RING DESIGN GUIDE & ANATOMY OF A RING
Beginning the search for the perfect engagement ring can be overwhelming. Along with a large variety of ring designs, the unfamiliar jewelry terminology used in names and descriptions can be very confusing.
We’ve created this ring design guide to make deciding on your jewelry easier and to help you better communicate the type of ring you want to your jeweler. After all, the ring you end up with will be on your finger for life. To help you learn the terminology for the different parts of a ring, we’ve provided a visual glossary on the anatomy of a ring. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
RING PARTS AND RING TERMINOLOGY
What’s a shank? Is it an important part of the ring? How is a ring’s depth different from its profile? Read through our guide to learn all about the anatomy of a ring, the parts of an engagement ring, and the technical term for each part of the ring. You can also use the diagrams to become familiar with the different parts of a ring setting, so you’ll know how to discuss your desired finger jewelry with your jeweler.
First, we have the shank, also called the band, which is the part of the ring that encircles the finger. However, many a jeweler will distinguish between the upper shank and the lower shank, using the band to refer to the entire ring around the finger. Shanks also vary depending on the design.
Next, the head (or crown) is at the very top of the ring and comes in many different designs, including the prong, bezel, and channel heads. The appearance of these heads changes depending on the position of the stone in the ring design.
Then we have the prongs, consisting of four to six small metal pieces that hold the center stone in place. More prongs are sometimes used to secure the center diamond or gemstone, but more prongs can also cover a significant part of the stone.
The gallery refers to the part of the ring just under the head, covered by the center stone. Embellishments are usually attached to the gallery, which can be minimalistic or highly elaborate. In addition, the gallery includes the gallery rail, which forms an integral part of the ring’s structure since it reinforces the prongs, helping them hold the center stone in place. Hence, the gallery rail is also referred to as the “basket” by some jewelers. While not all rings are designed with a gallery rail, the ones that have one are sometimes decorated with precious stones, adding to the beauty of the ring’s profile.
The ring’s shoulder is on the side of the ring. These are the top two sides of the shank that slope towards each other and meet at the center. Thus, the two shoulders hold up the ring head. Each shoulder is often dotted with accent stones to add to the beauty of the design.
Scroll down to view our gallery of ring styles to give you ideas for a custom design.
The most classic of all styles, solitaire rings feature stunning solitaire diamonds or gemstones as large center stones. This is also one of the most popular designs for an engagement ring.
Halo designs feature one main diamond as the center stone surrounded by a “halo” of smaller diamonds or accent stones. A halo setting can make the center stone appear double in size.
Accent Stone Ring
An accent stone ring features diamond side stones or embellishments on the shoulders of the ring, which bring attention to the center stone. An engagement ring with a pavé diamond band is a popular example.
The three-stone ring (also called a trinity, trilogy, or trio ring) features a center stone or diamond framed by two side stones on either side, resulting in three diamonds in a row. The three-stone setting is sometimes regarded as representing the past, present, and future.
A cluster ring features many small diamonds or gemstones clustered together instead of a single center stone. The gemstones are often arranged in the shape of a flower.
A vintage-style ring evokes a past era. Popular ones include the Victorian (1837-1900) and Art Deco (the 1920s-1940s) design eras.
Plain Metal Ring
A plain metal ring is made from precious metal without gemstones. Men often choose plain precious metal rings for their wedding rings.
Ring With Accents
A ring with accents features diamonds as side stones on the shank part of the ring, with or without a center stone. The shape, size, and setting of the accent diamonds or gemstones vary depending on the design.
An eternity ring features a full circle of diamonds or gemstones with no center stone. If the diamonds don’t completely encircle the finger, the ring is described as a “semi-eternity” band.
Five-stone ring designs resemble the half-eternity ring and thus share the same symbolic meaning of eternal love and commitment.
In technical terms, the setting of a gemstone refers to how it is held in place. However, the setting also plays a central role in the ring’s overall appearance. Listed below is a gallery of the twelve most common gemstone settings. It should be noted that the names used to describe the settings may differ between countries and jewelers.
The most common setting used for securing center stones, especially solitaire diamonds, in an engagement ring is the prong setting. This setting uses small metal pieces called prongs to hold the gemstone in place. Jewelers refer to this part of the ring as the head. The number and shape of these small metal pieces or prongs can vary. However, most prong settings use four or six prongs. The prongs may be rounded, pointed (called claw prongs or a claw setting), flat, or v-shaped. In addition, when prongs are used to set a row of accent stones, adjacent stones may share prongs. This “shared prong” setting can minimize metal and space between the stones.
Pronged heads are popular since this setting keeps the gemstones securely in place while allowing the light to hit them from more angles, thus increasing the stones’ brilliance.
Bezel and Half-bezel Setting
Another popular setting for solitaire diamonds, a bezel setting uses a thin metal border to hold the center stone in place. This is also a popular setting for solitaire diamonds. In a half-bezel, a border surrounds part of the gemstone, leaving the sides open. This setting does not allow as much light to enter the stone as a prong setting, but it is very secure and does not snag. For this reason, many jewelers recommend a bezel setting to people who work with their hands.
A smooth and secure setting for diamond bands, channel settings use parallel metal lips to hold the stones inside a recess in the band. The lips are made narrower than the stones in a channel head, which helps to keep the gemstones in place.
Pavé and Micro-pavé Setting
“Paved” in French, a pavé setting is used to closely set gemstones, allowing the minimal metal to show through between stones. Gemstones are typically positioned in drilled holes, and tiny beads or prongs are used to hold them in place. In the case of very small stones (under .01 ct), this setting technique may be referred to as micro-pavé.
A bar setting uses metal bars to secure the gemstone on either side. This setting is similar to the channel setting, except that the bars are positioned vertically, perpendicular to the shank part of the ring rather than parallel with it.
In this type of setting, a solitaire diamond is held in place by only the tension of the band. Thus, the gemstone appears to be suspended between the two sides of the band from a side profile view. Jewelers will often suggest a less complicated and less expensive alternative to this type of setting, called a “tension-style” setting. In this case, a hidden prong or bezel-style setting holds the solitaire diamond in center place while still giving the overall effect of a tension setting.
A burnish setting can be most easily described as a “sunken” center setting. The gemstone is placed inside a hole drilled into the metal and pushed down so that its top is flush with the band’s surface. A burnishing tool is then used to push a small amount of metal over the edges of the gemstone’s surface to secure it in place.
This type of setting makes the center stone appear larger than it is. It achieves this by setting the center gemstone onto a gold metal ring cut to mimic the stone facets. The gold diffuses the outline of the stone, creating the illusion of a larger center stone.
As the name implies, this setting does not reveal how the gemstones are held in place. No metal can be seen overlapping the gemstones, creating a smooth, seamless surface. The secret to this setting lies in a unique stone-cutting technique. Grooves are cut into the sides of each gemstone to lock them onto a hidden metal rail, with the pressure applied from the outer edges keeping them in place. Though stunning, this type of setting is arguably the least secure of all.
Remember that bandwidth also plays an essential role in the ring’s design. A narrow band with four slim prongs, for instance, will make the center diamond appear considerably larger than, say, a wide band with six or eight prongs. So, if you want to make your diamond appear as large as possible without paying for a diamond that big, choose a narrow band and a setting that uses the least amount of metal to secure the stone.
For a complete guide to gemstone shapes, visit the Diamond & Gemstone Shape Guide.
Commonly referred to as the finger band, a shank is the part of the ring that encircles the finger. Ring shank types can vary in width, depth, and shape. Here is a gallery of some of the most popular types of ring shanks.
Basic straight shanks form a straight line of equal width all the way around.
A tapered shank widens as it reaches the center stone allowing more room to emphasize the gem.
In a reverse-tapered shank, the band becomes skinnier as it approaches the center stone.
In this style, the shank splits into two thinner bands as it approaches the center of the head of the ring.
Reverse Split Shank
A reverse-split shank separates at the base or lower portion of the band and joins again at the center stone.
Instead of forming a straight line that meets at the head of the ring, the two sides of this style “bypass” each other. As a result, the ends may protrude in opposite directions or curve around the center stone.
A traditional shank is evenly rounded at the bottom part of the ring.
A Euro shank has a slightly squared bottom, which provides more room that can help prevent the ring from spinning.
In this classic setting for a solitaire diamond, part of the shank slopes up to meet the head of the ring, creating negative space in each shoulder of the ring.
Rings with a curved shank include classic curve, twist, and freeform designs. Wedding rings with a curved shank can feature a single contour custom-made to match the engagement ring. Twist and freeform designs are playful alternatives.
Types Of Ring Profiles
A ring’s profile refers to its shape as it would be if it were sliced in half and viewed as a cross-section. Below is a gallery of the most common profile shapes that can be used for a wedding band or an engagement ring. However, note that the names for these profiles may differ between countries and jewelers.
A D-shape ring is flat on the inside and domed on the outside, giving the profile a “D” shape.
A flat profile ring has a completely flat inner and outer surface.
A knife-edge ring has a flat inner edge and an outside that is angled to form a pronounced peak at the center.
A court shape ring has a comfortably curved inner and outer edge.
A flat court profile is curved on the inside but flat on the outside, giving it a more modern look.
Similar to a court ring, a flat-sided court ring is curved on both sides but features flatter edges.
A double comfort ring has rounded edges and is curved on both the inside and the outside.
Halo rings have a distinctive, completely circular profile.
A concave ring curves up at the edges. The inside is curved for comfort around the finger.
Metal Finishes & Detailing
The finish and detailing of the metals used for making a ring can make a big difference to the piece’s overall appearance. For instance, filigree, milgrain, and engraving can give rings a beautiful antique look.
The most popular metal finish for jewelry, polished rings have a high-shine glimmer.
Although as smooth as polished metal, a matte finish eliminates the shine, giving matte rings a soft, subtle appearance.
A satin finish is smooth and shine-free but with slightly visible brush marks.
A hammered finish gives rings a dimpled appearance. Aside from adding visual interest, hammered rings are excellent for hiding wear and tear. The surface of these rings is usually matte but can also be polished.
Derived from the French words “mille grain”, meaning “a thousand grains”, milgrain is a technique that gives rings a finely beaded appearance. Milgrain is usually applied to the edges of jewelry to create a border, though it can also be used anywhere else.
Filigree is an ancient metalworking technique dating back thousands of years. Very thin threads of precious metal are woven together, making the jewelry appear lace-like.
A brushed finish is a more textured matte finish. A popular finish for men’s rings, brushed metal has a finely scratched appearance.
Hand engraving involves carving designs into the band by hand.