer a large canvas with a variety of options for those who prioritize metalwork in their ring,” says Agrawal. “The space between the arches and shank can be filled for a bolder appearance, left empty for a minimalist aesthetic, or decorated with filigree patterns for a vintage look.”
Lastly, they play nice with wedding bands. “One of the biggest pros of a cathedral setting is the ability to raise the center stone enough to make sure that the wedding band when you eventually get one, can nest easily underneath the stone and create a stacked look on the bands,” says jeweler Dan Moran.
Meet the Expert
Dan Moran is a private jeweler and custom engagement ring designer of Concierge Diamonds.
The Cons of a Cathedral Setting
The distinctive raised look of the cathedral setting also has its fair share of negatives. For one thing, because it’s raised so high on your finger, it has a greater chance of getting banged up or snagging on something. “While still suitable for everyday wear, these types of settings are better for those who don’t work with their hands often,” says Agrawal.
As beautiful as the design is, it can also get dirty faster. “The small open crevices in a cathedral setting are prone to trapping dirt and debris, such as makeup and hand lotion,” says Moran. So you may be cleaning your ring frequently, depending on your lifestyle.
What to Look for in a Cathedral Setting
When shopping around for the right cathedral setting, you want to keep the center stone shape in mind. While this is a versatile setting, Agrawal points out that it’s still possible for the cathedral features to dominate the ring if they are wider than the center stone. Pick a stone that complements the setting best. “Elongated shapes such as oval, octagon, and marquise look especially nice in a split shank, while symmetrical shapes such as round, square, and cushion benefit in the conventional style,” Agrawal says.
He also notes that it’s not uncommon to notice unfinished surfaces around the interior of the ring with a cathedral setting. This is because the setting has surfaces in negative spaces that can’t be fully polished by a jeweler. “If the ring is made by hand through forging, cutting, and welding metal, the jeweler is able to polish every surface,” says Agrawal. So, if you purchase a ring that is not handmade, you may notice minor unfinished surfaces. While Agrawal says these shouldn’t detract from the ring, it’s still something to keep in mind.
Moran suggests purchasing your ring through a jeweler who offers free annual cleanings so that you can ensure the ring stays clean. This is even more important with a cathedral setting since it tends to trap dirt.
Ahead, scroll through cathedral setting engagement rings we love.
Natalie Marie Jewelry Elspeth Vintage Diamond Solitaire
A truly classic look, this ring is part of the brand’s vintage collection, a curated collection that includes one-off pieces that date back to as early as the 1800s. This particular ring features a solitaire diamond with a yellow gold band and detailed cathedral shoulders for added elegance.
SHOP NOW: Natalie Marie Jewelry, $3,016
No. 3 Marie Ring
This piece has a bit of a vintage vibe with a unique shape and beautiful detailing. The princess and round cut diamonds around the oval center stone complement each other, and the raised cathedral setting makes it look elegant.
SHOP NOW: No. 3, $7,920
Gabriel & Co Cushion Double Halo Diamond Engagement Ring
Spice up a classic with mixed metals. This ring features a hidden rose gold cathedral setting sitting underneath a sparkling white gold double halo.
SHOP NOW: Gabriel & Co, $3,830
J.R. Dunn The Round Cathedral Engagement Ring
A less detailed cathedral setting gives this ring a modern look. It’s simple, but the high center stone and pavé diamonds on the band give it lots of sparkle.
SHOP NOW: J.R. Dunn, $2,275
Tacori Sculpted Crescent
From above, this ring is incredibly simple: just a princess cut center stone on a platinum band. From the side, you get a glimpse at the more detailed cathedral setting and signature Tacori crests.
SHOP NOW: Tacori, $1,920
Shane Co. Infinity Cathedral Diamond Engagement Ring
This ring offers a more bold look with an infinity split shank and detailed cathedral setting. It also features 66 pavé set round diamonds and interesting milgrain detail.
SHOP NOW: Shane Co, $1,865 (setting only)
White Gold Cathedral Pavé Setting Engagement Ring
This unique ring features a thicker shank sparkling with small round diamonds. The center stone sits in a cathedral setting that looks like a basket as it is set apart from the sides of the shank.
SHOP NOW: 1st Dibs, $6,500
Noam Carver Cathedral Diamond Engagement Ring Setting
A four-prong cathedral setting elevates a center cut diamond in the cut of your choice. With the pavé diamonds along the shank, it’s glittering but simple.
SHOP NOW: Greenwich St. Jewelers, $2,160
DeBebians Pear Three Stone Engagement Ring
While many cathedral settings are shown with a solitaire stone, this ring is proof it works with three stones as well. The setting elevates the center stone above the two side stones.
SHOP NOW: DeBebians, $1,635
Ada Diamonds Oval Cathedral Pavé Setting
This simple design features an oval cut diamond with a band full of pavé diamonds. It’s simple and the cathedral setting makes it look unique from the side.
SHOP NOW: Ada Diamonds, price upon request
Petite Crescent Cathedral Cushion Bloom Engagement Ring
For a more detailed cathedral setting, try this ring. The embellished crown is beautifully detailed with brilliant-cut diamonds down the sides.
SHOP NOW: J.R. Dunn, $6,210
Tacori Dantela Engagement Ring
This glittering design features a pear cut center stone surrounded by smaller diamonds. It’s sitting in a detailed cathedral setting, and the shank features Tacori’s signature crests.
SHOP NOW: Tacori, $5,590
Reeds Jens Diamond Engagement Ring
With pavé diamonds down the shoulders and sides of the shank, and a cathedral setting to lift the center stone, this is one ring that can’t be missed. The cathedral also hides a small diamond in the under gallery.
SHOP NOW: Reeds Jewelers, $2,195
Cathedral Setting Engagement Ring
A center diamond sits in the signature Cynthia Britt solitaire mounting with a cathedral style setting to make it look like the diamond is floating above the band.
SHOP NOW: Cynthia Britt, price upon request
Tacori Full Bloom Engagement Ring
The way the small round diamonds are set around the center diamond makes this stone appear to look like a flower. It sits on a very detailed cathedral setting to complete the feminine look.
SHOP NOW: Tacori, $4,080