Guide to Setting Styles for Gemstones in Rings
The “setting” is how a gemstone is secured within a piece of jewellery. It might not be the first thing you consider when choosing a beautiful new ring, but it is an integral part of the design; influencing style, wearability and enhancing the beauty of the gemstone.
A claw setting is a popular style, with numerous variations, such as four-claw or six-claw. Typically the claws are long thin prongs that splay from a central point or form a crown like circle, known as a collet. The gemstone sits within the collet and the claws are pushed over the top of the gemstone, gripping it like fingers. Claw settings really show off individual stones, allowing plenty of light to enter the stone and make it sparkle. The shape of the stone and the colour are easily seen, and multiple stones can be set at different heights giving depth and interest to larger cocktail rings. Over time, the little claws can wear, and a jeweller might suggest re-tipping if they become thin and worn or start catching. A claw set ring is secure and although quite traditional, the modern styles have minimal metal, so the full beauty of the stone can be appreciated.
Rubover / Bezel Set
The rubover setting, also called a bezel setting, is where the stone is set within a wall or collar of metal that is pushed down to hold the stone in place. It gives a smooth modern look, with the continuous ring of metal accentuating the shape of the stone. This style is great for focussing on shape and colour as there are no claws or other distractions, just a simple circle of metal framing the gem. Rubover set rings are secure, with a contemporary edge and perfect for wearers who need to have jewellery that will not catch or protrude.
Gypsy / Roman Set
Gypsy and Roman settings are where the stone is sunk deep into the metal, so that it sits flush within the ring. The ring has a smooth flat finish, with the shape of the gem stones adding interest and sparkle. This style is found in both antique and contemporary jewellery, for both men and women and suited to most gemstones. It can be seen in rings with just one large stone in the centre, typically called Gypsy rings, or multiple small stones can be set together in scatter or dot bands.
An illusion setting is used to enhance a stone, making it appear larger than it actually is. The stone is usually claw set within an additional disc of metal which is faceted so that it catches the light. Generally it is used for small stones, and the ‘illusion’ works, by our eyes not being able to detect where the edges of the diamond end and the metal starts, because the whole area is sparkly. Generally it works best with diamonds set into white gold, and the effect can be very attractive – as can the price.
A tension set is a modern minimalist style, where the stone is captured between the two shoulders of the ring, displaying a full view of the side profile of the gemstone. A true tension set is highly technical, suited only for bespoke jewellery by special alloying of the metal, to increase its hardness and create a spring-like force that holds the stone in with pressure. The ring would not be suitable for resizing and only gems high on the mohs scale, such as diamond and corundum are suitable as they can withstand the pressure exerted by the metal. The design is alluring, and to make it more accessible to a wider market, some tension sets now have a supportive piece of metal that holds the gem underneath, giving more security for designs that are mass produced where the metal has not undergone the hardening process.
A channel setting is where multiple stones are placed together in a line, often sitting within a groove and then held within a border of metal that covers the top and bottom of the stones. The stones are usually flush with the metal giving a neat appearance as they are held between two walls or channels of metal. Most commonly this style is used with small stones in an eternity ring or set within the shoulders of an engagement or dress ring. This gives an elegant linear smooth appearance to the ring, with a continuous sparkle as no metal appears between each stone. Square and rectangular cuts such as baguette and princess can be highly effective as the edges of each stone match up to each other, producing a gorgeous continuous shimmer. It is a modern, secure and highly wearable design that can be used in conjunction with other setting styles.
Grain and Pavé Set
In a grain setting, a number of tiny grains, like mini claws are raised around a stone and then pushed over the stone to hold it in place. It is effective with small stones in eternity rings or within the shoulders of an engagement or dress ring, as the little grains of metal tend to twinkle and gives an overall sparkle. Wider gaps between stones can be made to make sparkly jewellery more affordable. The term Pavé is derived from the French word for “paved” and is a type of grain setting where the stones are set very close together, giving a glamorous, indulgent sparkle to larger pieces of jewellery.
In conclusion, these setting styles have been discussed in relation to rings, but the same principles can be applied to pendants, earrings, brooches etc. The styles are not exclusive either, many designs will employ a combination, for example our Diamond solitaire with diamond set shoulders (find picture edit as necessary) uses a claw setting for the centre stone, and channel setting for the shoulder diamonds. All of these techniques are utilised by our goldsmiths everyday in the design, manufacture and repair of our customers jewellery. Our trained sales staff and in house workshop would be happy to help if you have any queries or would like to commission a piece of bespoke jewellery.