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Channel vs. Prong Setting: 10 Differences You Should Know

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Channel vs. Prong Settings

A diamond is the most important part of a ring, but its setting is a close second. You have many options to choose from, but two of the most popular are channel settings and prong settings.

Each offers a unique design in how it displays diamonds, so you should understand their differences and how they impact the aesthetic and functionality of the piece.

Let’s compare channel versus prong settings, including an overview of each and the 10 differences you need to know to help you make the right decision.

What is a Channel Setting?

A channel setting features small diamonds or other gemstones set inside a channel cut within the shank. The crevice includes a lip that stretches over the edges of the stones to hold them in place. 

It’s a way to place the diamonds into the band for increased security.

Channel Set Diamond Ring

The channel set design can hold many shapes. The most popular is round, but you can also choose princess, oval, emerald, or cushion cut diamonds.

In addition to a variety of shapes, the diamonds can be placed all the way around the ring or just on the half leading up to a center stone.

What is a Prong Setting?

A prong setting is the traditional style for an engagement ring, where the center diamond is held by three, four, or six metal prongs extending from the shank.

Prong Setting

The prongs grip the edges of the stone and maximize the amount of exposed diamond compared to other settings.

Prongs can hold nearly every diamond shape because the tips of the prong can be configured in a way that allows it to grip unusual shapes.

While standard prongs are fit for a round brilliant cut, other styles can hold onto the sharp corners of a princess or marquise cut.

Differences Between Channel Versus Prong Settings

Your choice of setting will likely impact the other decisions related to your diamond ring. That’s why it’s important to know the distinctions between channel versus prong settings. Here are 10 key differences to keep in mind as you decide on a type of setting.

1. Channel Settings Better Protect Diamonds

Protecting the diamonds is often a priority for buyers because of their significant cost. Channel settings are prized for the way they secure the diamonds into the band. 

Princess Cut with Channel Setting

Because the diamonds are placed into the channel, they aren’t as exposed to hits or bumps. Instead, they’re protected by the metal that surrounds them. 

If you run your finger along the band, it may not even come into contact with the diamonds because of the metal extending over that holds them in place.

Prong settings leave the diamond exposed. Its only protection is the thin prongs grasping the edges, which means if it’s dropped or hit, there isn’t anything to protect the diamond’s table from contact. 

You should avoid wearing a ring with a prong setting during physical activity.

Even though you should still take steps to avoid damage to your channel setting, its design is more fit for the minor drops and bumps it may experience when you wear it.

2. Prong Settings are Easier to Clean

You should have your diamond ring cleaned once or twice a year, and this is easier with prong settings versus channel settings. 

There are fewer nooks for dirt and debris in prong settings.

Prong Setting

The best solution is warm water with dish soap, where you can soak your ring for 20 to 40 minutes and then gently brush it with a soft toothbrush. 

This should leave the prongs sparkling clean.

Channel settings are difficult to clean because grime can get lodged in the channel and between the small diamonds. It may take more than soaking it to remove these issues. Ultrasonic cleaners can get the job done but also have the potential to shake stones loose.

We recommend having your channel setting cleaned by a professional, who can remove debris from those small areas without dislodging any diamonds.

3. Prongs Can Snag

One of the downsides of prong settings is they can snag on hair or clothing.

Four-Prong Solitaire Engagement Ring

Whether the prongs have rounded or sharp ends, it’s easy for them to get caught, which may bend them backwards. When they’re no longer pressed tightly against the diamond, it may fall out.

This isn’t a problem with channel settings. The smooth edges of the crevice won’t snag anywhere, so you don’t have to worry about loosening the channel and causing the diamonds to escape.

To avoid this problem with prongs, ensure they remain in top shape, and if they do experience wear and tear and lift from the diamond, stop wearing it until you have it repaired.

4. Channel Settings are Difficult to Resize

If you’re buying a channel setting, you should find the right size the first time because they’re difficult to resize.

To resize a ring to a smaller size, the jeweler removes a piece of the shank and forms it back together. Resizing a ring to a larger size is more difficult. To increase it a half size, the jeweler can stretch the metal. For more than that, they must cut the metal, add an extra piece, and then solder it back together.

Channel Set Wedding Ring

As you can imagine, this isn’t easy to do when the band is filled with small diamonds. The channel must be the exact width to fit the diamonds and hold them in place. Any adjustments to the size of the ring must take into account the channel’s width and the placement of the diamonds.

Prong settings, on the other hand, don’t require removing and replacing diamonds within the band. The diamond can be removed from the prongs while the band is resized. It’s still an inconvenience and requires the work of a professional, but the effort isn’t comparable to resizing a channel setting.

5. Prongs Better Display Diamonds

The disadvantages of a prong setting are outweighed by the way a prong displays the center diamond. 

Solitaire Four Prong Ring

Prongs are designed to maximize the diamond’s brilliance because it leaves as much exposed as possible. 

Light can enter the table and on all sides because the prongs only block a small part of its edges.

Additionally, many prongs are high-set, meaning the diamond is placed high above the band. This allows it to capture and reflect the maximum amount of light instead of hiding its sides and pavilion with the shank.

Channel settings aren’t designed to fully display the diamonds. The table is exposed, but its sides and pavilion are hidden by the channel or the other diamonds. The way it’s positioned in the band doesn’t allow it to collect as much light.

Brilliance often isn’t a priority for someone buying a channel setting because the diamonds are too small. It’s important to find ones of high enough quality that they don’t cause the piece to appear dull, but colorless diamonds with a sharp cut are often reserved as the center diamond.

6. Channel Settings Add More Sparkle

An advantage of the channel versus prong setting is the additional diamonds can add more sparkle to the ring. Solitaire prong settings rely on intense sparkle from a single diamond, but channel settings allow you to create a glimmering piece of jewelry without a large stone.

Some channel settings only include a few diamonds on each side of the main one, but you can add more sparkle with a design that includes accents all the way around

Because these channel-set diamonds are smaller, you can find ones with quality cuts and a colorless aesthetic for a lower price.

7. Prongs are More Popular

Prong settings are the most popular type of setting. It’s the most commonly used design for displaying the center diamond on an engagement ring. 

It offers the ideal balance between security, affordability, and brilliance. If you’re looking for the traditional style, choose a prong setting.

Channel settings are included in the list of settings that have seen rises and falls in popularity, such as tension and bezel settings

It offers unique advantages such as the ability to have a sparkling ring all the way around, but its downsides have left many buyers opting for a prong setting.

8. Channel Settings are Used for Wedding Rings

Channel settings allow for an upgraded wedding ring. While some wedding rings are a solid band without any diamonds, the channel setting is the perfect option for someone wanting additional shine.

Channel Set Ring

The channel can be added to the whole ring or just one half. It can feature anywhere from 10-30 round shaped diamonds in a variety of metals such as 18K yellow gold or 14K white gold.

Prong settings are more often seen in engagement rings. Engagement rings are all about the center diamond. It’s natural to choose the setting where it’s the main focus.

This means you can pair a channel and prong setting ring next to each other as a wedding ring and engagement ring. 

This creates a stackable style where the channel fits under the prong setting. The prong setting highlights the engagement ring diamond, while the wedding ring sparkles along the entire band.

9. Prongs Wear Thin and Break

Thin prongs allow you to showcase a larger surface area of the diamond, but they can experience wear and tear that eventually causes them to break. 

Prong Setting on a Diamond Ring

Whether the prongs are slowly worn down over many years, or are struck against a hard surface, they aren’t the most durable type of setting.

One way to reduce this risk is to include a higher number of prongs. The classic Tiffany setting with six prongs provides more security than a three-prong setting.

There’s minimal risk for wear and tear on a channel setting. The thicker metal leaves it less vulnerable to reshaping in a way that would cause the diamonds to fall out. The issue is while prongs are an easier fix, issues with a channel setting are harder to repair.

10. Channel Settings Have Fewer Variations

The primary variations for channel settings are the types of diamonds placed in the channel and how far they wrap around the band. 

Channel Setting

You can add princess cuts, round cuts, and more, and these designs can run along the top half of the band or around all of it in an eternity setting.

The band can also be in multiple types of metals such as platinum, rose gold, or yellow gold.

There are many variations of prong settings. The differences are the number and shapes of the prongs. For example, the prongs can have a V-shape at the end, with a cut down the middle. This design is ideal for holding the sharp corners or princess and emerald cuts.

The prongs can also be flat. Flat tab prongs have a flatter tip that presses tightly to the diamond. Its advantage is it doesn’t snag as easily.

Shared prong settings feature a row of multiple, larger diamonds that share a set of prongs with the one next to it. It minimizes the amount of visible metal so more light can hit the diamonds.

Do Channel and Prong Settings Have Any Similarities?

Even though comparing channel versus prong settings reveals their significant differences, the two settings have some similarities.

Princess Cut Channel Set Diamond Ring

The first trait they have in common is the ability to hold nearly any cut. 

The diamonds held by the channel or prongs can be round, princess, marquis, cushion cut or more. 

Round is the most popular cut for each, but if you’re looking for a unique style, you have several options.

The other similarity is a prong setting can feature a channel. You don’t have to choose between one or the other. For a ring that maximizes brilliance, choose a prong setting that showcases a high-quality cut that also includes a channel on the shank.

Small diamonds placed inside the band won’t detract from a quality diamond on top but will instead add to its overall glimmer.

Is a Channel or Prong Setting Right For You?

Channel and prong settings are common ways of displaying diamonds. You’ll often see prong settings when there’s a center diamond as the main focus, but channel settings can be used with or without a main diamond.

If your priority is maximizing the appearance and brilliance of a quality stone, you should choose a prong setting. It lets in the most light and draws attention to the most expensive part of the ring.

If you’re opting for smaller diamonds and want the band itself to sparkle, a channel setting is the right choice for you. You can choose the number and cut of the small stones and have them placed securely in the band.

But your choice isn’t only one or the other. For a truly brilliant ring, combine a high-quality diamond with prongs with a row of accents in a channel setting. You’ll display brilliance on top and only add to it with the diamonds set in the channel.

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.

Learn More About Devon

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