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Cathedral vs. Basket Settings: How are They Different?

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Cathedral vs Basket Settings

During the process of finding the right diamond ring, it’s natural to spend most of your time on the center diamond. But you shouldn’t neglect the importance of the right setting.

There are a variety of settings available, and two types you’ll often come across are cathedral and basket settings.

We’ll compare cathedral versus basket settings, what you should know about each, their differences and similarities, and how to choose the right one for you.

What are Cathedral Settings?

The distinguishing feature of a cathedral setting is the two arches that extend from the top of the shank to hold the main diamond. 

Cathedral Setting

The arches form triangle gaps that provide it a sense of elegance as it showcases the gem.

Traditional designs feature a round cut diamond placed in the ring, but cathedral settings can hold all types of gems and cuts from emeralds and sapphires to pear and marquise cut diamonds.

In addition, the shank of a cathedral setting can hold a variety of cuts and gems placed inside or around the metal.

What are Basket Settings?

Basket settings are a variation of prong settings that include a horizontal metal bar that wraps around the diamond. 

Wire Basket Solitaire Engagement Ring

This allows the diamond to sit in a basket instead of only being held in place by the prongs grasping its edges. 

The main benefit is security because the pavilion isn’t exposed to hits and bumps. The diamond is also less likely to fall out.

There are two common designs for basket settings. The first is when the horizontal bar has a curved design that matches the rounded diamond. In other cases, it’s straight.

Basket settings connect four-,six-, or eight-prong rings. They’re often used for round brilliant cuts but also secure other cuts and types of gems.

What are Differences Between Cathedral and Basket Settings?

1. Cathedral Settings are High Settings

Cathedral settings are often high settings, where the gem is placed higher above the top of the ring. 

In the example below, check out how how the cathedral arches extend to hold the diamond. 

Cathedral Setting Engagement Ring

It provides more separation between the ring and the diamond, so it appears more prominent.

In a low setting, the diamond sits close to your finger.

There are many reasons buyers choose high settings, but the most common is it best displays the diamond. 

The center diamond is the most important part of the ring, and placing it high off your finger maximizes the amount of light that can enter and exit it. 

This improves its brilliance because more facets are exposed to light.

The downside of a high setting is it’s more vulnerable to damage from scratches and bumps. It can snag on clothing and loosen the prongs.

This contrasts with low-set diamonds often found in basket settings.

I’ve posted an example below of a low basket setting.

Low Setting with Basket

Notice how the diamond is almost touching the top of the shank. It’s well protected by the basket surrounding each side.

The diamond sits tight on your finger, where it’s better protected from hits and snagging.

The disadvantage is it lessens the prominence of your diamond, which to many buyers is a valuable trait.

It won’t collect as much light, and unless it’s a quality cut with minimal inclusions, it could appear dull.

On the other hand, there are high-set basket settings. If you want the benefits of a basket setting with a high-set diamond, explore options at jewelry retailers.

2. Basket Settings are More Secure

The most popular reason buyers choose basket settings is for the security it provides the gem. Without the ring of metal wrapping around it, the pavilion is exposed. 

Six Prong Wire Basket Setting

If it’s hit from a certain angle, the diamond could chip.

Additionally, if prongs bend backward and loosen, the diamond is less likely to fall out because it’s sitting in the basket. 

You should always repair broken prongs before wearing a diamond ring, but the basket gives you peace of mind with added protection.

Cathedral settings without a basket leave the diamond exposed. There’s nothing to prevent the diamond from chipping or bruising if it’s impacted on one of its sides.

This problem is exacerbated because of the high-setting, so you have to be more proactive in minimizing the damage to a diamond in a cathedral setting versus a basket setting.

3. Cathedral Settings Enhance Brilliance

Cathedral settings enhance the brilliance of a diamond for two reasons.

The first is its high setting. More light enters it, bounces around, and reflects back to the viewer. 

This is in contrast to a basket setting, which sits closer to your finger and can’t collect as much light.

Notice how with the diamond ring below, fewer of its facets are visible.

Basket Setting

You’d only expect light to hit the table and return to the viewer. 

As a contrast, cathedral settings expose all four sides of the diamond. Light can hit the diamond at every angle and sparkle no matter which way you twirl it. 

There’s no basket hiding the pavilion. 

Although you can choose a metal for your ring that has some sparkle such as platinum, it won’t have the same effect when light hits the basket as it will when it reflects off the diamond.

One way to compensate for this downside of basket settings is to choose a design with pavé or channel-set diamonds on the shank.

It’ll improve its brilliance when the ring is twirled because those diamonds on the ring will collect and return light.

4. Basket Settings are More Difficult to Clean and Maintain

Basket settings feature more nooks and crevices than cathedral settings, so they’re harder to clean and maintain. In this way, basket settings are comparable to trellis settings.

Dirt and grime can accumulate around the basket over time, which can’t always be removed with an at-home cleaning job.

French Pave Basket Setting

Instead, you should have basket settings cleaned by a professional once or twice per year.

Cathedral settings don’t feature the same amount of small spaces. 

The arches form large, open triangles, which don’t collect debris as easily. If it does, it’s easier to clean yourself.

In most cases, you can combine warm water with dishwashing solution and let it soak for 30-40 minutes. Any dirt that refuses to fall out can be wiped away with a soft cloth.

5. Multiple Types of Settings can Include Cathedral Arches

The arches on cathedral settings aren’t unique to prong settings. Although prongs are the most popular way to hold a diamond in this style, they’re also found in bezel settings.

Bezel settings feature a ring of metal that wraps around the outer edge of a diamond to secure it in place. 

Bezel Setting with Cathedral

Some bezel settings are held in place by the cathedral arches. They reach from the top of the shank and attach to the ring of metal.

This provides the bezel with added height to improve its brilliance. The reason you might choose cathedral arches for a bezel setting is because bezels cover more of the diamond’s facets compared to prongs. 

The high cathedral arches help compensate for the lack of light performance.

Basket settings, on the other hand, are only found with prongs. If you’re looking for a bezel or tension setting, you won’t have the option to secure it in a basket.

Do They Have any Similarities?

Although they’re often considered two different types of settings, cathedral and basket settings have several features in common.

In fact, some cathedral settings also include the basket wrapping around the diamond. It combines the best qualities about each, offering you the elegance and style of a cathedral setting with the security of a basket setting.

Additionally, both provide room for embellishment.

You might opt more diamonds, gemstones, or milgrain on the ring instead of a traditional solitaire setting.

For example, the below cathedral engagement ring includes channel-set diamonds halfway around the shank. 

Channel Set Cathedral Setting

Sixteen diamonds line the shank, placed in a small crevice. It still features the signature arches, but there’s room on the band for added sparkle. 

As another example, this cathedral setting has milgrain lining the marquise-cut accents. 

Cathedral Setting with Milgrain and Marquise Cuts

Accents are placed along the arches, and the rounded shank also includes those enhancements.

The basket also leaves room for embellishment. Some buyers don’t want an additional line of metal on their ring, so they instead use the space for more diamonds.

This engagement ring has a French cut basket setting with diamonds lining the band, prongs, and basket. It adds glimmer to the piece without increasing the carat weight of the center diamond.

You also won’t find significant price differences between cathedral and basket settings. Cathedrals have the two arches added to the ring, while basket settings have the ring of metal surrounding the diamond. 

These added features result in a similar cost.

For example, this petite cathedral setting in 14K white gold costs $650.

This basket setting in 14K white gold costs $770.

14K White Gold Basket Setting

You’ll incur additional costs on both types of settings by adding more diamonds on the shank to complement the main one.

How to Decide Between Cathedral and Basket Settings

Basket and cathedral settings are popular options for showcasing a ring’s center gem. 

While basket settings focus on security, cathedral settings are about displaying a diamond in the most prominent, elegant way.

If you’re comparing a cathedral versus basket setting, here are some tips on how to decide which is right for you.

You should consider a cathedral setting if:

  • You have a large diamond and want to maximize its brilliance
  • You’ll remove the ring during physical activity because of its high setting and lack of protection
  • You want room on the ring and its arches to add diamond accents or other enhancements

A basket setting may be right for you if:

  • Preventing the diamond from chipping or being bruised is most important
  • You aren’t concerned about diminishing its brilliance by covering the pavilion
  • You want a low setting that keeps it close to your finger

Explore both basket and cathedral settings at retailers, and pair them with a variety of diamond cuts and other types of gems.

By examining how your choice of gem fits each particular setting, you’ll learn which type  fits your style.

Devon Tyler

Devon Tyler

Devon Tyler is the founder of TeachJewelry.com.

He earned an Applied Jewelry Professional Diploma from the Gemological Institute of America and now brings you essential information about diamonds, settings, and more.

Devon has consulted with leading jewelry brands, and his work has been cited in Diamond Nexus and other industry publications.

He's also a member of the International Gem Society.

Devon enjoys discussing jewelry with readers, so contact him with any questions at tyler.devon@teachjewelry.com.

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