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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.”
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Pros and Cons 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.
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 Ring
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.
- What stones pair best with a cathedral setting? 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.
- How can I tell if the ring is high quality? 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.
- Where should I shop for this type of ring? 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.
How to Care for a Cathedral Setting Ring
Every engagement ring needs regular cleaning, no matter the setting. For a cathedral setting, it's essential to clean the stone and the raises flanks that hold the raised stone. Don't forget about the underneath shank! This is where dirt tends to live.
Also, set a reminder to check the prongs and the setting. Sometimes, the ring will withstand damage that isn't noticeable at first glance, so inspecting it will help catch any damage before it permanently damages your cathedral setting ring.
Ahead, scroll through cathedral setting engagement rings we love.
Natalie Marie Jewelry Lumi Ring
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.
ZAC by Zac Posen Cathedral Solitaire Plus Diamond Engagement Ring
Simplicity is key with this ring's design. There is no detailing on the band. Instead, the regal cathedral setting is the main focus of the ring. The pavé-set diamonds lead up to the center solitaire stone that sits high at the top of the cathedral casing.