Prongs: Why are They so Important?
Prongs on a ring play an important role in jewelry design: they ensure the center stone is secure and have an effect on the look and design of a ring. Throughout history, prong styles have varied in popularity – much like trending engagement ring styles do too. They’re functional as well as fashionable!
A prong is the small piece of metal responsible for holding your center stone in place. It’s the uppermost part of the “head” of the ring where your center stone is set. If you’ve ever seen an unset ring before, it’s the spiky part that sticks up! When a stone is set into the head, a groove or “seat”, is carved into the inside of the vertical prongs. The outermost part of the diamond (the girdle) rests on this seat and the additional metal of the prong is folded over the edges of the diamond. This adds downward pressure and inward pressure, keeping the diamond securely in place. It’s important to set diamonds with prongs that are thick enough to secure the stone, but delicate enough not to distract from the diamond itself.
Most diamond settings feature 4-prong heads, but some people prefer a 6-prong head. They both hold the diamond securely in place, but they both make the diamond look a little different. There is a smaller chance of a diamond getting chipped in a 6-prong setting, but you’ll see less of the diamond. You’ll see more of the diamond in a 4-prong setting, but if one prong is broken, the diamond may come loose. Most ladies prefer the 4-prong look as it shows off the whole diamond while still keeping the stone safe.
Some prongs can be decorative, as well as functional, depending on the shape of the diamond:
Single claw prongs are most commonly used and preferred by most as they take up the least amount of space on the surface of the diamond. These prongs are elegant and dainty, gradually tapering off to a narrow point at the top. These prongs work best with round and oval stones and can come in a set of 4 or 6.
Double claw prongs are similar to single claw prongs, but the prongs are grouped in sets of two directly next to each other. This adds extra protection to diamonds with corners, like emerald cut and cushion cut diamonds, but can also add a decorative touch to any shape setting!
V prongs are shaped like a V and aren’t rounded at the top like normal claw prongs. These prongs are used to protect the corners of stones like princess cuts, marquise shapes, and pear shapes. The sharp corners and points on diamonds can be easily damaged if not properly protected.
Square prongs are less common, but are used to protect the angled edges of emerald cuts and cushion cut diamonds. These prongs are squared off on the tips and give the ring a very contemporary look.
For those who prefer a ring without prongs, a bezel setting or a flush setting (also called gypsy setting) might be possible.
A bezel setting is a style of setting where the diamond is surrounded by a metal rim, rather than held by 4 or 6 individual prongs. Bezel settings are tricky – the stone has to be secure while covering as little of the diamond as possible. When done correctly, the bezel shouldn’t darken the diamond and still provide ample amount of light to pass through.
A flush setting, also called gypsy set, is when the diamond is set into a drilled hole within the ring. The diamond sits flush with the gold and doesn’t protrude out of the metal. Flush set stones aren’t commonly seen with larger center diamonds, but can be an option for those who like smaller stones set in a wide gold band that requires little maintenance.
Most people don’t really think about maintaining their jewelry beyond the occasional cleaning and polishing – this can be a dangerous mindset! While jewelry is designed to last, it’s not invincible. It’s inevitable that after years of daily use, the jewelry piece will show signs of wear, especially if it’s a ring. The prongs on a ring are usually the first thing to wear down over time. Prongs are usually made from soft precious metals like silver or gold, and while they’re strong enough to hold a diamond in place, they can still wear down or snap right off!
We like to say that prongs on a ring are like tires on a car. They require routine maintenance to ensure they do their job. You wouldn’t buy a car and expect the tires to last 20 years – so you can’t expect the prongs of your ring to do the same! We recommend bringing your ring in for a prong check every 6 months. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to the security of a diamond!
It’s always a smart idea to keep an eye on your prongs to ensure everything still looks secure. A quick check is easy if you know what to look for:
Too-short prong: Take a look at your center diamond from the side – get in real close. All four (or six) of the tips on top of your stone should be at the same height. If one is shorter, or nearly nonexistent, it’s time to come to a jeweler for a re-tipping. A thinning tip is more susceptible to catching and pulling away from the diamond, leaving it vulnerable to slip out of the setting.
Bent prong: Looking at your diamond from the top-down, take note of where your tips sit around the stone. They should be equally spaced around the perimeter. If one tip is closer to another, it's probably taken a hit and the prong is bent out of place. Do not try to bend it back! The integrity of the prong is now compromised and can break if bent in the opposite direction, it’s best to let a professional adjust it for you.
Sharp prong: Run your finger over the top of your stone, do you feel anything sticking up that shouldn’t be there? Or have you noticed your ring getting caught on clothing or pulling a thread loose? Those are both signs of a prong that has already pulled up and away from the diamond. It’s best to bring it in for repair before it ruins any more of your sweaters and pulls the diamond out in the process!
The prongs on your ring shouldn’t be a constant worry. If you take care of your rings, the prongs should last 10-15 years between replacements – if you keep up with the recommended 6-month checkups! But no one is perfect and accidents can happen. We’ve had brand new rings get caught on crab baskets and countertop edges and a prong gets pulled away from the diamond. It happens! We’re here to help you fix those problems when they arise.
You should feel free to wear your jewelry when and how you please, without the worry of losing a stone! If you have questions about the state of your prongs, stop by and bring your ring in for a checkup. We’ll examine it under magnification and let you know if it’s time for a retipping.