Are you on a journey to find your perfect dream ring? Whether you're about to pop the question, drop some hints, or buy yourself an extravagant gift, you've come to the right place! Here in my studio we want our customers to feel as comfortable as possible when making a big purchase. However, I often find myself in front of clients who apologize or feel nervous about their lack of jewellery knowledge and vocabulary. But, we’re the experts and there’s no expectation on your part to know the right terms before coming in for your consultation. That being said, it’s always nice to feel prepared and walk into a situation with confidence. So, let me break down the anatomy of an engagement ring for you so you can shop without ever breaking a sweat- the only prerequisite for this lesson is a love for all things shiny and sparkly! 💖💎
We’ll start with the classic three-stone ring and cover all the basics:
Where to start? Well, the center stone is certainly a good place- it’s the star of the show, the focal point of your engagement ring and often the biggest chunk of the price tag. The center stone is usually, especially in this case, the largest stone in the ring and should be set in a way that allows it to catch the most light and sparkle. Your center stone can be any variety of gemstone but for engagement rings we prefer gems with a hardness of 7.5 and above to ensure the longest lifespan.
In addition to your center stone are accent stones and these generally flank both sides of the center stone. Again, these can be any variety of gemstone that you prefer, so long as they are durable enough for everyday wear. Accent stones should accentuate and compliment your center stones size and colour and can be arranged in a variety of styles and setting types.
Your accent stones sit on the shoulders of your engagement ring. The shoulders are the top part of the engagement ring that lead to the center stone and where the accents generally sit. The shoulders can be left plain or embellished with additional stones, hand engraving or textures. The shoulders are always visible from a birds-eye-view so it’s important to consider whether you would like more visible metal or if you’d like more sparkle leading down the band.
This brings us to an important part of the engagement ring- the gallery. Jeweller’s use this term a lot as it is an integral part of the design and also affects the overall structural integrity of a ring. This is the area beneath the center stone where the light can enter and illuminate the stone from different angles. It can be a simple open space or intricately designed with filigree or other decorative embellishments like hidden diamonds or hand engraving.
All of these parts above make up the setting. The setting is the general term jewellers use to describe the top portion of your ring where the stones are set. We will ask, “ what kind of setting do you like,” and this answer can be anything from a solitaire, three-stone, halo or bezel setting. The setting should be strong enough to resist bending and warping by having enough metal and connection points with the shank.
Which brings us to the prongs- the unsung heroes of engagement rings. Prongs are just one type of setting style but also the most common. Prongs are the tiny pieces of metal that secure your stones in place. They’re little cylindrical posts of gold or platinum that are cut, bent and shaped into your preferred prong style; round, tiger-claw, talon, double-claw and triple claw, to name a few. Bear in mind that these are the only things keeping your stone in place, and you from heartbreak, so they should be chosen wisely. It’s important to choose a style of prong that not only meets your aesthetic goals but also your lifestyle.
The area that sits just beneath your setting is called the bridge. The bridge is another important part of the ring that is often overlooked. It is the part of your engagement ring that sits on your finger and aligns with your wedding band. If you already know the kind of wedding ring you want it’s important to let your jeweller know so that the bridge can accommodate it. Some customers opt for no bridge and prefer a lower-profile ring that sits even closer to the finger. Without a bridge, customers will need a curved or custom fitted band that hugs their engagement ring.
This brings us straight to the ring profile. This is a really common term that we use to describe the height of your engagement ring. Rings can have high, low or semi-low profiles. The height of a profile determines the style of wedding band you can stack with it and is also dependent on the type of center stone you choose. Some gemstones, like a round brilliant diamond, are cut quite deep and your ring profile needs to accommodate the depth of your stone. While high-profile engagement rings can look glamorous and eye-catching they also come with some precarious aspects. The higher the setting the higher the risk of it snagging or getting damaged. Especially when the setting is sitting on top of a delicately thin shank, it can be more susceptible to bending or getting caught on clothing. The ring in our diagram is considered a high-profile ring because it has an added bridge to allow for a wedding band to stack flush with it. However, as a three-stone ring, it has multiple connection points to the shank and is constructed very sturdily.
The bridge leads us to the shank- the band and body of the engagement ring. The shank can be plain metal or embellished with more gemstones, engraving and textures. It can also be shaped to a variety of different profiles; rounded, square, soft-square, knife-edge and domed are a few terms we use to describe the shape of your shank. Having a flat shank interior allows you to engrave personal details in your ring. You can also opt for a “comfort-fit” which rounds the inner edges of your shank for extra comfort when slipping it on and off your finger.
The sizing area is the portion of the shank where jewellers will size your engagement ring. When your ring requires sizing jewellers will saw the shank open, remove or add metal, then solder the shank closed. Because soldering is done with a direct, hot flame, it’s important to size your ring as far away from the center stone as possible. This is one reason why I don’t recommend full eternity bands on rings- the diamonds or gemstones would need to be removed (or added) and it is a more complicated and expensive process. If you are adding engraving to your ring it’s important to remember that the engraving will need to be redone if your ring needs sizing. This is often an overlooked expense.
All jewellery is required to have a hallmark somewhere on the piece. The hallmark is stamped in place by the jeweller and marks the quality and composition of the metal used. The hallmark on your engagement ring is typically found on the interior, flat side of your shank and expressed as a number or letters: 14KT, 18KT, 800, PLAT etc. The number, followed by KT, refers to the percentage of pure gold in your alloy while PLAT refers to Platinum. KT is the common acronym for Karat which is the measure of the gold's purity. 14KT means 14 of 24 parts are pure gold. In other words, 14KT gold is 58.3% gold while the other 41.6% is made up of mixed alloys that give the gold its colour and hardness. Sometimes you can find other information engraved or stamped inside your ring such as the carat weight of your center stone or logos like “FAIRMINED’’ which indicates ethically sourced gold was used.
So, now you've got the insider scoop on the anatomy of an engagement ring, and you're well-equipped to embark on your journey to find that perfect dream ring. No need to feel intimidated or apologize for not being a jewelry expert when you walk into our studio or any jewelry store. We're here to guide you every step of the way, and there's absolutely no expectation for you to be a gemologist before you start your consultation.
You've learned about the essentials, from the star of the show – the center stone – to the alchemy and everything in between. You've discovered that choosing the right parts for your engagement ring is not just about aesthetics; it's about making sure your ring aligns with your lifestyle and future plans. Happy ring hunting!!