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Finding the perfect ring for you isn’t only about the diamond. Your choice of setting impacts the overall look and feel of the piece, so you should explore the wide range of options.
Cathedral and Tiffany settings are two common designs for diamond rings.
The main difference between cathedral and Tiffany settings is that cathedral settings have two arches that extend to hold the center diamond high above the ring, while Tiffany settings are a solitaire style with four or six prongs that keep the attention on the center diamond.
For example, check out this elegant cathedral setting in white gold.
Now compare it these Tiffany settings. The distinctions are apparent when displayed side by side.
Let’s compare cathedral versus Tiffany settings, pros and cons of each, how they’re different, and how you to decide which is best for you.
What is a Cathedral Setting?
A cathedral setting for an engagement ring includes two arches that extend from the top of the shank toward the diamond.
The distinguishing features are the triangle gaps formed by the arches, which together create the shape of a cathedral.
Prongs are the most popular way diamonds in a cathedral setting are held, but it can also be set with a tension or bezel setting.
For the latter two designs, the arches still extend upward, but instead of connecting with prongs, it meets the rounded edge of the bezel or the ends of the tension setting pressing the diamond.
There are several advantages to cathedral settings, which is why they’re seen on so many engagement rings.
The first pro is the variety of designs available within the category. Many have a wide shank, which allows you to add gemstones or milgrain along the band for even more sparkle.
For example, you can place multiple rows of pave diamonds on the shank. There are also channel-set cathedral setting, where the accent diamonds are placed inside the band.
The thick shank allows for an endless number of designs, but for those wanting a thin band such as a knife edge ring, those can also include the cathedral arches.
Cathedral settings are high-set, meaning the diamond is elevated off the shank and your finger. This gives the diamond more prominence on the piece and can make it appear larger.
When more light is able to hit the diamond and showcase its brilliance, it diminishes the appearance of inclusions and improves its color.
The high setting also places distance between the main diamond and any accents on the shank, so the diamond doesn’t get lost in the design.
Another pro of cathedral settings is they pair well with wedding bands.
It’s a popular style for engagement rings because the high setting allows the wedding band to slide underneath. A low setting can force the wedding and engagement rings to compete because the diamond may be pressed against the other band.
Cathedral settings come with multiple downsides.
While a high setting better displays the most important part of a ring, prongs in this type of setting snag more easily.
Here’s an example of a cathedral setting with a high-set diamond.
It’s more difficult to prevent them from catching on clothes, hair, or furniture.
When this happens, the prongs can bend backward or break, putting the diamond at risk.
The prongs aren’t the only part of the ring more vulnerable in a cathedral setting. The placement of the diamond also leaves it more prone to damage when hit against a hard surface.
A high-set ring shouldn’t be worn during physical activity or everyday chores because the diamond is susceptible to impact.
The elegant design of cathedral settings is also the source of a disadvantage.
It’s easy for dirt and grime to fill its many crevices, similar to a trellis setting. It’s another reason why you shouldn’t wear the ring during physical activity.
When this problem does occur, it’s difficult to clean because of the small areas the debris can accumulate.
It’s recommended to have it professionally cleaned once or twice per year.
Cathedral setting also aren’t an ideal choice for small diamonds.
If you’ve chosen one less than 0.75 carats, it may appear tiny when set high above the setting, without any surrounding diamonds.
Instead, you could place it in a lower setting and surround it with a halo.
What is a Tiffany Setting?
A Tiffany setting is a solitaire setting with a knife-edge band. The classic style features six prongs, but there are also variations with four.
The prongs are flushed against the diamond to hold it in place, with its tips hanging slightly over its girdle.
They’re set equidistant around the stone, with a gap where they meet to showcase its culet. This is intended to produce the effect the diamond is floating over the shank.
It was introduced by Tiffany in 1886, and at the time, it stood in contrast to the popular low-set bands.
The style soon became the standard way to display an engagement ring diamond, so many on the market have a similar appearance.
The company has since created variations of the design such as channel-set and pave engagement rings.
The band also comes in metals such as 18K rose gold and platinum.
The first pro of a Tiffany setting is its sleek design.
The standard version is a thin band without additional diamonds cascading down each side. It’s comfortable to wear while keeping the focus on the center diamond.
The second advantage is the diamond sits high above the band, enhancing its brilliance.
This aspect was revolutionary when the Tiffany setting was first designed.
When the diamond is high-set, light can enter the table and crown from all angles. Instead of the setting obstructing the light performance, it ensures it has maximum sparkle.
Similar to the high-set cathedral design, the improved brilliance can hide inclusions and color.
The high setting also works to your advantage because it fits tightly with a Tiffany wedding ring. If you choose both your engagement and wedding ring from Tiffany, they’ll complement each other by sitting side-by-side on your finger.
Tiffany settings also provide strong security for your diamond because of its six prongs.
Many settings feature three of four prongs, and while those are also designed to minimize how much of the gem is covered, your diamond is more protected with additional prongs.
Lastly, Tiffany settings are easy to clean because of their minimalist design. There aren’t an excessive number of nooks and crevices to clean, so you can often wipe it down at home.
If you opt against the traditional Tiffany setting and purchase one with accent diamonds, it’s best to have it professionally cleaned because dirt and debris can accumulate on the shank.
There are a few disadvantages of Tiffany settings.
With any prong setting, the prongs are liable to snag, bend, or break. This is of more concern for high-set diamonds. The way to avoid this problem is to remove the ring during times it’s vulnerable.
If you notice even one of the prongs is damaged, don’t wear the ring until it’s repaired. You increase the risk of the diamond falling out, which is more of a problem than a loose prong.
The traditional Tiffany setting also doesn’t include room for diamonds along the shank. The knife-edge style is thin for comfort and drawing attention to the diamond.
Many buyers want more than one diamond on their setting. Accents add glimmer to the piece when it’s twirled around but without a significant increase in cost.
You can find Tiffany settings with pave diamonds or small ones placed in the crevice of a channel, but those are the only alternatives.
How are Cathedral and Tiffany Settings Different?
Deciding on a cathedral versus Tiffany setting requires understanding how the two are different. There are five main differences between the settings:
- Tiffany settings only hold round diamonds
- The shank of a cathedral setting is wider
- Tiffany settings feature six prongs
- Tiffany settings cost more than cathedral settings
- Cathedral settings aren’t a patented design
We’ll explore each of these distinctions in more detail.
1. Tiffany Settings are For Round Brilliant-Cut Diamonds
Round cut diamonds are the most popular type for engagement rings because of its brilliance. Tiffany settings are designed to best display this trait.
If you’re considering an alternative cut such as princess, emerald, radiant, or Asscher, you won’t have the option to place it in a Tiffany setting.
Instead, a cathedral setting is designed to hold any type of cut, such as:
The cathedral setting is fit for buyers who still want a high setting that gives prominence to the diamond but also wants a fancy shape.
2. Cathedral Settings Have a Wider Shank
The shank of a ring has both a functional and aesthetic purpose. From a functional standpoint, it supports the setting.
Aesthetically, the bands come in various metals, from gold to platinum, and there are several color options within each.
It’s also common to add accent diamonds to shanks, and this is where cathedral settings have an advantage.
The shanks of many cathedral settings have plenty of room for more diamonds. Almost every type of design can be worked into the cathedral setting because the setting is about the way the ring is held, not a specific shank.
You can place a single row of round diamonds down each side, or multiple rows of princess cuts.
One unique option is to combine the cathedral setting with u-prongs. The main diamond sits on top of the arches, while u-shaped prongs encircle the shank in an eternity style.
The standard Tiffany setting doesn’t have room on its shank for these designs, and that’s on purpose.
Its goal is to highlight the main diamond and minimize the appearance of the other aspects of the ring. Its knife edge band keeps it simplistic.
3. Standard Tiffany Settings Have Six Prongs
It’s not a standard Tiffany setting if it has only four prongs.
The design seeks a balance between not crowding the ring with prongs in a way that covers too much of its table while also enhancing the security.
Three- and four-prong settings prioritize the minimalist approach, while eight-prong settings are all about security.
Tiffany settings are in the middle of this spectrum to achieve both brilliance and security.
Cathedral settings can have any number of prongs because its design isn’t referring to a particular number. The way the arches extend from the top of the shank is conducive to three, four, six, or eight prongs.
The most popular cathedral setting design features four prongs.
4. Tiffany Settings are Often More Expensive
Tiffany positions its brand as a premium option, so its settings are one of the most expensive on the market.
It also doesn’t sell them without a center diamond, so it’s difficult to determine the exact price of the setting. Instead, you have to take into account the cost of the diamond as well.
The best way to understand the differences in price between Tiffany and cathedral settings is to compare the costs when they hold a diamond of similar quality.
For example, this engagement ring with a Tiffany setting costs $14,300. It’s a platinum band and holds a diamond with the following qualities:
- Carat: 1.03
- Color: I
- Clarity: VS2
- Cut: Excellent
Blue Nile, an online jewelry retailer, offers cathedral settings. A platinum cathedral setting holding a diamond with those same qualities costs $6,429.
That’s a 122% increase in price for a Tiffany setting compared to a cathedral setting.
As another example, let’s compare a cathedral setting with the same diamond from James Allen. In this case, it sells for $6,440.
The breakdown on cost is $1,850 for the setting and $4,590 for the diamond.
This again shows the premium you’ll pay for a Tiffany setting and diamond over a cathedral setting with the same quality diamond.
One of the main reasons for the price difference is the exclusivity and branding of the Tiffany setting. Buyers are willing to pay more for the association with Tiffany.
The price of a Tiffany setting increases even more if you choose an engagement ring with pave diamonds. The added diamonds give the setting more glimmer and a higher total carat weight.
Another examples I found was a 1.06 carat diamond with VVS2 clarity, an H color grade, and an excellent cut. It costs $23,400.
If you’re looking for a more affordable option, you should choose a cathedral versus a Tiffany setting.
5. Cathedral Settings Aren’t Patented
Tiffany settings are a patented design, so an exact replica can’t be bought elsewhere.
If you’re interested in a setting that’s exclusive to one of the world’s most luxurious brands, a Tiffany setting might be right for you.
But like we’ve discussed, many jewelers have created settings that mimic the design. After all, Tiffany couldn’t try to own the market on six-prong solitaire settings.
The typical cathedral design isn’t patented. They’re a popular choice and available at many jewelers.
But just because cathedral settings aren’t patented doesn’t mean designers don’t have signature styles. For example, Tacori is known for intricate, handcrafted settings.
Below is an example of one of their cathedral settings, with milgrain and small diamonds wrapping around the band leading up to the arches.
You’re unlikely to find this exact design at another jeweler.
Is a Cathedral or Tiffany Setting Right For You?
Cathedral and Tiffany settings both create a stunning way to display your diamond. Choosing which one is right for you is about understanding your priorities in terms of price, appearance, and functionality.
Here are some guidelines for choosing a cathedral or Tiffany setting:
You should choose a cathedral setting if:
- You want a variety of designs to choose from, including many ways you can add accent diamonds to the shank
- Affordability is important, and you want to put the cost savings toward the diamond itself instead of the setting
- You only want three or four prongs to hold the diamond
- The diamond is a fancy shape
You should choose a Tiffany setting if:
- You want one of the most premium options on the market
- The simplistic design and comfortable fit is appealing
- You’re most concerned with displaying the center diamond and enhancing its brilliance
Explore a variety of both settings, and ensure you view them in-person at a jewelry retailer or through high-resolution images online.
The right ring is about both the setting and the diamond, and with cathedral and Tiffany settings, there are unique options for both.