Rapaport Magazine
Style & Design

On the level

Engagement rings with gypsy, bezel and other low stone settings keep diamonds secure without snagging, making them more practical for the modern bride.

By Jennifer Heebner

Image: Single stone

When Sig Ward started having kids, she stopped wearing her wedding set — not because she didn’t love it, but because the engagement ring had a raised stone setting with ornate filigree on the gallery and shank, a common (and cumbersome) look that was popular in the 1990s. “The ring would scratch the baby, and it just wasn’t doable for everyday wear,” she explains.

Little did she realize the dilemma would plant the seed for her now eight-year-old eponymous design business, known for its sleek gypsy settings that keep stones secure and clear of obstacles. “I design rings you never want to take off,” she says.

Low-profile engagement rings with cluster, gypsy and bezel settings, among others, are common designs for contemporary jewelry artists. Unlike higher-profile cathedral settings that often have peg heads — prong mountings that connect to shanks in a V shape and elevate the center stone — low-set rings better distribute the weight of the piece so center stones don’t turn sideways. Low settings also have a more practical, understated modern vibe that’s ideal for busy wearers or those who feel uncomfortable with attention-grabbing jewels. “Maybe rings look a little flashier if diamonds stick out, but lower profiles can be more elegant,” says Jade Lustig of Jade Trau.

Designer Claudia Kronfeld agrees; she prefers to let her gemstones take the spotlight. “The settings themselves — with fancy baskets or crazy detailed bands — can be distracting,” says the founder of Claudia Mae Jewelry. “Low-profile settings are all about the stones and their natural beauty.” They’re also a good way to protect the stones from damage, she points out. “Diamonds aren’t indestructible. Higher stone settings present a greater chipping risk.”

Feeling flush

Burnish settings — also known as gypsy or flush settings — feature stones that sit level with the surface. Unlike bezels — which have a raised metal rim around the gem — these settings are completely flush with the metal, which the jeweler then rubs over the gem’s edges with a burnishing tool to secure it.

The burnish look has grown popular in recent years for its comfort and practicality, making it a go-to for people who work with their hands or are epic multitaskers. “They’re so smooth on top!” remarks Ward.

Brent Neale Winston offers low settings such as gypsy, bezel, and her own Pillow and Wildflower designs in the rings she makes for her Brent Neale brand. “You can’t beat these for ease of everyday wear,” she says. The Pillow features a slightly raised, flush-set center stone with a trough of space surrounding it; the outer edges of the metal rise to the level of the center gem’s table. The Wildflower, meanwhile, features individually burnish-set gems in a flower formation.

Cluster luster

Contemporary low-set clusters of stones have broad appeal for shoppers as well. Tanya Mikaeilyn of Artëmer specializes in these rings because they are less traditional. “From an aesthetic perspective, they have an effortless and natural look,” she maintains. “Our Art Deco-inspired baguette diamond rings are what we are most known for, and this style is a best-seller.”

Some clients prefer “the romance of a cluster,” agrees Corina Madilian of jeweler Single Stone, whose Bold Gold collection includes these grouped looks. The line also features halo, gypsy, bezel, prong and other settings, including in heavier frames. The low stone profiles are among the modern updates Madilian makes to the vintage-influenced designs.

Meanwhile, the cluster styles that Tippy Hung creates for her Tippy Taste label take their cues from architecture and art. Her Eleanor ring — a mixture of pear-shaped and round diamonds — is a favorite with her clients. Nearly everything in her inventory is low-profile. “It’s what is most popular now and has a more personal touch when rings sit so close to the finger,” she says.

Romancing the prongs

Of course, many a bride likes to go for pure tradition, and that means prong-set solitaires. But even these don’t have to sit high off the hand.

“I have a doctor client whose higher ring setting made her burn through four pairs of silicone gloves a day,” relates Lustig. Her best-selling style is the Jenny ring, a modern cathedral with prongs but no basket. “You see a shoulder, but it has a much lower profile than a typical cathedral.” Her lowest-set ring is the split-shank Selma, which holds a solitaire with six prongs between the two parts of the band.

Ward, meanwhile, has an eight-prong solitaire on a thin band, which she says is a nod to consumer preferences: “The modern bride wants skinny bands with solitaires, so I’ll do eight short prongs to keep stones secure.”

Rebecca Overmann’s eponymous brand offers prong-set rose cuts that marry antique stones with modern mountings. “Our clients aren’t that traditional, so we can push the boundaries of what is considered ‘engagement,’” she explains.

One common requirement customers have is that their rings be stackable — a sticking point with some low settings, which are not always easy to nest. When it works, though, “stacking rings allow for so much personality,” declares Kronfeld. In Overmann’s line, there are rings that sit lower than the engagement ring’s center stone so they fit together nicely. Each person’s ideal stack is different, and lower settings can be a perfect match for the pieces on a bride’s finger.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - May 2022. To subscribe click here.

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