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Illusion Setting – Pros, Cons and Buying Guide

Illusion ring setting pros and cons

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The illusion setting, also known as the mirage setting, offers a clever and subtle way to maximize the size of your diamond, making it appear larger than it is.

This setting is an excellent way to save on the price of your diamond without compromising on size. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the illusion setting and whether it’s the right choice for you.

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What Is an Illusion Setting?

Illusion engagement ring setting

Illusion set vintage ring by Gilded Times. See it here.

An illusion setting enhances the apparent size of the diamond, by using metal plates to provide an optical illusion.

It features a diamond set in a ring of metal, cleverly patterned and typically bright cut. Bright cutting is when the metal is fashioned into sharp angles, which imitates the facets of the diamond, appearing shiny and bright.

As the diamond sparkles, it reflects off the angles of the metal surrounding it. This makes it difficult to see where the diamond ends and the metal begins, creating the illusion of a larger diamond.

When choosing illusion set jewelry, it’s best to invest in a quality metal like 14k or 18k gold, which is durable, valuable and easy to maintain.

Sterling silver tends to tarnish with time and can appear dull with time. It’s best to avoid silver, especially if you’re planning to wear your illusion set jewelry frequently.

Who Created the Illusion Setting?

The illusion setting was first created in the 1850s by Oscar Massin, a French jeweler. His aim was to use of smaller diamonds in appealing jewelry.

When he first came up with the concept, he called it the ‘illusory setting’. Many vintage ring designs feature the illusion setting and shows how even a small gemstone can be made eye-catching when mounted in a clever setting.

Do Illusion Settings Save You Money?

Illusion set bracelet

Illusion set tennis bracelet by Capucelli. See it here.

While there are many pros and some cons of the illusion setting (which we’ll outline below), the standout feature of the illusion setting is that it is an economical choice. There are two main reasons why this is the case:

Large diamonds cost exponentially more than smaller diamonds.

Large diamonds always cost much more than several smaller diamonds of an equivalent carat weight.

In other words, a single 1 carat diamond will cost thousands more than four .25 carat diamonds or two .50 carat diamonds.

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Because the illusion setting makes use of smaller diamonds, you’ll be able to make use of small stones and still have the illusion of a large diamond.

Compare the price of these 1 Carat Diamonds with these .50 Carat Diamonds. The price difference is astounding, isn’t it?

Quality large diamonds are rare.

Another point to note is that the larger the diamond, the more clarity and color factors come into play. High-quality large diamonds are hard to come by and are exceedingly expensive.

Smaller diamonds, however, are much more abundant. What’s more, flaws in small diamonds are not as noticeable.

This means that you can get away with lower quality diamonds in an illusion setting without compromising on the beauty of the jewelry piece. 

Illusion Cluster Setting – A Popular Variation

Cluster illusion setting

Cluster illusion setting by Rio Grande Jewels. See it here.

The cluster illusion setting is a variation of the illusion setting. This setting is different to Massin’s invention, but it works on the same principle – making a small diamond look larger.

Instead of using metal plates to surround the diamond, the cluster setting relies on placing several small diamonds close together to create the look of a single large diamond.

When light bounces off the diamonds and the prongs, the sparkle makes the individual stones appear like a solitaire stone. 

Pros and Cons of the Illusion Setting

Illusion set diamond ring in yellow gold by Edinburgh Jewellers. See it here.

For most people, there are strong benefits that make the illusion setting an alluring choice. However, before purchase illusion set diamonds, consider both the pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Illusion settings maximize the size of the diamond, giving you more bang for your buck. You can purchase a larger looking stone without the cost.
  • Apart from the economical benefits, illusion settings are unique and brilliant, with texture and detail that stand out.
  • Illusion rings and jewelry are easy to maintain and keep clean. The risk of the diamonds chipping is minimal, as they’re protected by the surrounding metal plates.

Cons:

  • An illusion setting is made up smaller diamonds, and you can’t get around that fact.  There’s no denying that while an illusion setting makes your diamond appear larger, it’s just an illusion. You’ll know that the stone is much smaller than it is.
  • For some, the illusion setting can appear too brilliant and detailed. If you prefer a minimalist style with subdued sparkle, then opting for a simple solitaire style ring might be a better option.

How to Care for Illusion Set Jewelry

As with any type of diamond jewelry, it’s important to clean and care for your illusion set pieces to ensure that they remain brilliant and durable.

The best way to clean these pieces is with mild soap and warm water, using a soft bristled brush. A toothbrush is an inexpensive and effective option to get the dirt that’s lodged in illusion settings out.

Avoid using ultrasonic cleaners as the intense vibrations in these machines can cause the diamonds to become dislodged or loosen.

In general, illusion set pieces are easy to maintain and keep shiny.

Wrapping Up

The illusion setting has been increasing in popularity as more people opt for budget-friendly jewelry and engagement rings, that still stand out in beauty and style. However, it’s not a common ring design and you won’t find it at all major retailers.

Established online diamond retailers like James Allen and Blue Nile focus on affordable, high-quality diamonds, reducing the need for illusion settings.

We recommend starting your search on Etsy, which offers a range of stunning vintage and modern illusion set rings and jewelry at affordable prices.

If you can’t find exactly what you’re after, consider having a custom-made piece.