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The minimal, classic look of prongs is just one reason why it’s the most popular type of jewelry setting. But why do some jewelry pieces have three prongs while others have six? Which prong number is the most ideal for fine jewelry? We’ve been asked those questions many times and our answer is that it all comes down to preference. When deciding how many prongs you want to have in your jewelry piece, take into consideration how much brilliance you want in your gemstone, how protected you want it to be, the size of your gemstone, and the type of shape you want your gemstone to look like.
Gemstone Appearance. Unlike other settings, prongs allow light to pass through the gemstone, bringing out its brilliance. The fewer prongs you have, the brighter and shinier your gemstone will appear. Since more metal surrounds a gemstone in a 6-prong setting, less light will be able to pass through it.
Protection. The benefit of having more prongs surround your gemstone is the added protection. If a prong breaks on a 6-prong setting, you still have five other prongs to hold the gemstone in place. With 3-prong and 4-prong settings, the risk of losing a gemstone becomes higher. One recommendation we make to our clients who want the appearance of a 4-prong setting but the security of a 6-prong setting is to have the prongs made out of a durable metal, like platinum to ensure that the prongs don’t break as easily.
Gemstone size. We usually recommend 3-prong or 4-prong settings for gemstones that weigh less than one carat. With smaller gemstones, additional prongs can distract from the gem’s beauty. After all, the gemstone tends to be the most distinguishing part of a jewelry piece, so why hide it with extra metal when it’s not necessary. With larger and more valuable gemstones, 6-prongs are commonly used for their added protection and usually won’t offset the beauty of the gemstone.
Shape. 4-prong settings have been known to make the gemstone appear more square-like. Because of this, 4-prong settings are commonly found in square or rectangular cuts, such as princess and emerald cuts. Unlike 4-prong settings, those with 6 prongs are able to highlight the round appearance of a gemstone. One recommendation we make to clients who prefer 4 prongs but want to avoid that square-like appearance is to add a halo around the gemstone.