Choose the best Jewelry Settings for Your Gems

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When you purchase a piece of jewelry, it’s a complete product and you’re buying it because it’s ready to wear. In other words, the gemstone is already placed in a setting by the jewelry designer.
But what about loose gemstones? This leads us to the science of jewelry settings. With loose gems, you get to choose how you’d like to best display them in jewelry designs. Why is it important to understand jewelry settings for gemstones?

Let's say you are thinking of making a pair of dangling earrings with a small opal in each earring. To create these, you'll have to attach the gemstones to the base of the earrings. How do you do that? Great question! We're here to help you maneuver your way through the process of selecting a gemstone setting for your jewelry. As you’ll quickly notice, there’s no limit to the amount of creativity involved, so let’s get right to it.

What are Jewelry Settings for Gemstones?

Before we get too far into the details, let’s quickly recap what jewelry settings are. The best way to describe a jewelry setting is to imagine it like a blank canvas.
For example, picture a ring without a center stone. What you’ll notice with the gemstone missing are small prongs. These are called “prong settings.” No surprises there!

These little metal structures are responsible for holding the gemstone in place. Simply put: without prong settings the jewel would fall out. The individual prongs connect at the base of the ring to form the head of the ring. Are all prongs and ring heads the same? Not quite.

If all the settings were the same, the possibilities for designs would be highly limited and it would be difficult to create unique pieces. Thankfully, there are many different gemstone settings to choose from! So, how many gemstone setting options are there? Let’s have a look!

The Main Types of Gemstone Settings

There is a myriad of gemstone designs to choose from. However, there are about 12 that are the most popular. Jewelers pair gemstones with settings based on certain factors like the type of gemstone or metal used in the design. Generally, the first order of business is to design jewelry around the specific type of gemstone.


While figuring out how much you can expect to spend on a gemstone or on gemstone jewelry, it helps to answer the following questions first:

  • Are you interested in precious or semi-precious gems?
  • Will you expect to wear your gemstone jewelry every day?
  • Are you seeking a “statement piece” of gemstone jewelry?
  • Will you plan to build your jewelry wardrobe to include a certain gemstone color scheme?

If you plan on spending under $100, you can expect to find attractive semi-precious gems such as amethyst, citrine, peridot, turquoise, and treated topaz in this price range. The gems will not be particularly large at this price point, but colorful and attractive demure accessories. Amethyst is commonly subjected to heat treatments to enhance its color, and turquoise is frequently dyed. This information should be disclosed by the seller. Don’t forget to ask! A simple question, “Has this gemstone been heat treated or dyed?” posed before the time of purchase will tell you volumes about the gem seller. An indirect, uninformed, or evasive answer should be enough to make you reconsider your choice of vendor.

If you are interested in acquiring precious gems but your budget is an issue, you can still afford precious gemstone jewelry. Be prepared to accept precious gems such as rubies and sapphires in smaller sizes. Tiny gems that accent precious metal jewelry can be found for well under $500.00. If someone is offering to sell you a large precious gemstone (one carat or above) for less than $500.00, be wary. The gemstone may not be genuine.

Semi-precious gemstones that can be obtained for $500 or less include tourmaline, opal, aquamarine, morganite, prasiolite, and garnet in smaller sizes as well as the less rare semi-precious gems such as amethyst, citrine, peridot, and iolite in larger sizes.
For fine quality precious gems, expect to pay $2,000.00 or more. It is easy to justify the expense of fine jewelry, especially if you plan to wear it frequently. Just make sure that the gemstone you choose is durable enough for daily wear.


Depending on how you plan to wear your gemstone, there are a number of ways to determine which gems are right for you. A gemstone pendant will not be subjected to much “wear and tear”; meaning the gemstone is not going to come into contact with hard surfaces or other gemstones. The same is true for gemstone earrings. A ring or bracelet, however, will come into contact with a variety of surfaces, some of which can damage a gemstone. In selecting gems to be worn on the hand or wrist, chose a gem with a Mohs hardness rating of seven or higher.

The Mohs Scale of Hardness was developed by German scientist Friedrich Mohs in 1812 to categorize minerals. In science, hardness is defined as a resistance to scratching. The harder a mineral is, the better it will hold up under daily wear, especially if it is to be worn in a ring or bracelet. Semi-precious gemstones rated seven or higher on the Mohs scale include all varieties of quartz such as amethyst, citrine, rose quartz, and prasiolite as well as topaz. Precious gems rated seven or higher include rubies, sapphires, and diamonds.

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