You have probably more than once seen a diamond ring with the rock seemingly floating in space above the metal. This illusion is made possible by the prongs that hold the diamond in place.
Not only do prongs have the job of keeping the gem firmly on top of the ring, but the added elevation lets light pass through the stone from multiple angles giving it the recognizable sparkle and glint.
Seeing how prongs have both an aesthetical as well as a functioning role, it is obvious that choosing the right prong setting is essential for the ring of your dreams.
So before you venture out to pick your ideal ring, get yourself acquainted with prong settings and everything you need to know about them with our all-encompassing guide.
Let’s dive right in!
What Are Prongs?
We’ll start with the basics. Prongs are small pieces of metal soldered or welded onto a ring that resembles a cradle and is meant to hold a gem and keep it in place.
You will also probably come across the term claw settings as prongs do resemble tiny metal claws.
A jeweler places the prongs on the ring before the stone, after which it is the skill of the jeweler that comes into play for the bending and polishing of the prongs.
With incredible precision, an expert jeweler will cut just the right amount of excess material while making sure that there are no gaps between the gem and the metal.
Rounding up the edges and choosing the perfect height is an extremely delicate job and requires the utmost dexterity and patience.
The result should be a masterfully done ring with the prongs not covering any part of the top of the gem (table facet) while still providing a very strong grip.
Today, most of the rings you see at the jeweler’s are made with prongs, but that wasn’t always the case. Before the late 19th century, gemstones were mainly set in bezel settings meaning that the stones were more or less hidden in their metal casing.
As soon as they were invented, prong settings became incredibly popular as they allowed jewelers to draw attention to the gemstone. Furthermore, prong settings allowed for larger and more exquisite rocks to be used.
Prong settings revolutionized the jewelry industry by having the gemstones become the centerpiece of rings and the main focus of attention.
The elevated position of the gemstone, the increased amount of light refracting through it, and the minimal metal coverage were an instant hit. All of this quickly made prong settings a classic and the best choice for engagement rings.
Related Read: Types Of Diamond Settings: A Guide To Setting Styles
Number Of Prongs
Now that we have established that prong settings are the finest option, it is time to talk about the number of prongs on a ring.
The number of prongs varies from ring to ring and can be as few as 2, all the way up to 8 prongs. However, the practice has shown that either 4 or 6 prongs are the two best options.
When deciding on the number of prongs, you should ask yourself a couple of questions:
How Much Sparkle Do You Want Your Gemstone to Have?
It is the inherent nature of prongs and their function to allow the free passage of light, unlike other types of settings. Although the cut of a diamond has the most influence on its shining properties, the number of prongs influences this as well.
The fewer the prongs, the more light can pass through and give the gemstone a sparkling appearance.
How Big Is the Gemstone?
The number of prongs should always be considered in proportion to the gemstone’s size. Four prongs or less are advisable for stones that weigh less than one carat.
If you were to put more prongs on a smaller stone, they would inadvertently “swallow up” the stone, thus defeating its purpose.
However, if you were to place a larger stone in 4 or fewer prongs, you run the risk of having the stone not being securely set in place.
Therefore, for added protection, we recommend choosing 6 or more prongs for gemstones that weigh more than one carat.
Are You Concerned With Stability and Protection?
Prongs act as a type of protection for the gemstone from getting hit or scratched. As you’ve probably guessed, the more prongs, the more the ring is protected.
Furthermore, having a prong get broken is not a big deal when there are six of them, as you still have five more to keep the stone in place. On the other hand, losing one in a 3-prong setting might lead to a disaster.
What Shape Do You Want Your Gemstone to Look Like?
This question comes down to whether you want your gemstone to have a squarish look or a rounded one.
Four prongs are traditionally used to accentuate the squareness of a gemstone, whereas six prongs make it look a bit more oval in shape. You should keep in mind the cut of the gemstone as square cuts such as emerald or princess naturally look better in four prongs.
At the end of the day, the shape is entirely up to your personal preference so go with the one that suits your taste the best.
Prong Settings Variants
Even though it mostly comes down to personal preference, the prong setting variant does play a major role in the overall look of a ring and therefore requires careful consideration.
Prong settings differ in shape and size so choose carefully following your taste and the overall look and shape of the gemstone.
The most common type of prong setting is the rounded type, but you can also choose from clawed, double-clawed, v-shaped, flat tab, or even custom-made.
Rounded prongs are the most basic type and are most commonly featured on rings. They sit just above the gemstone’s girdle and are inconspicuous as they look like tiny circles when viewed from the top.
Clawed prongs, or pointed prongs as they are sometimes referred to, are most often used in engagement rings. They blend in with the diamond and subtly highlight the diamond’s contours.
Double claw prongs are recommended for their extra security and protection without having to resort to using thick, large prongs that might take away the spotlight from the gemstone.
With certain diamond cuts, such as marquise or pear, the danger of chipping becomes too great, so the V-shape prongs are used. Not only do you gain more protection, but V-shape prongs also seamlessly follow the line of these elegant cuts.
Flat Tab Prong
Flat tab prongs have a much lower profile than the other types and are recommended for people with an active lifestyle as they reduce the chance of snagging onto fabric.
This type is most suitable for emerald cuts as it further emphasizes its rectangular shape.
Custom prongs are also a possibility you might want to consider. You can experiment with the shape and size of the prongs as well as their orientation in regard to the gemstone.
However, we advise you to always consult an expert jeweler and to take into consideration the weight and the type of cut in addition to your wishes.
Choosing The Best Material
The two materials that are most often considered, especially if we are talking about diamond rings, are definitely platinum and white gold. In terms of safety, they are both excellent materials with subtle differences only in their durability and overall aesthetics.
It is not rare to combine the materials and have the body of the ring be made out of white gold and use platinum for the prongs.
In this combination, platinum will add extra malleability, but be wary of platinum increasing the price of the ring. It is perhaps the most practical to go with a single material.
White gold (18K) is somewhat stronger between the two, but platinum is denser and does not chip as easily.
Platinum wins in the durability department, but both materials will last you a long time with proper and timely maintenance.
In the case of aesthetics, white gold and platinum do not have the same color even though they are both perfectly suitable for diamond rings.
The similarity in color comes mainly from the rhodium plating that is applied to white gold. However, over time the plating will fade, and the color discrepancy will increase.
Related Read: In Which Metal We Should Wear Diamond?
Making sure that the gemstones are firmly set in place should be left to a professional jeweler as tightening prongs is not something you should be doing by yourself. We recommend that you have the prongs inspected twice a year as they do wear away, especially in the case of rings that rarely leave your hand.
Fortunately, ensuring a tight grip on a worn-out prong is not a difficult process and the jeweler will charge you somewhere between $30 and $50 per prong.
Professional cleaning is also done at the jeweler’s but there are actions you can take at home to keep your jewelry clean.
We advise you to use non-abrasive chemicals such as simply dipping a soft brush in hot, soapy water and gently cleaning the ring. After this, wipe the ring with a piece of cloth that does not leave any residue when used.
Another way of keeping your jewelry free of scratches and damage is to keep it all in separate boxes. You should also remember to, as always, adapt the type of jewelry you are wearing to your lifestyle.
The Best Prong Setting For Your Ring
Prong setting should undoubtedly cater to your own personal preferences, and that’s why it is important to keep in mind several aspects that will influence your decision.
The trick is to find the right balance between putting the emphasis on the gemstone and having adequate prong security and durability.
Thin prongs give more space to light and accentuate the “floating” of the gemstone but are also more prone to breaking.
The same goes for short prongs that highlight the gem, but if they are too short, there won’t be sufficient grip on the gem.
Similarly, thick and/or large prongs might completely overshadow the gemstone even though they do add to the gem’s protection.
We have already mentioned the impact a lifestyle has on your choice of a prong setting. If you are leading an active lifestyle and frequently use your hands for work or other activities, then you should think carefully about the size and positioning of the prongs.
The height of prongs is one of the more prominent characteristics as higher placed prongs tend to snag on clothes or other fabric such as gloves.
Prongs are most commonly set right up to the edge of the girdle, which means that the top of the gemstone is not protected and can get chipped.
This means wearing the ring should be avoided whenever there is a chance of strong impacts on hard surfaces.
Finally, choosing the best prong setting is not very different from choosing a ring altogether. It goes without saying that it needs to be according to your taste, but it also has to epitomize your mindset, your personality, and your way of life.
In conclusion, choosing the best prong setting gives you a great opportunity to express yourself and your creativity.
From picking out the number of prongs, their style, shape, and material, all the way to having the ring represent who you are, you are given choices and options to find that ideal ring for yourself.
We’ve written all about prong settings and everything you need to know about them, so now it is up to you to use this newly found knowledge and get yourself or someone you love the ring made just for you or them.
You should never forget that the search for the perfect ring is meant to be fun, and the more personalized it gets, the more you convey your uniqueness.