Understanding Diamond Engagement Ring Terminology

When shopping for an engagement ring you’ll hear words like cut, clarity, carat weight, color, the 4Cs, fire, brilliance, prong set, pave, and many others.  Having a basic understanding of not only diamond terminology, but engagement ring terminology as well will benefit you greatly as you begin your search.

Here are some diamond and engagement ring terms you should familiarize yourself with before you begin your engagement ring search.

Diamond Terminology

Blemish – a clarity characteristic confined to the surface of a polished diamond

Brilliant cut – a cutting style in which triangular and kite shaped facets spread out from the diamond’s center toward the girdle

Brilliance – the brightness that stems from the center of the diamond.  Brilliance occurs when light enters through the table, reaches the pavilion facets, and is reflected back through the table.

4Cs - Cut, Color, Clarity, Carat weight

Carat (ct) – standard term used for the weight of a diamond

Clarity – absence of internal inclusions and external blemishes

Color – absence of color in a diamond

Cut – the proportions and finish of a polished diamond

Clarity characteristics – internal or external feature of a diamond that helps determine the quality and establish its identity

Crown – the upper portion of the diamond above the girdle

Culet – a facet sometimes added to the bottom of the pavilion to protect the tip

Eye clean – a term used to describe a diamond with no blemishes or inclusions that can be seen with the unaided eye

Face-up (aka table up) – a position where the diamond’s crown and table are pointed towards the viewer

Face-down (aka table down) – a position where the diamond’s pavilion is pointed towards the viewer

Facet – a smooth flat plane on the surface of a diamond.  Facets allow light to enter a diamond and reflect off its surface at different angles creating color and light.

Fancy cut– any diamond shape other than a round

Fire – the flashes of colors in a polished diamond

Fluorescence – the emission of visible light by a diamond when it is exposed to ultraviolet radiation

Girdle – the outer edge or outline of the diamond’s shape

Inclusion – a clarity characteristic totally enclosed in a polished diamond or extending into it from the surface

Pavilion – the lower portion of a diamond below the girdle

Plot (aka diamond certificate) – a map of a diamond’s inclusions, blemishes, and facet arrangements

Point (pt) – a unit of measurement used to describe the weight of a diamond

Proportions – the angles and relative measurements of a polished diamond and the relationship between them

Scintillation – the flashes of light and dark areas you see when the diamond, light, or observer moves

Shape – the face-up outline of a diamond

Shape appeal (aka “eye-pleasing”) – a diamonds overall appearance in relation to others of the same size, shape, and cutting style

Scintillation – the flashes of light and dark areas you see when the diamond, light, or observer moves.

Engagement Ring Terminology

Setting Styles

A Prong setting (aka claw setting) is the most common type of setting for solitaire diamond rings.   The diamond is placed in a metal head or basket and it is secured using 3-8 prongs.  The shapes of prongs vary in style and may even contain small accent diamonds.

Advantages – allows more diamond to show than any other style, is secure, easy to clean, and is quick to set.

Disadvantages – does not provide a smooth surface and the prongs can catch on clothing or hair and the girdle area of the diamond is left exposed.

A Channel setting is very popular for not only engagement rings, but wedding bands as well.  The diamonds are placed in a row and are “suspended” between two continuous pieces of metal on the top and bottom with no metal between each stone.   It provides a smooth surface across the ring and protects the girdle of the diamonds; which makes it a great setting choice for someone that is very active or uses their hands a great deal.  The diamonds used for a wedding band are usually all the same size, but may differ in size for engagement rings graduating from larger to smaller down the shank.

Advantages – protects the girdle area of the diamonds and provides for a smooth surface.

Disadvantages – more time consuming and costly to set than a prong setting because all stones must be evenly spaced and secure.

A Pave setting (aka bead setting) contains small round brilliant cut diamonds that are set level with the surface of the ring.  Tiny holes are made in the setting and once the diamond is placed into the hole the surrounding metal is raised to form tiny beads or prongs that will hold the diamond in place.  Pave adds brilliance to the ring and creates the illusion of a larger center stone.  Pave settings are commonly designed using white gold or platinum to minimize the appearance of metal.  Pave settings are quite durable, but aren’t for everyone.  Pave settings also require a little more cleaning and care than prong, channel, and bezel settings.

Advantages – provides great protection for the girdle and pavilion, accentuates the center stone and can make it appear larger than a prong setting, and it allows for an uninterrupted design.

Disadvantages – it doesn’t provide for a smooth surface like a channel setting or channel setting.

Metal Choices

Platinum is rare, pure and known for its durability.  Platinum is 95% pure and will not fade or tarnish keeping its rich white color for a lifetime.  With everyday wear platinum will develop a patina overtime.  Platinum is extremely strong and will hold precious stones firmly and securely in place.  Platinum will scratch, but unlike other metals no metal is lost it is just displaced.  Platinum is hypoallergenic and is a great choice for someone with sensitive skin.

Palladium is part of the platinum family and has a grayish white tone.  It is 10% stronger than platinum and consists of 95% palladium and 5% ruthenium which makes it more scratch resistant than platinum.   Palladium is also a hypoallergenic metal.

White Gold, available in 10kt, 14kt or 18kt, is pure gold alloyed with palladium, zinc or nickel.  The alloys in white gold make it stronger than yellow gold.  To mask the slightly yellowish tone in white gold it is rhodium plated giving it a bright white finish.

Yellow Gold, available in 10kt, 14kt or 18kt, is pure gold alloyed with copper and silver.  Its color looks great with all skin tones and gemstones.

Rose Gold, available in 10kt, 14kt or 18kt, is pure gold alloyed with copper.  Rose Gold has a soft tone that compliments the skin’s natural coloring.  Rose Gold comes in a variety of shades from reddish to a soft pink.  Rose Gold is not recommended for individuals with metal allergies because of its copper alloy.

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