A Beginners Guide to Engagement Ring Styles
Finding your dream ring doesn’t have to be hard. Learn all about engagement ring styles and shop from the comfort of home.
By Stephanie Dore
As if finding your perfect partner for life wasn’t hard enough—now you’ve got to decide on a ring that will make you look, well, engaged! Congrats BTW. The only problem? There’s seemingly a million different types of engagement rings to choose from. Not sure where to start? We’ve got your back.
See, choosing an engagement ring setting is all about you (or your partner) and your lifestyle. After all, it’s going to be on that finger all day, every day. So, don’t worry about trends or what your friends have. Go with what you love, and what works for you. To give your shopping a little head start, we’ve compiled pros, cons, and a little “need to know” about some of the most popular engagement ring styles and diamond setting types. After all, you’ll never regret an education.
You’ve Got Style, You’ve Got Grace
First off, the term “setting style” can be confusing. Even in the industry, it’s used to describe both the ring style and the actual setting of the diamond in that ring. Stay with us, it’ll get easier. We’re going to start off talking engagement ring styles, since that tends to be what most people are familiar with, and also what they have the most opinion about.
Solitaire Engagement Ring Styles
Nothing says classic quite like a single, sparkling diamond. And you really can’t go wrong here. It goes with everything, it’s easy to pair with a wedding band, it draws the focus to your beautiful diamond, and if you’re going with a plain metal ring, it can be cost-effective. The cons? Well, though beautiful, a solitaire just isn’t that unique. And choosing a single larger diamond vs. multiple smaller ones can cost you a pretty penny.
Three Stone Engagement Ring Styles
Ok, so we’re still pretty classic here. Some say that this engagement ring setting indicates the past, present, and future of your relationship. Some just say it’s pretty. The pros? You can go smaller on your center stone and still get a big look with lots of sparkle spread out across the finger. And you can play a bit more with the type of side stones you choose to really make it your own. On the downside, the more unique you get, or the larger your side stones, up goes the price tag.
- Pear and tapered baguette side stones sit flatter in the ring and can be more affordable
- Half-moon diamonds, trillions, and trapezoids can be a more unique choice, but that also means more expense
- Then there are rounds. Again. Classic. But there’s always a price.
Rule of thumb?
- For center stones under 1.5 carats, you’ll want about .12 carat side stones
- For 1.5–2.5 carat centers, you’ll want about .25 for the side
- And for 3 carats or more, you can balance this out nicely with about .5 carat sides
Cluster Engagement Ring Styles
Cluster rings—made up of multiple smaller stones rather than a focus point—are all the rage right now. On the upside, they can be super affordable. And you can find many that feature colorful precious gemstones, not just diamonds, or unique stone arrangements that can give the ring a bit more personality. The con? Well, there’s just no focal point. And if you want something that immediately reads as an “engagement ring”, this might not be for you.
Halo Engagement Ring Styles
Ahhhh, the halo. Since the early aughts, this engagement ring style has been e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e. And rightfully so. A halo of tiny, sparkling pave diamonds can really make your center stone look bigger than it is, without putting that extra cash in center stone carat weight. What’s not to love about that? Well, the dollars you’re saving on your center stone are paying for more diamonds and metal in the ring itself…make sure you’re spending on what matters most to you. And also, the maintenance. Making sure all those tiny diamonds stay put is a lot more care and effort than managing just one.
Set it Off
Here’s where we’re going to get a little more nerdy with you. See, each of the styles above also comes in a variety of “setting types”, referring to how the diamond is actually held in place, not just the overall style of the ring. Check it out.
Prong Set Engagement Ring Styles
We’re starting with the most classic here. This refers to a setting that can have any number (though most often it’s four or six) of metal prongs or “claws” that rise above the ring itself to hold your diamond in place. Each prong is slightly notched on the inside, with the prong tip pushed over the top girdle edge to hold the diamond secure. A prong setting has the least metal covering up your diamond, which means more light is going in and out. But that also means it needs more regular maintenance and stone tightening over time (we’d recommend having it checked at least every 6-12 months). In a four-prong setting, you’ll often see a cross-bar between the prongs, making them a bit more secure. Prongs are also one of the higher setting styles, lifting the diamond up off of the band.
- Double Claw: Two pointed prong tips clasp the edge of the stone.
- Claw: Prong tips are slightly pointed, like an eagle talon, over the top of the diamond
- Round: Prong tips are softly rounded, making them less likely to snag
- Square: Prong tips are squared off on top, which can accentuate the corners of an emerald or Asscher cut diamond nicely
Bezel Set Engagement Ring Styles
A full bezel setting is a thin edge of metal that surrounds the entire circumference of your diamond. A low-maintenance option that can also add a bit of extra protection for your diamond, the bezel offers a clean, modern look. It also tends to be lower profile than prongs. Downside? If not done well, a bezel can look a bit clunky instead of refined. There are also options for half or partial bezels, which are even more minimal. But remember, just like with prongs, the less metal, the less secure, and the more maintenance you’re going to have.
Bar Set Engagement Ring Styles
In a bar setting your diamond sits between two straight, parallel bars, most often seen on straight-sided diamonds to accentuate their geometry. Like a half bezel, a bar setting is super minimal and modern, but also not particularly secure. Bar settings are better suited to small side stone accents, as opposed to your main event.
The Bonus Points
While there’s a myriad of other terms you might hear thrown around (as well as plenty of brand-specific names) when looking at setting styles, a few common ones include:
- Cathedral: This is like a solitaire, but with little arms that arch up towards the diamond
- Trellis: A prong setting that has interwoven prongs or basket sides
- East West vs. North South vs. Kite: If you have an elongated diamond (think, ovals and emeralds, and marquises, oh my) they are classically set lengthwise, parallel to your finger, or North South. If something is set East West, that means it’s set horizontal, perpendicular to your finger. If something is kite-set, that usually refers to a square-shaped diamond turned so that its points face North South instead of square to your finger.
But that’s not all…
On top of choosing your diamond setting, there are a few additional considerations that go into the overall style of your ring.
The Band Thickness: Thin is in, but it comes with drawbacks (i.e. the overall security and lifetime wear of your ring). This also has to do with comfort (how much metal sits between your fingers) and whether you prefer a more delicate or bold look. We offer styles from 1.35mm up to 6mm in width to suit your style.
The Band Shape: The profile of your ring shank (the part that goes around your finger) can vary widely. Some of the most common shapes are round, square, or knife-edge (flat inside, but with a subtle edge on the outside).
To Pave or Not Pave: It literally means “paved”—in this case, paved with diamonds—and is pronounced “pa-vay.” It can be a single row down the shoulders of your band, a halo, or multiple rows of brilliance. Plus side? Sparkle like there’s no tomorrow. Downside? So much maintenance. These tiny diamonds have tiny settings and a simple bump or regular wear can loosen them over time. Regular checks for stone security are key.
The Flush Fit: Most engagement rings you’ll find online are not designed to fit perfectly flush against another ring, i.e. your wedding band. You can expect to see a small gap. So if it’s important for you to have two or more rings that fit just right, with no gaps, make sure to talk about it with your jeweler from day one. That way you’re not committed to a ring with no matching band options.
Calling all Ring Fingers
Whether you’re just browsing or ready to commit, engagement ring shopping can be super overwhelming. Just remember to start with some practical goals that fit your lifestyle (and your budget) so you can hone in on what’s right for you. Figure out what you want from your ring—low maintenance vs. high maintenance, high set vs. low set, to elongate your finger, to be able to do yoga in it, etc. And then use that list to help guide your way.
Need a Little Extra help?
Take our dream ring quiz and get a free custom sketch. Or try on engagement ring styles in the comfort of your home with Frank Darling’s free try at home kit. You’ll receive four sterling silver replica rings set with cubic zirconia along with a ring sizer. Everything you need to find the perfect ring and make it yours.