There is a lot to think about when creating a design for your ring. With a wide range of styles, settings, mounts, shank or band profiles and design features, there is great potential for variation. Each feature of your ring design has to work well with the others to create a robust and pleasing ring. I don’t want to confuse you with too much information, but you will come across these elements and it is as well to know what they mean and what their pros and cons may be.
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• Think of the engagement ring and the wedding band at the same time. Many engagement ring designs will not work with a straight wedding band
• A good ring design will combine a suitable setting and the desired design features into a pleasing and wearable mount for your stones
• Think about the practicalities of daily wear. Your designer should pay close attention to all these elements to make sure you get the ring design which will work for her and which you will both love.
THINK ABOUT THE WEDDING BAND
Do not be carried away by the elegance of a ring design without thinking about how it will work with the wedding band.
One thing which is rarely considered when choosing an engagement ring is how the wedding band will lie against it. If the stones are wider than the band and the design does not take this into account, you may have to have a shaped wedding band or accept a gap between the two rings.
Alternatively, some designs will sit on top of a plain wide wedding band with a thin cross-section.
Some people don’t object to a gap, and many do not want a shaped band as it often looks odd when it is worn on its own.
Most jewellers who want to sell you a ring from their stock will not mention this. It is not in their interest to create questions in your mind, and it is not a consideration that would enter most people’s heads either. Be aware of the potential for more expense because shaped bands have to be made to fit and will cost more than a straight band, especially if they are diamond-set.
The six styles you will see most often are: solitaire, three stone or trilogy, five stone, halo, cluster and band. Let’s tackle them in turn.
Solitaire This describes a single stone ring of any shape. The most basic form is a round brilliant-cut diamond 4-claw or 6-claw solitaire.
This may be a good choice for the minimalist. For the more adventurous and individual there are plenty of potential variations on the theme.
The 4-claw ‘NSEW’ looks very pretty, but it will require a shaped wedding band to fit around it, as will some basket settings and bezels.
Trilogy Another classic is the three stone trilogy ring. This has a central stone which is usually, but not always, larger than the two matching side stones. Again, any shape or type of stone can be used, and this style often incorporates a coloured gemstone as the centre stone. As a gemstone may be less expensive than a similar size and quality of diamond, you may be able to use a larger stone within your budget than if the ring were all diamonds. Do be careful about choosing the setting for a trilogy if you want to be able to wear a straight wedding band with it.
Five-stone For engagement rings, this design is less common now than it used to be, and less popular than the trilogy. Similar pros and cons apply, and it may be most suited to a larger finger, keeping the ring in scale with the personality yet still within budget.
Halo In recent years this has become a very popular choice for engagement rings. It enables you to get maximum impact for less money. You can use a small central diamond or gemstone with lots of small diamonds in the halo, or you can use a larger central stone and enhance it with the halo. The central stone can be either claw-set or bezel-set. If it is claw-set, take note of the appearance of the space between the centre stone and the surrounding halo. A well designed ring will minimise the appearance of this gap.
Depending on the setting, you will need to be aware of the potential for a shaped wedding band to go with this ring. If you are on a tight budget, do not save on this ring only to find yourself paying a lot more when it comes to the next stage.
Cluster The halo and cluster are similar, but have key design differences. While the halo is contained in a channel surrounding the central stone, a cluster is a collection of claw-set stones where the setting of each stone is connected to its neighbour.
This design in particular is one where it may be necessary to have a shaped wedding band, or have it sit on top of a wide plain one with a thin cross-section.
Band Some people choose a simpler stone-set band for their engagement rather than a ring with feature diamonds or gemstones. This is an obvious choice for a man’s engagement ring. Because there is nothing to catch or knock, it may also be suitable for someone who is very active, for healthcare professionals or those who cannot wear one of the other designs at work.
Freestyle Of course there are many more options for your ring design, and, if you have it designed for you or design it yourself, you can create the most individual and personal ring. These are just a few of the more unusual engagement rings I have designed for clients.
The terms ‘setting’ and ‘mount’ are often interchangeable. Here, I define setting as the way stones are held in place.
Mounts are more a sub-set of style but fit here because the same mount can be used in more than one style.
Claw set Claws are the thin strips of metal which hold stones in place in the vast majority of rings. They can be different shapes and add to the design features. In ready-made rings, claws are usually round.
Platinum claws can be finer than gold claws because platinum is stronger and more hard-wearing than gold. In time, claws will need to be repaired or ‘tipped’. Claw setting allows the maximum amount of light into the stone, which is one reason why it is so popular. It is also more forgiving than a bezel on stones which have poor symmetry or are less regular in shape. A common mistake in setting large stones is to use too few claws to keep the stone fixed in place without movement. The illustration shows a large stone in its original 4-claw setting which was not secure, and as remodelled to integrate the shoulders as a third set of claws.
One downside of a claw setting is that the claws will catch on fine fabrics such as tights or stockings, silk scarves and knitwear, often damaging the clothing. It is also possible to knock the ring and either damage the edges of the stone or push the claws out of alignment, loosening the stone.
A bezel setting is a ring of metal surrounding the stone. This can encase the whole stone or be a band around the girdle. A half-bezel has part of the bezel cut away at each side. The bezel can also be pierced to allow more light into the back of the stone. Depending on how much of the lower part of the stone the bezel covers, this style of setting does restrict the light entering the stone and can diminish the brilliance of a diamond or enhance the depth of colour of a gemstone.
This setting has the advantage that it is smooth and gives a contemporary feel to some designs. It is very secure and difficult to damage, protects the stone, particularly more brittle gems like emerald, and won’t catch on clothing as claws do.
Bar and tension set A bar setting is a type of tension setting. This is where the stone is held under tension between two metal surfaces. It is a very contemporary look.
As long as the stone is firmly anchored in the wall of the setting and there is metal to ‘tie’ the two surfaces together, it is pretty secure and offers some protection to the edges of the stone. If there is no ‘tie’ between the metal surfaces, then the design has to be very rigid to ensure that the stone does not come loose. These settings work best for rectangular stones where there is greater surface area contact.
Channel and grain set Channel settings are mostly used to set stones in the side of the shank and in bands. It is the most secure setting for this purpose.
The stones sit inside a channel in the band and a small amount of metal covers the edge of the stone. This keeps the stones in place and protects them from mechanical damage.
Channel setting is particularly good for princess cut and baguette shank stones as it gives a smooth continuous finish.
If the channel also has little claws, it is a grain setting. In the latter, sometimes the grains hold the stones in place rather than the channel. At other times, both do the holding. This is particularly good for round stones as the grains fill the gaps between the stones.
Pavé set A pavé setting is, literally, like a ‘pavement’ of little stones all held in place by tiny claws or grains which are shared between neighbouring stones.
It is more common as a setting for dress rings. Done well it will last a long time, but a lot of pavé settings are not very secure and it is easy to lose stones.
Rub-over or ‘gypsy’ set This is where a stone is individually set directly into a hole made in the metal of the band. It is mostly used for small stones and does restrict the light entering the stone.
Composites Composite settings group lots of small stones together to make them look like one larger stone. The idea is to give the appearance of, say, a 1.0ct diamond at a significantly lower cost, but they are not very convincing and can look a bit cheap. They are usually bezel-set to provide more stability to the illusion. If princess cut stones are used, these can be set flush against each other. Round stones will require claws between them.
MOUNTS AND SHANK SHAPESMOUNTS
Weave A weave mount is a pretty claw setting which tapers as it nears the finger and so can allow you to wear a straight band even if you have a group of larger stones. This is particularly useful for trilogy rings.
Basket The basket mount is a standard traditional mount and is often used with rectangular and large stones. It is solid and secure, but can be rather clunky and will be difficult to fit with a straight wedding band.
Bypass The sweeping curves of a bypass mount are very attractive, rather like the ‘NSEW’ solitaire, but it has the same drawback in that a shaped wedding band is almost unavoidable.
Cathedral The term ‘cathedral’ describes the way the shank rises at the point where it meets the central stone in a solitaire. It is reminiscent of the flying buttresses on, for example, Notre Dame Cathedral.
The shape of the shank will, in part, be determined by the demands of the design, and in part on consideration of comfort of fit.
In general, a shank with an internal curve is more comfortable to wear and any good designer will maximise the comfort of your preferred design. This will depend on a variety of factors including band and design width, thickness, finger size and other rings which may be worn adjacent to the engagement ring.
To keep this as clear as possible, I have separated design features from style. All of these features could be applied to any style, and you can even combine more than one feature in your ring. But we’ll take them one by one. (Illistrations for all of these are at the end of this section.)
These are the little stones which are set in the shank (or band) of the ring, usually at each side of the main setting. Generally shank stones will be round, square or baguette. They can be set in a channel, in claws or be grain set (also known as bead set). Channel and grain-set shank stones are the most secure.
Milgrain is a fine beading applied to the edges of rings and around halos or bezels. It gives a more decorative vintage feel to a ring so is used on ‘modern vintage’ designs, and works well on new wedding bands made to wear with a vintage engagement ring.
Filigree is the pierced design found on many vintage and vintage-style rings. The only problem with filigree rings is the ease with which dirt and grease can get trapped in the design, so it is especially important to keep these rings cleaned.
Moulded and incised or engraved designs
A moulded design is applied on top of the shank. If you like the look of mixed metals, such as yellow gold and platinum together, this can make an attractive feature. If it is properly done, the design will not abrade adjacent fingers. You may want a wedding band to match so that they work as a pair. If so, I would strongly recommend that these be made together.
An incised or engraved design cuts into the metal rather than sitting on top of it. It can either be engraved by hand or be created during the casting process. Hand engraving is very skilled specialist work and can be expensive. Your designer will use an experienced craftsperson for this work and it is likely to add to the time it takes to make the ring. If you want the wedding band to match, have this done at the same time.
There is a lot to think about when it comes to the design of your perfect ring, but don’t feel overwhelmed by it all. A good designer will start with the look you are trying to achieve and the information you can provide about the person for whom you are creating it. He or she will use the best combination of style, features, settings and mount to realise that vision.
If you are buying a ready-made ring, don’t just think about the look of the ring. Give thought to the practicalities of daily wear and think ahead to the wedding band.
Read On – Chapter 14 has some great proposal stories to inspire you.