Prong settings are among the most popular ring settings today and there are many good reasons for that. They are practical, secure, and can be quite beautiful when they are well-crafted. They weren’t always that popular of course, but they also were never as easy to craft as they are today.
Prong settings nowadays are what most people imagine when they think about a classic diamond engagement ring but there are quite a lot of variations when it comes to prong settings. So, if you’re thinking of buying a ring with such a setting, here’s everything you’ll need to know first.
- What is the prong setting Engagement Ring?
- The Rise of the Tiffany Setting
- Pros and cons of the prong setting
- Types of prongs used in rings
- Best metal for prong settings
- Is a prong setting secure?
- Should I buy a prong set engagement ring?
What is the prong setting Engagement Ring?
The prong setting, or, as it’s also known – the prong mount – is a fairly easy setting to describe. It’s a metal setting for a centerpiece gemstone on a ring that uses 3, 4, 6 or more tines or projections, otherwise known as prongs, to keep the stone in place.
These metal prongs are typically made of the same metal as the rest of the ring and typically go as high as the stone’s table. The more prongs there are, the more secure the stone is. Alternatively, using fewer prongs can be risky, but it also allows more of the stone’s surface to be visible. This is one of the major benefits of prong settings – they don’t hide the stone too much and allow the stone to be seen from many angles.
The prong setting was rarely used in the early days of the jewelry craft as it was difficult to create a secure enough prong setting with the limited technology of the time.
In the 19th century, however, prong settings – then usually referred to as claw settings – started to grow in popularity. By that time jewelers were improving in crafting the metal well enough so that even small and thin prongs could offer enough protection and stability for a diamond.
The Rise of the Tiffany Setting
6-Prong Solitaire Setting in the Tiffany Style. Check price here.
That period is also when one of the most popular types of prong settings was created – the Tiffany setting. Created by Tiffany & Company in 1886, this setting has 6 prongs or claws and it is extra secure compared to most other prong settings that usually have just 3 or 4 prongs.
It’s hard to say whether the rising popularity of prong settings helped the Tiffany setting to become famous or if it was the other way around. What we do know is that for the last 130 years the Tiffany setting has been one of the most popular ring settings in the world.
The popularity of the Tiffany setting is so significant that a lot of vendors used to simply call their prong settings Tiffany Setting – because it was the term customers were the most familiar with. However, a recent lawsuit between Tiffany & Co and Costco Wholesale Group determined in 2015 that “Tiffany Setting” is not a genericized term that other companies could regardless of whether their settings also had 6 prongs. Today, only Tiffany & Co have the right to call their 6-prong rings Tiffany Setting, leaving other vendors to call their 6-prong engagement rings by other names.
Pros and cons of the prong setting
So, why are prong settings the most popular type of ring settings worldwide today? They offer quite a lot of positives and only a few negatives so let’s go over all of them here.
Pros of prong settings:
- Prong settings can be used with any diamond or gemstone shape and size.
- They are a timeless design that’s guaranteed to be in fashion even a century from today.
- The minimal coverage of prong settings over the diamond or gemstone means that it will have optimal brilliance thanks to all the light that’s going to reach its surface.
- Prong settings are both simple and inexpensive to make so they don’t inflate the overall price of the ring as much as other settings.
- A well-made prong setting will provide sufficient protection and security for your diamond or gemstone.
- Prong settings are easy to customize, elevate or lower, according to the customer’s preferences.
Cons of prong settings:
- Prong settings with 6 prongs such as the Tiffany setting can accumulate extra dirt between the prongs that can be tricky to clean. Still, they are not nearly as hard to clean as some other ring settings.
- By leaving a lot of the diamond’s surface area exposed, prong settings offer less protection than something like a bezel setting. If the prong setting is well-made and has more than 3 prongs, however, this shouldn’t be a big problem.
- Prong settings are typically set high on the band and can snag on everyday objects.
- Poorly made prongs can wear down or loosen over time, increasing the risk of the gemstone falling off. This is an easy problem to avoid, however, if you only buy quality items from reputable vendors.
As you can see pretty much all the drawbacks of prong settings can be mitigated by simply choosing quality items. Of course, quality isn’t cheap but prong settings are among the more budget-friendly settings so you should be able to find something that’s both of a good enough quality and won’t break your budget.
Types of prongs used in rings
There are multiple types of prong settings and the differences between them go beyond just the number of the prongs.
The round prong setting
The most classic type of prong setting, rounded prongs cover a very small part of the diamond and still provide a very strong and secure grasp, like this Split Shank Solitaire Setting.
Flat tap prong setting
Flat tap prongs, like in this cross prong solitaire ring, are lower and are designed to decrease the risk of your ring snagging on clothing. While this makes them more secure, they can also be a bit less brilliant than other prong settings as they reduce the amount of light that’s accessible to the diamond/gemstone.
V-shaped prong setting
Used for fancier diamond shapes such as marquises, pears, and hearts, the V-shape prong setting is higher than the flat tap but also offers more protection for the vulnerable tips of the diamonds. Here’s an excellent example of a V-tipped prong ring.
Claw or pointed prong setting
This type of prong simply has a pointed claw-like end on top of the diamond which is both stylish and secure. This tends to hold the diamond in a better grasp, like this white gold claw prong setting ring.
Double claw prong setting
Similar to the standard claw setting, the double claw setting simply has two pointed “claws” at the end of each prong. It offers extra security and can look quite cool, like this solitaire double claw prong setting, however, it does cover a bit more of the ring’s surface.
The shared setting is where two diamonds share the same prong, like this marquise eternity ring. They’re secure and stylish, with fewer prongs to hold the diamonds in place.
Cathedral prong setting
The cathedral prong setting is any type of prong setting that has additional “arches” rising from the ring next to the prongs themselves to offer extra support as well as more design choices. Cathedral settings are typically their own type of ring settings but are most commonly designed with prongs, like this split prong cathedral ring.
Basket prong setting
These prong settings usually use 4 prongs and have a small metal “basket” beneath the gemstone. This setting provides extra stability and a lot more creative options, like this crown-like pave basket ring, but it reduces the visible surface area of the gemstone.
Decorative or custom prong setting
In this wide sub-type of prong settings are included all custom-made types of prongs. These custom designs typically affect the points of the prongs which are their most noticeable part.
Best metal for prong settings
The intuitive answer here would be that harder metals are better because they offer more security – that’s not true when it comes to prongs.
With ring prongs you want a soft or medium hard/soft metal so that the prongs don’t harm the gemstone or diamond when you knock your ring somewhere. An extra hard metal like titanium or tungsten would be a big No-No as it might scratch or chip your stone. That’s because titanium sits at 6 out of 10 on the Mohs scale of hardness and tungsten sits at the impressive 9 out of 10 (10/10 being diamonds).
Instead, something softer like platinum (4.5 out of 10) or all types of gold (3 out of 10) is much safer for your gemstone or diamonds.
Is a prong setting secure?
Simply put – when it’s well-made, yes it is. The number of prongs also matters here, of course, but even a 3-prong setting can be secure enough if it’s expertly crafted and has a secure design. Still, there are more secure settings out there such as the bezel setting but these cover much more of the diamond’s surface and limit its brilliance.
Should I buy a prong set engagement ring?
If you want to maximize the center stone’s brilliance, a good prong setting can make the most out of your diamond. If you’re worried that it wouldn’t be secure enough, you can opt for some of the safer prong settings such as a 6-prong flat tap prong setting with a basket or a cathedral component.
Having said that, note that prong settings offer the best trade-off between beauty and security. They’re secure enough for daily wear and look stunning. However, consider your lifestyle and how much you use your hands for work before you choose. In general, a low-set prong setting works best for jobs where you use your hands a lot while high prong settings are ideal if you want to show off your diamond to maximum effect.