Beginning the search for your perfect ring can be overwhelming. Apart from the huge variety of designs, unfamiliar jewelry terminology used in names and descriptions can seem like a foreign language.
Our Design Guide is here to make your search a little easier. The guide explains the basic aspects of jewelry design and can be used as a visual glossary. If you have any questions that aren’t answered by the guide, do not hesitate to contact us.
Anatomy of a Ring
What’s a shank? How is a ring’s depth different to its profile? Use the diagrams below to become familiar with the different parts of a ring.
The most classic of all styles, a solitaire ring features a single gemstone.
This style features a center stone surrounded by a “halo” of small accent stones. A halo can make a small center stone appear larger- a double halo even more so.
|Accent Stone Ring
An accent stone ring features diamond embellishments on the shoulders or shank of the ring. An engagement ring with a pave diamond band is a popular example.
A three-stone ring features a center stone framed by two side stones, one on either side. The three stones are often described as representing the past, present and future.
A cluster ring features many small gemstones set close together. Gemstones are often arranged in the shape of a flower, but can also be used to create the appearance of a single large stone.
A vintage-style ring has a design that evokes a past era. Popular design eras include Victorian (1837-1900) and Art Deco (1920s-1940s).
A plain metal ring is a wedding or fashion ring without gemstones. Plain metal rings are often chosen by men as a fuss-free wedding ring.
|Ring With Accents
A ring with accents features gemstone embellishments on the shank. The shape, size, and setting of gemstone accents vary by design.
A popular wedding ring choice, an eternity ring features a full circle of gemstones. Rings that have the appearance of an eternity ring when worn but do not feature a complete circle of gemstones are sometimes described as ‘semi-eternity’ or ‘half-eternity’ rings.
For a complete guide to shapes, visit the Diamond & Gemstone Shape Guide.
In technical terms, the setting of a gemstone is how it is held in place. However, the setting also plays a central role in the overall appearance of a ring. Listed below are twelve of the most common settings. It should be noted that the names used to describe settings often varies by country or even jeweler.
The most-used setting for center stones, a prong setting uses metal claws called prongs to hold the gemstone in place. The number and shape of prongs used can vary. Most prong settings use four or six prongs. Prongs may be rounded, pointed (‘claw prongs’), flat, or v-shaped.
When prongs are used to set a row of accent stones, adjacent stones may share prongs. This “shared prong” setting (also called “common prong” setting may be used to minimize metal and space between stones.
|Bezel and Half-bezel Setting
A bezel setting uses a thin metal border to hold the gemstone in place. In a half-bezel setting, a metal border surrounded 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 is very secure and does not snag- an excellent choice for people who work with their hands.
A smooth and secure setting for diamond bands, a channel setting uses parallel metals lips to hold stones within sunken grooves.
|Pavé and Micro-pavé Setting
Meaning “paved” in French, a pavé setting is used to closely set gemstones, allowing 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. Pavé setting using beads is sometimes called “bead setting”.
A bar setting uses metal bars to secure the gemstone on two sides. This setting is similar to a channel setting except the bars are positioned vertically, making them perpendicular to the shank rather than parallel with the shank.
In a tension setting, the gemstone is held in place by only the tension of the band. The gemstone appears suspended between two sides of the band. A less difficult and expensive alternative to a true tension setting is “tension-style” setting. In this case, a hidden prong or bezel setting holds the gemstone in place while still giving the overall effect of a tension setting.
A burnish setting can be most easily understood as a “sunken” setting. The gemstone is placed in a hole drilled into the metal and pushed down so that its top is flush with the metal surface. To secure the stone, a burnishing tool is used to push a small amount of metal over the edges of the gemstone surface.
An illusion setting- actually a type of prong setting- is used to make a gemstone appear larger than it is. To achieve this, the gemstone is set onto a shiny metal ring cut to mimic the facets of the stone. The metal diffuses the outline of the stone, creating the illusion of a larger stone.
As the name implies, an invisible setting does not reveal how gemstones are held in place. No metal can be seen overlapping the gemstones, which together create a single smooth surface. The secret to this setting lies in a special stone cutting technique. Grooves cut into the sides of each gemstone allow them to lock onto a hidden metal rail, with pressure applied from the outer edges keeping them in place.
Though stunning, buyers should keep in mind that an invisible setting is arguably the least secure of all settings types.
Commonly referred to as the band, the shank of a ring is the part of a ring that encircles the finger. Shanks can vary in width, depth and shape. Here we list some popular types of ring shanks.
A basic straight shank forms a straight line of equal width all the way around.
A tapered shank widens as it reaches the center stone.
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 reaches the head of the ring.
|Reverse Split Shank
A reverse split shank separates at the base or lower portion of the band, and joins together 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. The ends may protrude in opposite directions or curve around the center stone.
A traditional shank is evenly rounded at the bottom.
A Euro shank has a slightly squared bottom, which can help prevent the ring from spinning.
In a cathedral mounting, part of the shank slopes up to meet the head of the ring, creating negative space in the shoulders of the ring.
Curved rings can include classic curve, twist, and freeform designs. Wedding rings can feature a single contour custom made to accommodate the large head of a matched engagement ring. Twist and freeform designs are playful alternatives the traditional straight line.
A ring’s profile refers to the shape it would be if sliced in half and viewed as a cross-section. Below are the most common profile shapes, though the names used to describe them can vary by country and even jeweler.
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 innner and outer surface.
A knife edge ring has a flat inner edge and an outside that is angled to form at 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 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.
The exterior of a concave ring curves up at the edges. The inside is curved for comfort.
Metal Finishes & Detailing
The finish and detailing of your ring’s metal make a big difference to its overall appearance. Filigree, milgrain, and engraving, for instance, can give rings a beautifully 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 shine. Matte rings have a soft, subtle appearance.
A satin finish is smooth and shine-free, but with very slightly visible brush marks.
A brushed finish is a more textured matte finish. A popular finish for men’s rings, brushed metal has a finely scratched appearance.
A hammered finish gives rings a dimpled appearance. Aside from adding visual interest, hammered rings are good for hiding wear and tear. The surface 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, creating a border, though it can be used anywhere
Filigree is an ancient metalworking technique dating back thousands of years. Very thin threads of precious metal are woven together to create lace-like jewelry.
Hand engraving is the technique of carving designs into metal by hand.