ENGAGEMENT RING

What’s A Cathedral Setting? (Pros and Cons)

Man putting engagement ring on her girlfriend's finger

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Cathedral settings are among the more fascinating and yet confusing types of ring settings out there. In fact, it can be said that the cathedral isn’t even a setting in and of itself but an addition to other settings.

Cathedral settings can make for some rather gorgeous engagement ring designs. They tend to emphasize your center diamond or gemstone, and give an overall elegant, sophisticated and stylish look to your ring.

So, what do you need to know about the cathedral setting? Let’s take a look!

Cathedral Setting Basics

Cathedral setting engage white gold

Designer cathedral setting engagement ring. Check price here.

Cathedral settings are ring settings that lift the center stone of a ring high on its band. What differentiates cathedral settings from a standard setting is the beautiful cathedral-like arches that extend from the shank upwards towards the diamond’s girdle. When you look at a cathedral ring, the center diamond looks like it’s elegantly being lifted up high. This is what gives cathedral settings their signature cathedral look.

So, you can see why some people say that cathedral settings aren’t really a setting in and of themselves but are more of a design that can be applied to other types of settings. What complicates things even further is that the arches of cathedral settings can be quite different too – they can be longer or shorter, with concave or convex curves and so on.

The following images feature an elaborate starburst halo diamond ring, with elegant pave cathedral arches.

Cathedral star engagement ring
Cathedral star engagement ring side view

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Cathedral settings can vary so much that it’s not uncommon for different jewelers to have different names for them. For example, while this ring is listed as a “Pave cathedral setting ring”, some might say that this is a standard pave ring with prongs where the paves are only slightly lifted near the prongs. With this channel cathedral setting ring, on the other hand, the channel setting is significantly higher near the diamond, more like traditional cathedral settings.

Cathedral Settings vs. Other Types of Settings

Most settings can be divided into either cathedral or non-cathedral setting, based on  how the diamond is held up.

Non-cathedral settings, also known as resting on top or floating settings, feature less metal around the diamond and make it easier to see the diamond from all sides of the stone. Cathedral rings, on the other hand, have the metal arches that can obscure the sides of the diamond.

Floating Setting, a.k.a. non-cathedral setting

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One question that many of our readers ask us is:

Are all cathedral settings high set?

Not necessarily. While most cathedral rings tend to be high set there are many low set designs, which offer the durability and practicality for someone with a busy and active lifestyle. 

Pros and Cons of Cathedral Settings

Wherever you draw the line between cathedral settings and standard prong or bezel settings, it’s indisputable that cathedral settings have their own pros and cons that need to be considered before you make a purchase.

Pros of Cathedral Settings:

  • Cathedral settings can accent the center diamond or gemstone of a ring and help it look even more spectacular. This is especially ideal for smaller diamonds.
  • These settings are a good compromise for people who want to stylize their ring without making it too extravagant. A cathedral setting can give your ring a unique look while still keeping it simple.
  • These settings can also help hide some of the inclusions or imperfections of a medium-quality diamond thanks to the arches around the stone.
  • Cathedral settings are among the more “timeless” types of settings – they’ve been popular for many decades and they are all but guaranteed to be popular for years to come.

Cons of Cathedral Settings:

  • High-set cathedral settings can snag on clothes and everyday items, compromising the integrity of the diamond and also be an annoyance each time.
  • Cathedral settings can be harder to clean than most other settings as they tend to have a lot of places for dirt and grime to accumulate in. This is even more so if the arches of the ring feature pave or channel elements.
  • Another drawback of a “bad” cathedral setting is that it can be too imposing and it can overshadow the ring’s diamond. This can make the center diamond appear smaller than it is and showcase more metal.

Best Cathedral Setting Ring Designs

Words like “best” can be redundant in the jewelry world as most of the factors around different settings and designs tend to be subjective. Still, there are some key factors to consider if you want to choose a truly good cathedral setting:

1- The setting should complement the ring’s stone without overshadowing it and making it look smaller than it actually is. This prong and pave cathedral setting is an excellent example of a cathedral setting that focuses on the diamond, draws attention to it and enhances its beauty.

2- A cathedral setting should not obstruct the diamond’s interaction with light, in order to enhance its brilliance. For example, take a look at this bead set cathedral ring which has a unique design that lets the diamond be viewed from all angles.

3- A great cathedral setting will offer protection for the ring’s stone by supporting the head of the ring. A nice example are these cathedral arches that offer extra support for the stone’s prongs.

Variations to the Cathedral Setting

Because cathedral settings are so loosely described, there’s a lot of room for variations and creativity. One of the more popular variations are low cathedral arches covered with a pave setting, like this pave cathedral ring design, or a channel setting like this low set channel set cathedral ring.

Bezel set cathedral rings like this low set unique cathedral ring design are another unique option that offers heightened protection for your diamond and is excellent at hiding the inclusions and imperfections of medium-quality diamonds.

Should I choose the cathedral setting?

A cathedral setting is much like a standard solitaire setting in that it’ll always be timeless, classic and elegant. You can’t go wrong choosing this setting but note the pros and cons we’ve mentioned above. At the end of the day, it comes down to a matter of personal preferences, your lifestyle and budget.

If you’re looking to buy a cathedral ring, we recommend the following retailers, known for their high-quality products, solid track record and excellent quality. Note that quality craftsmanship is essential when buying a cathedral ring setting, and this won’t be a problem with these retailers.

James Allen

James Allen has a stunning range of cathedral ring settings allowing you to view each piece from all angles using their ground-breaking Diamond Display Technology. They also have Diamond Experts on hand to help you through the process.

Blue Nile

Blue Nile’s collection of cathedral ring settings is affordable and extensive. They’re known for their quality and great customer service.  In addition to 360 degree video, they also provide clear images of the setting from all angles.