How To Choose the Right Jewelry Settings for Your Gems

When you purchase a piece of jewelry, it’s a complete product and you’re buying it because it’s ready to wear. In other words, the gemstone is already placed in a setting by the jewelry designer.
But what about loose gemstones? This leads us to the science of jewelry settings. With loose gems, you get to choose how you’d like to best display them in jewelry designs. Why is it important to understand jewelry settings for gemstones?

Let's say you are thinking of making a pair of dangling earrings with a small opal in each earring. To create these, you'll have to attach the gemstones to the base of the earrings. How do you do that? Great question! We're here to help you maneuver your way through the process of selecting a gemstone setting for your jewelry. As you’ll quickly notice, there’s no limit to the amount of creativity involved, so let’s get right to it.

What are Jewelry Settings for Gemstones?

Before we get too far into the details, let’s quickly recap what jewelry settings are. The best way to describe a jewelry setting is to imagine it like a blank canvas.
For example, picture a ring without a center stone. What you’ll notice with the gemstone missing are small prongs. These are called “prong settings.” No surprises there!

These little metal structures are responsible for holding the gemstone in place. Simply put: without prong settings the jewel would fall out. The individual prongs connect at the base of the ring to form the head of the ring. Are all prongs and ring heads the same? Not quite.

If all the settings were the same, the possibilities for designs would be highly limited and it would be difficult to create unique pieces. Thankfully, there are many different gemstone settings to choose from! So, how many gemstone setting options are there? Let’s have a look!

The Main Types of Gemstone Settings

There is a myriad of gemstone designs to choose from. However, there are about 12 that are the most popular. Jewelers pair gemstones with settings based on certain factors like the type of gemstone or metal used in the design. Generally, the first order of business is to design jewelry around the specific type of gemstone.

The reason for this is that some gemstone settings are naturally wider and stronger, which is essential when you are working with large, heavy items. Conversely, thinner, fragile gemstone settings are more suitable for smaller and lighter gemstones.

Pairing Gemstones With Settings

While there are more than 12 gemstone setting options, the three major categories of gemstone settings are broken down into the most common gemstone settings, best settings for small to medium gems and the best for special or rare gems. Let’s have a closer look at each category.

Most Common Gemstone Settings

Bezel Setting

The bezel setting is made from metal that encircles a gem. Fun fact about this setting: it was the first gemstone jewelry setting ever created! There are so many different variations of the bezel setting, which means this setting option is perfect for gems both big and small! Bezel settings are a popular choice for engagement rings, as they are the most durable setting choice, keeping your prized diamond or center stone protected.

Channel Setting

Channel jewelry settings contain gemstones lined together in a row. Like a river or channel, the gems look like they are moving in the same direction. The channel setting has a fluidity and linear quality that draws comparisons to natural bodies of moving water.

Prong Setting

The prong style is the setting option we discussed earlier. The style of this setting is meant to be nonchalant, especially in comparison to other gemstone setting styles. The casual and barely visible nature of the prongs makes it one of the most popular--if not the most popular--jewelry setting. With less metal showing, the gemstone has room to sparkle and shine in the spotlight.

Tiffany Setting

The Tiffany setting is a variation of the classic prong setting and was designed by none other than Charles Lewis Tiffany himself. If your fiancée is in love with all things Tiffany, this might be the choice jewelry setting for her engagement ring diamond!

Best Gemstone Settings for Small to Medium Gems

Bar Setting

The bar setting is made to host a series of small gemstones in a straight line. Most popularly used in men’s wedding rings, bar settings also work well with square-shaped gemstones like the princess cut diamond.

Buttercup and Rosehead Setting

Rosehead and buttercup settings have one major characteristic in common. The metal setting is intricately designed in the shape of a flower in which the gem sits inside of. This romantic setting is particularly ideal for those who love feminine floral details and filigree.

Illusion Setting

For those who love an air of mystique in their jewelry, you’ll love the illusion setting! What makes it so mysterious? The illusion setting is designed to hide most of the metal in the setting. The real brilliance of this style is that it is designed to make the center stone look larger than it is. How magical!

Wrap-Tite Setting

Wrap-tite settings fully encompass the gemstone, which might lead you to think it’s highly protective. Unlike the bezel setting which offers protection, the wrap-tite is more of an illusion of security. It’s best to reserve this unique setting for inexpensive gemstones. Otherwise, you risk losing a precious gem.

The Best Setting Options for Special and Rare Gems

Cluster Setting

If the name hasn’t given it away yet, the cluster setting is designed to arrange gemstones in a cluster. It’s a unique setting perfect for dazzling a handful of small gemstones on one piece.

Hammer Setting

The most ancient setting around is the hammer setting, and you can spot it from a mile away because it’s so rare. A hammer setting is shaped like a square with a circle cut out of the center made to fit over the finger. Gemstones are placed as accents on the corners of the ring.


As you might’ve guessed, marquise settings are specifically designed to harbor marquise cut gemstones.

Pavé Setting

If you love diamonds, you will likely love the pavé setting. That’s because this unique setting beautifully accentuates the center stone diamond with a line of accent stones.

As you can see, there’s no shortage of jewelry setting options! The best thing to do when deciding how to set your gemstones is to consider how they will look best. Do you have a large, unique stone you want to highlight? Or do you have a cluster of small jewels that go perfectly together? Factor the qualities of the gemstones in mind, then have a look at each of the setting options to find the right one!
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