Buying Guide to Gem Settings

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While the gemstone itself often attracts the most attention, it’s important to remember that the gem setting also plays an important part in making sure the gem is displayed in the most flattering manner. The setting also provides critical gem protection and enhancement.

A remarkable number of gem settings have been developed over time, each with the purpose of showing off a gem or making it more suitable for everyday wear. Choosing the right gem setting is usually a matter of finding the right balance between your personal preference and form versus function. This chart illustrates some examples of common gem settings, along with their intended purposes and possible disadvantages. Keep in mind that these are broad categories; many sub-styles exist within a particular variety.

Jewelry: Gem Settings
Setting Description Pros Cons Example
Prong This setting uses two or more metal "arms" called prongs to hold the gem in place. The prongs are bent over the gem’s girdle to provide a secure hold. Prong settings often have three or four prongs, but multiple prong settings of six or more are also available. Prong settings—especially those with few prongs— permit a great deal of light to strike the gem, particularly the lower portions of the stone (known as the 'pavilion'). This typically allows for a brighter, flashier look. Prong settings also show off the entire gem better than other settings. The extra exposure created by the prong setting equates to less security, as there is less material holding the gem in place. Prong Setting
Channel Channel settings are used to showcase multiple small gems of similar sizes. The gems are fitted between two strips of metal with channels to securely grip the gems. A variation on the channel setting is the bar setting in which the gems and channels are arranged in a more divided manner. This is a great setting for creating a larger piece of jewelry out of smaller stones. Channel settings are popular on their own, but also as companion enhancements near a larger gem. Channel settings can be a bit difficult to clean, as debris can build up behind the gems over time. Channel Setting
Bezel A bezel setting completely surrounds a gem with a circle of metal. The gem’s crown remains visible and showcased, but the pavilion is enclosed. This is the oldest style of gem setting. A related style is the semi-bezel, which allows slightly more exposure to the gem. Bezel settings have a way of drawing attention to and enhancing larger gems. They also offer a great deal of gem protection. The bezel setting does block light from entering the pavilion, which can in turn inhibit gem sparkle. Bezel Setting
Tension Tension settings use extreme pressure on two small points to hold the stone in place. This setting gives a unique look, causing the gem to appear suspended between two points on the setting. Besides this novelty, tension settings also allow for an extremely unrestricted view of the gem. Tension settings typically use about 12,000 pounds per square inch of pressure to hold your stone. The risk of possible stone damage increases since more of the stone is exposed. The wearer should use extra care to avoid bumping or jarring the stone in this setting. Tension Setting
Pavé French for "paved,"" the pavé setting is a grouping of very small, similarly shaped gems placed very close together to create the look of a "paved" surface. Pavé settings have the advantage of making the gems very easy to see with plenty of sparkle (the prongs that are used to hold each individual gem are quite inconspicuous.) Pavé settings are potentially less secure than other settings, as there is less metal securing the stones. Pavé Setting