The Anatomy of an Engagement Ring

December 2, 2014 – Posted in: Jewelry Blog

When most people begin the exciting quest of buying an engagement ring, they find themselves overwhelmed by all of the terms and technology. No matter how much research they’ve done, most people find all the terms overwhelming.

Here is our simple breakdown of the anatomy of a vintage engagement ring. Tell us what you think in the comment below.

Defining the Anatomy of a Ring

  • Prongs
  • Center Diamond
  • Shoulders
  • Accenting Stones
  • Under Gallery
  • Shank
  • Hallmarks

The Prongs

Prongs of a diamond engagement rings

The prongs are the bent metal that holds the center diamond and side stones in place, preventing them from falling out.

When making a ring, the jeweler will usually craft the setting of the ring first. Once the setting is finished, the setter will place the stones into their correct location and bend the metal over the stones. The prongs will need to sit flush against the stone. If there is any wiggle room, the stones may fall out.

In some rings, the center diamond is held with a bezel. A bezel surrounds the stone from all sides and holds it secure.

The Center Diamond (or Primary Stone)

Location of Center Diamond on a Ring

The center diamond is usually the stone at the very top of the ring. In a solitaire setting, the center diamond will be the only diamond at the top of the ring. In a halo setting, the center diamond will be surrounded by a circle of smaller diamonds (or stones).

Some rings will have more than one primary stone. Usually, in engagement rings, there will either be 1 primary stone or 3 primary stones. Although the diamond is the most popular center stone, sapphire, emerald, ruby, and aquamarine are also very fashionable.

Shoulders of the Ring

Shoulder of the Ring

The shoulders of the ring vary drastically from one ring to the next ring. There will be ring shoulders that are bare and there will be ring shoulders that are studded with diamonds, engravings or filigree. The shoulders can either feature diamonds, other stones (like sapphire, emerald or ruby), openwork filigree or engravings.

The shoulders start from the edge of the center stone and extend until half-way down the shank. Beneath the shoulder runs the lower shank.

Accenting Stones

Anatomy of Accenting Stones

Accent stones is a generic term that includes all diamonds aside for the center diamond. Accent stones come in many different variations:

  • Diamond Halo: A circle of diamonds that surround the center diamond.
  • Shoulder Stones: Diamonds or stones that sit on the shoulders. See above.
  • Gallery Stones: Diamonds that adorn the prongs, filigree and metal work that holds the diamonds.
  • Undergallery Stones: Diamonds that sit on the craftsmanship beneath or to the side of the center diamond.
  • Stones on Shank: Diamonds that follow the entire (or part of the) circumference of the ring shank.

Under Gallery

Under Gallery of Ring

The under-gallery isn’t utilized on all rings (like the halo ring example used above), and when it is used the styles can vary quite drastically. Some rings only have a little bit of openwork while others are studded in diamonds and can feature complicated architectural designs. See example above. Vintage rings will feature milgrain and filigree on the edges while modern rings will typically have sharp edges or minimalistic designs.

The under-gallery usually connects to the shoulders, but can sometimes be free standing or fall down to the lower shank.


Shank of Engagement Ring

The shank is an all-inclusive word that starts from the shoulder-section and goes to the bottom. There are many different styles. Here are some of the most popular styles:

  • Simple Shank: Just plain platinum (or gold, silver) with no engravings, designs or extra stones.
  • Altered Shank: No additions to the shank, but the shank itself may be rounded, squared or elaborate.
  • Diamond Studded Shank: Including diamonds in the shank, whether a few or a lot.
  • Triple Wire Shank: A very popular style found in usually in vintage rings. It comprises three metal wires pressed together.
  • Engravings on Shank: Etching and designs along part or all of shank.
  • Openwork filigree on Shanks: Metalwork that displays openings within the metal.


Jewelry marks on shank of ring

The hallmarks (and makers-marks) are usually placed on the inside of the shank, approximately 1/3 to 1/2 from the bottom of the shank. Almost all the rings will have a code for the type of metal and some will actually have the metal spelled.

Below is a list of some of the words that are couple engrave into the bottom of the ring:

  • The jeweler or jewelry company who created the ring (maker marks)
  • The serial number or catalog number
  • The country of origin (usually represented by an animal or symbol)
  • The type of metal used
  • The carat size of the center stone (or total carat weight)
  • Custom engravings for the couple who commissioned (or purchased) the ring

Do you have any questions or comments? Please feel free to leave us comments below!