Knowing the ring parts’ names is the key to understanding a design. Unfortunately, most jewelers are inconsistent in their terminology, which leaves too many holes in the discussion. The brief glossary courtesy of Leon Mege Center for Advanced Jewelry Studies will help communicate with your jeweler.
Most rings can be split into two essential elements: the head and the shank. The shank straps the head to the finger. The head is a holder for a stone or stones.
A metal strip of uniform width, height, and profile folded into a circle is a band that can be set with diamonds, gemstones, or left plain. As long as there is no single prominent stone or element, it is still classified as a band.
A jeweler calling a gallery a DONUT or BAGEL is an unprofessional hack who should be fired.
Head, Basket, or a Mount
The head is the s ring’s focal point that holds a center stone or an arrangement of several stones. It can be a single setting, as in a Tiffany-style solitaire, or an elaborate assembly of many parts such as prongs, stems, halos, galleries, baskets, and bezels.
The upper gallery is the top tier whose purpose is to support the stones. The upper gallery provides “seats” for each stone, preventing it from lateral movements.
Lower Gallery, or a Bridge
The lower gallery is a projection of the ring’s head, shadowing its outline. In solitaires, the gallery usually has the shape of the center stone. It is the lower tier that touches the finger and serves as a base for prongs or stems. The size of the gallery is determined by the prongs’ angle and the distance between the two galleries.
A halo is made of diamonds or gemstones surrounding the center stone. A halo blends in with the center stone creating a bigger look or quite the opposite; it frames the view bringing the center stone into focus.
Stems are pillars supporting a halo. Just like columns in architecture, stems usually have a round profile, but they can also be flat. Unlike columns of a building, stems are getting thicker towards the top. Stems are often decorated with diamond pave.
A hidden halo is a myth, much like the Yeti, or his North American cousin, the Sasquatch. By definition, a halo is a border around a stone. A “halo” is hidden from the view is simply an upper gallery set with pave.
Prongs are metal hooks that hold a stone securely and with minimum obstruction. Prongs converge under the stone and are attached to a gallery or some other part of the piece. The prong setting is the best and most popular way to secure diamonds and gemstones.
Prongs secure and protect the stone, which they grip with their tips. They are folded over the stone’s girdle, and their tips are fashioned into claws, balls, or other shapes. Prongs vary in width, thickness, and shape, but we categorize them by the way their tips are shaped. They can be engraved or set with pave.
Round (ball) prongs
Round prongs are the most common type found in jewelry. Round prongs are finished with a spherical tip. When looking down at the stone, the prongs look like small beads hugging the edge of the stone. Large round prongs look too cumbersome.
They are rarely used for setting large stones in high-end jewelry. On the other hand, small stones are often set with ball prongs. Center stones set with round prongs are a telltale sign of commercial-grade jewelry.
Claw prongs are shaped like pointy talons. The claw shape makes them nearly invisible. Unlike round prongs, shaped with a rotary tool, the claw prongs are painstakingly finished by hand using files and grinding wheels. Filing requires a lot of experience and takes time. It is physically impossible to maintain a consistent shape during mass production. It takes a lot of experience and know-how to finish a perfect “eagle-claw” prong. Much of the appeal of Leon Mege jewelry is in the ideal shape of our eagle-claw prongs
Swiss (tab) prongs
Flat prongs are the oldest type of prongs; they represent an evolution of the bezel setting. Flat prongs are narrow strips of metal left between sections of the bezel removed to let in more light.
The prong tips are shaped like flattened pyramids with sliced-off tops. Flat prongs have a rectangular cross-section as opposed to round-wire prongs. Flat prongs were popular during the Art-Deco period. Crown style settings such as Tiffany solitaires are usually finished with flat prongs.
V- or C- prong
C-prongs follow the curve of rounded stones, while V-prongs are folded over the stone’s point. Two wide opposing C-shaped prongs holding an oval or round stone are called half-bezel, semi-bezel, or open bezel.
V-prongs hold corners of a square or triangular stones or pointy tips of marquises and pears. Both C- and V-prongs can be flat or rounded on the top. The prongs complement the stone, adding clarity to its shape and making it more pronounced.
Prongs set with stones
A prong’s tip must be small enough to blend with the stone. Prongs should have minimum visibility yet be strong enough to withstand damage during wear. The thicker the prongs, the more secure they are; however, excess metal will block the stone from view.
All prongs are secure as long as they are adequately prepared for setting by an experienced setter.
The type and position of prongs must be carefully considered to compliment the stone’s shape and cut. In addition, they should be consistent with the overall style of the piece.
The finish is a reliable indicator of the level of craftsmanship. The evaluation of overall quality is done by examining the stone’s fit and the degree to which the prongs adhere to the stone. A skilled setter can shape the tips to appear delicate and almost invisible. Well-defined and symmetrical prongs are essential for a refined look typical of bespoke jewelry.
Even the most exquisite craftsmanship cannot guarantee that the stone will never get loose over time. The prongs can eventually snag, bend, or wear off. Just like the wear and tear of car brakes, prong’s longevity depends on the owners’ wearing habits and the piece maintenance.
Setting a small gemstone on the tip of a prong may seem like a cool idea at first but requires thick prongs blocking the very stone they hold. Even the tiniest pave necessitates an increase in prong’s thickness and width beyond normal eye-pleasing proportions.
Setting a stone on top of the prong can be dangerous. There is an increased chance of damaging the main stone during the setting. A diamond that can fit the prong’s tip usually lacks brilliance due to its tiny size.
When it comes to prongs, less is always more. Prongs shaped like flowers, ribbons, or anything else that makes them stand out usually cover a flaw in the gemstone or the designer’s imagination.