Shopping for an engagement ring is a process that is equal parts enthralling and daunting. You’re about to mark a milestone moment in your life and that means choosing the prefect ring (after all, you plan on wearing it every day). But once you start researching, you soon realize there is a veritable cornucopia of options. Yellow gold, platinum or silver bands? Emerald-cut diamond or pear-cut sapphire? And then there’s the foundation of the ring, aka the setting—from cathedral to tension and the classic prong. So many decisions! OK, take a deep breath and allow us to help. Start with the basics—the setting. We reached out to jewelry designer and Bario Neal co-founder Page Neal to discuss the bezel setting vs prong setting, two classic designs. Here, we dive into what they are, their pros and cons and how to care for your engagement ring.
Bezel Setting vs Prong Setting: What’s the Difference Between These Two Ring Designs?
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Meet the Expert
- Page Neal is the co-founder of Bario Neal, a sustainable jewelry company specializing in ethical, bespoke engagement, wedding, custom and fine jewelry.
What Is a Prong Setting?
The prong setting was made famous by Tiffany & Co. in the late 19th century. It’s a ring design in which the stone is anchored to the band by little metal claws—prongs—that extend from the base of the setting up over the corners of the stone to secure it, Neal explains. The number of prongs used can vary but are usually between four and six. There are also different shapes, from split to flat-edged and classical.
The Pros & Cons of a Prong Setting
As a minimalist, delicate design, there are plenty of pros for the prong setting. “It lets more light into the stone because you’re not covering the edges,” Neal elaborates. “Sometimes you can see underneath the setting, and that's going to let in a lot more light and create a lot more sparkle.” It’s also ideal for those who want to have a larger carat stone without the bulkiness the additional metal in a bezel setting would bring. However, because more of the stone’s surface area is exposed, it does mean that it may not be as well-protected. If you love the look, though, don’t be discouraged from going for the ring you truly want.
“They’re not meant to be indestructible. If you have a lifestyle or a job that’s going to affect the design in a way that you don’t like, then just don't wear your ring while you’re [doing a risky activity]. You can get a placeholder ring,” she advises. “Go with what you love. You don't have to wear your ring everywhere.”
In terms of cleaning and care, there are two sides to the coin: Prong settings are easier to clean, but because more of the stone is exposed, it can be prone to more dust and dirt.
What Is a Bezel Setting?
The bezel setting goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks apparently. It wraps metal around the entirety of your gemstone, creating a rim and, effectively, a cup. To make it, Neal says, the jeweler will set the stone in the band and then hammer around it to secure everything in place. Typically, bezel-set rings tend to be geometric and are a throwback to the days of Art Deco, when patterns, angles and lines ruled.
The Pros & Cons of a Bezel Setting
Go with the bezel setting if you like a chunkier metal look. “The bezel doesn’t allow as much light into the stone,” Page notes. “If you’re looking for a lot of sparkle, I’d probably say go for the prong setting.”
There are pros to the bezel setting, however. Because it uses more metal, bezel-set rings can present as larger, even if the carat size is the same. The stone is also more well-protected than if it were in a prong setting because of the metal rim encasing it. This is why the bezel setting is sometimes recommended to those who pursue more active lifestyles.
Though it looks incredibly simple, there are actually many ways to get creative with this ring setting. Neal shares that Bario Neal even creates settings with raw diamonds, creating organic curves that follow the stones. However, she advises that the setting won’t work for all gems. “How you set the gemstone into the bezel is you hammer around the stone to secure it. With colored gemstones, there’s more of a risk that the gemstone will break in that setting style. We tend not to do bezel settings with heirloom, colored gemstones because it has a higher risk of breaking.” Meaning if you were hoping to put Nana’s ruby into a bezel setting, you may want to reconsider.
The last thing to keep in mind is that the carat size will be a major factor in determining the stone’s height. “A lot of times we have people who want a really big gemstone but then a low-set ring. The bezel isn’t necessarily a more low-set ring than a prong set ring; you must build it [to accommodate the depth] of the stone.” Because of this, a deep bezel setting may give the appearance of a metal cup.
Which Ring Setting Is the Most Secure?
It’s time to settle the debate on these classic ring settings: Which ring setting is most secure, the bezel or prong? Neal tells us that one is not necessarily better than the other in this regard, though typically, bezel wins out. The reasoning is that the gemstone has more protection because of the metal surrounding it.
“If you have a really active lifestyle, there's more metal covering all the surfaces of the stone,” she says. “The bezel [seems to] offer more protection. I don't think the stone is more secure in the setting, it's just harder to ding up the actual stone with the bezel setting.”
How to Clean an Engagement Ring
Inevitably, your engagement ring will need a little upkeep, but not to worry—the process is simple. However, you can also schedule a professional cleaning with your jeweler if you prefer. Neal also recommends doing a yearly checkup for loose stones, damages and cracks.
To clean an engagement ring, start with dish soap and slightly warm water, submerging your ring for five minutes. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush, you can then clean between the setting and stones. Finish by drying with a soft cloth. Do note, however, that there are exceptions to this method and that some stones, like opals, cannot be submerged. Check with your jeweler before trying anything new and when in doubt, leave it to the experts.