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As ubiquitous as prong setting engagement rings may seem, there was a time when this silhouette was virtually nonexistent. Fast-forward to the 19th century, this sleek style burst onto the scene and forever changed the way jewelers feature remarkable gemstones.
We spoke to Greg Fromont, cofounder of the New Zealand-based jewelry label Meadowlark, and Kristin Lawler-Trustey, spokesperson for Forevermark to learn more about this ultra-popular ring setting.
What Is the Prong Setting?
The prong setting, also known as the claw setting, is a ring setting that 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 experienced an uptick in popularity during the 19th century “as stone-cutting techniques and larger, more dramatic, less-included stones were unearthed,” says Fromont. 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.”
A prong setting helped create the illusion that the stone was floating above your finger for the first time. Perhaps the best-known purveyor of prong engagement ring settings was the now-iconic Tiffany setting, introduced in 1886.
Meet the Expert
- Greg Fromont and his partner Claire Hammon founded New Zealand-based jewelry label Meadowlark back in 2006. Their designs have been worn by cult-favorite style icons including Grimes, Zoe Kravitz, FKA Twigs, and Lorde.
- Kristen Lawler-Trustey is a spokesperson for Forevermark, a responsibly-sourced diamond brand from De Beers Group with a history spanning 130 years.
Continue on to find out about the best stone cuts to pair with it, 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. You will never have a problem with it going out of style. 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 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? Are there any cuts to avoid? 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. Both experts agree that rare antique cuts, like cabochon, may be better suited with other setting techniques. “Prong settings can be quite labor-intensive,” Fromont explains. “Their proportions are often hand-cut and finished and each side has to be identical, particularly to suit the perfection of an impressively-cut stone.” Because of this, costs for prong settings can run the gamut.
- Are there different types of prong settings? A four- or six-prong setting are the most common, but you can also find rings with two prongs or up to eight prongs. You can also find more unique prongs that are rounded or tapered to a point to form a claw setting. “That’s a particularly hot trend right now,” Lawler-Trustey notes. “Claw settings can have an edgy, modern feel in comparison to their rounded counterparts.”
- 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
Both experts nod to a six-month cleaning and check-up with a trusted jeweler for ensuring 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.
Fromont also explains that “over the course of a long time, the claws holding the stone in will need to be re-tipped, which can be done easily…the last thing you want is for your diamond to suddenly be missing one morning after a big night out.” For retipping, you will have to bring your ring to a jeweler. They 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 non-abrasive 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 of the ring. 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.
An impressive three-stone engagement ring that will catch the light beautifully.
A gorgeous, classic engagement ring that will never go out of style.
Opt for a pave band to add to the brilliance of your prong ring setting.
Another striking East-West option, this breathtaking ring features a 2ct center diamond flanked by baguette diamonds for a finishing touch that’s truly remarkable.
If you’re looking for a center stone that’s not a diamond, consider this dreamy green Montana sapphire.
The unique design on this engagement ring gives the illusion of a floating diamond, which enhances the prong setting and results in a truly covetable piece of jewelry.
The epitome of effortlessness, this simple-yet-striking engagement ring is perfect for the modern minimalist.
Even if you opt for a non-diamond center stone, you can still incorporate them into your engagement ring design, as seen on this striking cornflower blue sapphire ring.
A beautiful antique engagement ring for the bride-to-be who wants something vintage.
This sparkling white Ceylon sapphire ring featuring a sleek prong setting is a sentimental, understated option that will go with any other piece of jewelry on your hand.
For something slightly out of the norm, go for an East-West engagement ring (that’s when your center stone has been flipped to lay horizontally).
An array of cultivated diamonds make up this prong setting ring. Two pear shape diamonds flank the sparkling center rounded stone.
Yellow diamonds are some of the rarest and most eye catching stones on the market. This cushion-cut yellow diamond is in a prong setting in 18K yellow gold.
Classy and timeless, this emerald-cut solitaire ring is the perfect forever piece.
This engagement ring features a six prong setting that holds a breathtaking oval shaped diamond. The knife-edge pavé band adds a unique twist.
The juxtaposition between yellow gold and white gold sets this KatKim ring apart from others. The 1.4ct brilliant cut diamond is held in a four prong 18K yellow gold setting. The band is made of 18K white gold with pavé diamonds featured on the top and the bottom of the band.
Morganite gemstones are a beautiful alternative to to diamonds because they give off a hint of peach while still holding a traditional look. These three morganite gemstones are each held in a four prong setting on 14K yellow gold band.
This four-prong setting holds a glowing Ashoka cut diamond flanked by beautifully cut side stones. The Ashoka cut diamond is very rare and found at only a few diamond retailers, like Kwiat.
Forget wearing your heart on your sleeve. Wear your heart on your engagement ring instead! This heart-shaped diamond is held in a four-prong setting with a pavé rose gold band.