PRONG VS. BEZEL SETTINGS
The two most common ways of mounting are the prong (or claw) setting and the bezel setting. These two popular settings are used in earrings and pendants as well as rings. In a prong or claw setting there are typically three or more pieces of metal raised above the base of the setting which bend slightly over the stone to hold it in place. Usually the prongs are notched so that the girdle of the gemstone sits firmly in the prong. In a bezel setting a piece of metal partially or completely surrounds the stone to hold it in place.
ADVANTAGES/ DISADVANTAGES OF SETTINGS
Both types of settings have their advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage of the bezel setting is that it is very protective of the gemstone.
Another advantage of the bezel setting is that a well-designed bezel in a precious metal can be very attractive.
The main disadvantage of bezel settings is that they are typically more expensive, since more metal is required and the setting usually has to be custom-made to fit the specific gemstone. A bezel also covers more of the gemstone.
Prong settings provide maximal exposure for the gem. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage. It lets more light reach the stone and often makes the gemstone look larger by raising it from the band. But it also exposes the gem to knocks and bumps. Prong settings need to be checked frequently to ensure that none of the claws is loose or broken. Losing a claw can mean losing a valuable gem.
Though the prongs are often unobtrusive, different claw designs can enhance the design of a setting. Claws come in many different shapes, and there are special prongs to hold the sharp points of a marquise or pear-shaped gem.