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As ubiquitous as prong-setting engagement rings may seem, there was a time when this silhouette was virtually nonexistent. The sleek style burst onto the scene in the 19th century and forever changed the way jewelers feature gemstones, creating the illusion the stone is floating above the finger for the first time. Perhaps, the best-known purveyor of prong engagement ring settings is the now-iconic Tiffany setting, introduced in the late 19th century.
What Is the Prong Setting?
The prong setting typically has four or six metal prongs that extend up from the ring’s basket and over the gemstone. This effectively secures the diamond in place and allows more light to enter the stone.
Prong settings became popular as improved stone-cutting techniques allowed larger, more dramatic, less-included stones to be unearthed, says Greg Fromont, cofounder of the New Zealand-based jewelry label Meadowlark. Prior to prongs, the majority of rings featured bezel or rub-over settings. “These older styles hid the stone away but as more fantastical stones were created, jewelers sought to show off the full personality of a stone.”
We spoke to Fromont and Kristen Lawler-Trustey, spokesperson for Forevermark, to learn more about this ultra-popular ring setting.
Meet the Expert
- Greg Fromont and his partner Claire Hammon founded New Zealand-based jewelry label Meadowlark in 2006.
- Kristen Lawler-Trustey is a spokesperson for Forevermark, a responsibly sourced diamond brand from De Beers Group.
Continue reading to learn the best stone cuts to pair with the prong setting and why its versatility is key when deciding what aesthetic is best for you.
Pros and Cons of Prong Settings
Prong settings are popular because of their classic and timeless look. They are also a great way to show the most of your engagement stone since they don't take up much room on the ring. The small shape of the prongs also makes it easier to clean your stone. You are able to get to the sides and underside of the stone with this type of setting, ensuring your ring has maximum shine after each clean.
A potential con that comes with a prong setting is getting something caught on one of the prongs. When looking for a prong setting, you’ll want to work with a trusted jeweler. “They should ensure the prongs are properly finished,” says Lawler-Trustey.
“Prong settings that aren’t properly refined may catch or snag on fabric or skin.” If the stone is not set evenly within the prongs, it could wiggle loose. “Because they are so delicately set, prong settings can reveal inferior workmanship,” she adds.
What to Look for in a Prong Setting
- What cuts work best with a prong setting? Prong settings are incredibly versatile and work with a variety of cuts. Some of the best cuts for this setting include round brilliant, pear, princess, emerald, cushion, and radiant. Rare antique cuts, like cabochon, may be better suited with other setting techniques.
- Are there different types of prong settings? Four- or six-prong settings are the most common, but you can also find rings with as few as two prongs or as many as eight. You'll find more unique prongs that are rounded or tapered to a point, which is known as a claw setting, or the tab prong, which is more square-shaped.
- What stones work best with a prong setting? A prong setting works with just about any stone. This type of setting is essential if you choose a softer stone for your engagement ring, like morganite or emerald, because it gives less durable stones more protection against chipping or other damage.
How to Care for Your Prong Setting
A six-month cleaning and checkup with a trusted jeweler is a good way to ensure your prong setting stands the test of time. “The jeweler will inspect the prongs of your jewelry for any weaknesses or trauma, making sure that the diamond(s) remain safe in the setting,” says Lawler-Trustey.
“Over the course of a long time, the claws holding the stone in will need to be re-tipped, which can be done easily," says Fromont. It helps hold the stone in place. To re-tip, a jeweler will attach a wire or metal band to the top of the prong that needs to be reinforced. The process is fairly inexpensive and costs around $30-50 per prong.
In terms of at-home care, Lawler-Trustey recommends using hot, soapy water and a gentle brush with a soft-bristle or a non-abrasive jewelry cleaner followed up with a lint-free cloth. For a less-traditional approach to cleaning, Fromont suggests soap crystals and aluminum foil for a “mostly nonabrasive way to clean your jewelry.” When storing your ring, make sure to keep it away from any other jewelry that could potentially cause scratching or damage to the surface. Having a designated box for just your wedding ring is an easy way to ensure it's properly protected.
Ahead, unique and beautiful engagement rings featuring a prong setting.
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