Choosing the perfect ring is more than just picking a stone and a metal, your stone should be set in a way that really makes a statement. Prong settings, although common today, are among the most show-stopping ways to display the perfect stone in all its glory. If you want to know more about the prong setting and how it can enhance your next ring, read on.
The History of the Prong Setting
Prong settings have been used since the 19th century, but they didn’t gain wide acclaim until they were perfected by Tiffany & Co. Introduced in 1886, the Tiffany prong setting created the illusion that dramatic stones were floating above the wearer’s finger, rather than being largely encased by metal.
Prong settings changed everything for jewelry in which the stone is meant to be the front and center piece, such as engagement and wedding rings. And, although they look very simple, prong settings actually were technological marvels and remain so to this day.
What Does a Prong Setting Look Like?
Prong settings, as the name implies, uses small prongs to hold a cut stone in place. They use four or more minimal metal prongs with precisely cut grooves to hold the stone in place, so there’s a lot more stone on display than in any setting that came before.
There are several common configurations of prong settings, including:
Four-prong – Four-prong settings are classics for a reason. They can take a round stone and make it look larger and more square, or allow a larger, square stone to really sparkle because of the minimal amount of metal standing between the stone and the light.
Six-prong – The two added prongs provide a little extra security and peace of mind over a four-prong setting and make those round stones look very round. However, the extra metal can make small stones look even smaller, so use them sparingly.
Double-prong – If you like a lot of prongs, double prong settings might be the right choice for you. Not only do you get more prong at each contact point, since your prongs are doubled up, you can use them to hide flaws in otherwise outstanding gems. Like six prong settings, double prongs can backfire on small stones, making them appear smaller than they are, but without any added stone security.
Claw – The drama coming from a claw prong is the perfect fit for some personalities. Although streamlined and slim, more material is folded over the face of the stone, lending a unique aesthetic to any type of stone.
Button – Want something truly minimal? Try a button prong setting. These tiny settings still secure a stone like any prong setting, but they can be nearly invisible. Perfect for highlighting flawless and fancy cut stones, the button prong setting will never upstage your stones.
V-Prong – Have a gem that isn’t round? That’s where prong settings such as the V Prong come into play. This prong type grips the gem from either side of the corner while providing protection for the point.
Caring for Prong Settings
Before choosing a prong setting, make sure to examine other rings your jeweler has on hand with prong settings. If they’re not built to very exacting standards, you may have issues with the prongs holding the stone in place properly, or worse, the prongs may be prone to catching on everything in sight, leading to damage to your ring.
Once you’ve chosen a prong that you feel is sturdy and can be relied upon for years to come, it’s just a matter of having a regular professional cleaning once or twice a year and home care, including:
Leaving your ring at home – There are plenty of places you shouldn’t take any kind of ring, but especially a ring with a prong setting. Anywhere you’re going to be very active or using your hands a lot, like the gym, doing outdoor sports like climbing, or even sticky activities like a pottery class should be red flags to leave your ring at home. These activities create a lot of risk for your ring and chances to scratch or otherwise lose your settings or stones.
Regularly checking for loose prongs – Hold your ring close to your ear and shake it gently. If you hear even a faint rattling sound, have the prong checked by your jeweler. Catching damage early is the best way to avoid losing valuable stones and ensuring repairs are minor.
Cleaning your ring between professional cleanings – Soaking your ring in dish soap and water for a few minutes will loosen up any dirt or debris that has collected around your prongs. Use a soft toothbrush to scrub gently around the prongs and under the stone itself, where most dirt will collect. Before rinsing your ring, make sure to cover the drain so an accidental slip doesn’t turn into a treasure hunt in the sink’s drain trap.
Although a lot of attention is paid to ensuring you choose the right stones and metals for your rings, the settings you choose can change the entire feel of a piece of jewelry. Prong settings add a lot of simple elegance to stones that are already show-stopping in their own right.
Indiana University Alumni : GIA Graduate Gemologist Student