Cathedral Settings: Styles, Pros & Cons, and Helpful Advice

Cathedral settings: Gothic flair with modern applications...

When it comes to rings, no style matches the historic elegance of the cathedral setting. ⛪Designed to mimic some of the most beautiful architecture across time, cathedral settings are the ideal choice for brides who prefer a dramatic yet classy look. Cathedral setting rings are a sight to behold, but there are some drawbacks to the rather tall design. While you may love the cathedral style, you should take your lifestyle into consideration before selecting this type of ring.

Cathedral Setting Ring: Yellow Gold Princess Cut Diamond Ring

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • The origins and structure of a cathedral setting ring
  • Different cathedral setting styles
  • How cathedral settings compare to other popular designs
  • The pros and cons of cathedral settings
  • Our advice on buying your own cathedral setting

Basics: What is a cathedral setting?

Origins of the cathedral setting

The inspiration for the cathedral setting is rather old. The cathedral setting takes its name from the massive, ornate churches of antiquity. Gothic cathedrals—built across Europe from the mid-12th century until the early 16th century—are the main inspiration for the cathedral setting. 

These churches include striking architecture, such as grotesques, flying buttresses, and more. But, one of their most iconic features is the arches that seem to hold the entire structure in place.

👉🏻This is where the cathedral setting finds its spirit: in the sweeping arches that seem to elevate the church to otherworldly realms. Gothic cathedrals are also known for their exceptional height, and they were the tallest buildings of the time. As such, the cathedral setting keeps this tradition of height alive as well!

Imitating architecture: The structure of the cathedral setting

A cathedral setting consists of a center stone and a band, but it’s the design of this band that sets the style apart.

Similar to the arches of the Gothic cathedral, the band of a cathedral setting bends in a concave or convex formation, raising the center stone above the rest of the setting.

While most assume the raised arches of the cathedral setting mean the center stone sits fairly high, this isn’t always the case. Some styles have smaller arches that offer a lower profile for those brides who prefer a less dramatic look.

The arches of a cathedral setting can be plain or as ornate as the Gothic cathedrals themselves. They can consist of simple metal or be adorned with accent stones, filigree, milgrain, etc. How decadent you want your ring is entirely up to you, and many wearers choose to mirror the opulence of the design’s inspiration.

Cathedral Style Ring Structure: Sweeping Arches

Because the cathedral setting does not have a designated method of securing the center stone, you can also customize this feature for different looks. The gemstone may be held with prongs, a bezel, or even a tension setting.

While the arches of a cathedral setting are a must, how you choose to style them is entirely up to you!

Are there different cathedral setting styles?

There are several cathedral styles that incorporate elements of other ring designs to create fresh looks. Here are some popular cathedral setting ring styles you’re sure to love:

Classic Cathedral Setting

Many prefer the simple, clean silhouette of a solitaire cathedral setting. This ring has a plain band, and it highlights the center stone and sweeping arches. The band may also be wide or thin, depending on preferences and stone shape. Try a rose gold cathedral setting for a touch of romance without going overboard with detail.❤️

Classic Cathedral Style Ring With Plain Band
Blue Nile (SKU: 25669)

Gothic Basket Style

Rather than using standard prongs, a basket style cathedral setting showcases your center stone and the space below it by elevating the gem above the setting. These baskets are typically ornate, with filigree and other elements offering a unique take on the typical cathedral style.

Gothic Basket Style Cathedral in Yellow Gold
James Allen (SKU: 17198Y14)

Cathedral Pavé Setting

Many designers include a row—or two or three—of pavé diamonds to the band of a cathedral setting. Adding these gemstones accentuates the sparkle of the center stone and provides detail without busy filigree. Try a colored pavé for an even more personal touch!

Cathedral Pavé Setting Style Ring
James Allen (SKU: 17968W)

Channel Cathedral Setting

If you want more sparkle but don’t want to risk losing any stones, try a channel cathedral setting. A channel set band offers more protection for your accent stones, and the design adds a modern touch to the cathedral style.

Cathedral Setting With Channel Style Band
James Allen (SKU: 17163W14)

Twisted/Split Shank Cathedral Arches

Cathedral settings can even have twisted or split shanks for further detail. Twisted bands look beautiful with pavé diamonds, and split shanks are lovely both as plain and pavé bands. These designs add negative space to your piece for an extra layer of intrigue.

Solitaire Diamond Ring With Twisted Cathedral Arches
Blue Nile (SKU: 35416)

Halo Cathedral Setting

Possibly the most decadent style, halo cathedral settings are a sight to behold. A delicate halo of diamonds further highlights your center stone, making it appear larger and brighter. Try a colored halo for an even more unique effect.🎈

Rose Gold Halo Style Cathedral Ring
Brilliant Earth (SKU: BE1D6844-14KR)

Vintage Cathedral Setting

Bring some Art Deco inspiration to your style with a vintage cathedral ring setting. These designs incorporate filigree, milgrain, and other stylistic elements to produce a dramatic, complex piece. Vintage styles are sure to be eye-catching, so be ready for people to shower you with compliments!

Vintage Style Engagement Ring With Gothic Arches
James Allen (SKU: 17779W14)

Cathedral settings vs. Other solitaire settings

So how does a cathedral setting stack up against other popular styles?

It’s important to note that a cathedral setting can incorporate parts of most other styles. For instance, a cathedral setting may also be a prong, bezel, tension, or halo setting, ⚠️but it will still maintain its arched band.

However, we’ll discuss the advantages of a solitaire cathedral setting when compared to the basic design of each style below:

Prong Settings

Both the prong setting and the cathedral setting can be customized to suit the wearer. However, the arches of the cathedral setting provide more protection for a center stone than typical 4 or 6 prong styles.

Typically, a cathedral setting will lift the center stone higher than a prong setting, making the stone appear larger and giving it more room to sparkle effectively. Although, some prong settings use the “floating” style of security to lift the gemstone higher just like a cathedral setting.

Cathedral vs. Prong Setting
Cathedral vs. Prong Setting

Furthermore, cathedral settings offer more elaborate galleries than prong setting rings, which usually do not have the same level of detail. Prong settings may include milgrain, filigree, and other elements, but an ornate gallery on a cathedral setting is something truly unique!⚖️

Tiffany Settings

While the Tiffany setting offers its own take on the classic engagement ring, the cathedral setting is equally beautiful. Both styles offer an elevated center stone, as the Tiffany setting uses long prongs to create a “floating” setting.

However, the sweeping arches of the cathedral setting offer additional protection than the prongs of the Tiffany ring, which can leave a diamond at risk of falling out. Tiffany settings also offer a simple, clean style, whereas cathedral settings can be customized to suit all tastes.

Bezel Settings

Bezel settings give unparalleled protection for your center stone, but they do not offer the sparkle and light that a cathedral setting provides. Due to the strip of metal that holds the stone in place, bezel settings lack the light refraction necessary for optimal sparkle. In contrast, the open, lifted design of the cathedral setting means more light for your gemstone.

Cathedral settings also provide a more romantic, antique appeal with their arches.🗿 In turn, bezel settings are their spiritual opposite, as the sleek lines and extra metal of the bezel setting creates a modern, industrial look. You’ll want to take your personal style into account if deciding between these two equally stunning settings.

Tension Settings

Arguably the most daring engagement ring style, tension settings offer much of the same benefits as cathedral settings. Both designs provide superior light reflection for a sparkling center stone, and both styles can also elevate the center stone to make it appear larger.

However, the cathedral setting is much more secure than the tension setting, as the cathedral’s high sides and prongs/bezel will protect the stone from impact damage. Additionally, while the cathedral setting typically requires more metal than most settings, it still gives wearers a slimmer profile than the often thick tension setting. If you’re looking for a more subtle type of drama, the cathedral setting is a better choice.

Halo Settings

Halo settings offer more sparkle than cathedral settings, but adding a halo to your cathedral ring setting will increase its glow. Additionally, a cathedral setting offers a more understated glamour, even when stylized with accent stones. In comparison, a halo setting is luxurious and eye-catching, and they typically draw more initial attention than a cathedral piece.

However, both styles safely secure your center stone, although a halo setting may require more maintenance if you lose any accent stones. Cleaning a simple cathedral setting is also easier than scrubbing the many corners and crevices of a halo setting.

A gorgeous alternative: Colored gemstone cathedral setting rings

Another iconic feature of Gothic cathedrals is the use of bright, colorful stained glass windows that filter light into the building.

You can mimic this vibrant look by adding colored stones to your cathedral setting ring. Because cathedral settings provide your center stone plenty of light, any colored gemstones appear saturated and dazzling.✨ There are plenty of gemstones to choose from, but here are some top choices that will amplify the beauty and elegance of your piece:

Sapphires

Sapphire is a form of corundum, a durable gemstone that comes in a variety of colors. While you can find sapphires in all shades, the blue sapphire is the most popular choice. Blue sapphires symbolize royalty and power, and they’re the chosen engagement stone of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge. Sapphires are lovely in a white gold cathedral setting or surrounded by a halo of diamonds for a more luxe look.

Colored Gem Sapphire Solitaire Cathedral Style Ring

Rubies

Another incredibly strong, vibrant variant of corundum, rubies range from a pink to deep red hue and last a lifetime. Their red glow is ideal for a symbolic piece, signifying love, protection, and wealth. These stones look beautiful in a yellow gold cathedral setting, which brings out the fiery glow of the gem.

Morganite

A more recent addition to colored gemstones, morganite has become increasingly popular over the last decade. The delicate peach and pink hues of this stone are incredibly feminine, and the color calls to mind all things beautiful and elegant. Morganite looks lovely on a yellow gold cathedral setting, but it’s even more luminous on rose gold pieces.

Wrapping up: Pros and cons of cathedral settings

While the cathedral setting is a unique ring style, it may not be the right choice for everyone.  To sum things up, let’s discuss the pros and cons of the cathedral setting:

Pros

  • Cathedral settings elevate the center stone, making smaller stones appear larger.
  • The minimal metal around your center stone means the cathedral setting offers plenty of light to make your gem sparkle brighter.
  • This style is perfect for those who prefer an elegant, eye-catching design with antique flair.
  • The band of a cathedral setting is a blank canvas,🌈 and the band can be customized to the wearer’s liking.
  • Because the center stone sits higher, cathedral settings can match wedding bands of varying styles and thickness.
  • The center stone is protected in a cathedral setting thanks to the arches that surround it.
  • Simple cathedral settings are easy to clean and maintain.
  • Cathedral settings can support a center stone of any shape, making the style possibilities endless.

Cons

  • Because the center stone sits higher, cathedral settings may snag fabrics easily, taking damage.
  • More ornate cathedral setting rings can be difficult to clean, as there are several cracks and crevices to reach.
  • The higher profile of some cathedral designs are not suitable for those wearers with active lifestyles. You may risk hitting your piece on several surfaces!
  • Overly decorated cathedrals settings may detract from the overall beauty of your center stone.

Our advice on buying cathedral setting rings

Buying a ring can be a daunting task! Here are our recommendations for purchasing a cathedral setting:

Consider the wearer’s personal taste

If your heart is set on a cathedral setting, make sure your ring design matches your personal style. The setting itself takes inspiration from Gothic architecture, but it’s easy to make a cathedral setting look modern as well.

Simple bands with no detail or pavé cathedral settings look incredibly streamline, and these pieces fit right in with current fashion trends. The gemstone shape you choose will also help your ring appear more modern or antique. For a romantic, vintage look, try filigree or milgrain on your band, or opt for a decadent halo to give the ring a more Art Deco vibe.

Consider Wearer's Personal Taste When Buying Cathedral Ring

Shop around for gemstone shapes

A cathedral ring can make any diamond shape look beautiful, but there are some silhouettes that look particularly stunning in this setting. For instance, princess cut cathedral settings are an easy way to add glamour to a ring without a hefty price tag.  

If you prefer a simpler look, round and oval gemstones create a softer, understated appeal for your cathedral setting diamond ring. When it comes to fancy shapes, consider popular silhouettes like pear or heart for a dramatic flair. An asscher cut stone is also a great way to add a modern spin to your cathedral setting.

Think about colored gems

We’ve already discussed the benefits of sapphires, rubies, and morganite as center stones for your cathedral setting engagement ring. But, there are plenty of other colored stones you may prefer! Because the center stone of a cathedral setting may sit a bit higher, 💡it’s important to choose a stone that scores high on the Mohs scale of hardness.

Certain stones—such as opals, turquoise, and pearl—are very soft and require additional support to stay secure in a cathedral setting. However, an easy way to protect your delicate stone is a bezel setting. This moonstone in a bezel cathedral setting is safe from any chips or cracks while still amplifying the mystic appearance of the design.

Choose any size stone

While you may be tempted to buy the largest stone you can for your cathedral setting, this really isn’t necessary with this particular style. Cathedral settings make stones appear larger thanks to the arches seemingly pushing the diamond upward and lifting it out of the setting.

If you’d like to make your stone look even larger, consider a halo for your cathedral setting ring. Or, opt for a small bezel to enhance the stone’s overall size. Whether you choose a large stone or a small one, you will definitely see a boost in size regardless!

Locate any unfinished surfaces

Some cathedral settings will have unfinished sections below the arches and center stone where polishing is near impossible. It’s up to you to decide whether these unfinished surfaces bother you and if you need to consider a different style.

It’s important to note that not all cathedral settings have these unfinished surfaces. Settings made by hand will have an exquisite polish below the arches and diamond, whereas rings that are not made by hand may suffer from unpolished spots. Observe your chosen ring carefully to check for any unfinished surfaces before purchasing.

Vintage Style Ring With Elevated Princess Cut Center Stone

Take cleaning into consideration

Different styles of cathedral setting require varying cleaning methods, and those rings with more complex designs require extra care. Think about how much time you can devote to cleaning your piece before choosing a cathedral setting.

Modern cathedral styles with plain bands or pavé settings can easily be cleaned at home, with an additional, professional cleaning every 6 to 12 months. However, cathedral settings with milgrain, filigree, and other complex details have too many nooks and crannies to manage properly at home. These styles require additional professional cleanings, so find a jeweler who provides free cleanings to keep your piece shiny without overspending.

Try a cathedral style ring guard

Do you already have a ring in a different setting but wish you had a cathedral style? Try a cathedral setting ring guard to get the best of both worlds! You can even use your ring guard as a cathedral setting wedding band or anniversary band.

Two Birch is a leading brand in ring guards, and their cathedral pieces are to die for. They have both plain and intricate styles to suit every need.

TwoBirch Ring Guard With Gothic Arch Bands

Recommended places to buy

Unsure of where to buy your cathedral ring setting? Here are some well respected retailers that we recommend:

Cathedral settings: A style for every taste

Cathedral settings are a lovely way to incorporate classic architecture into a modern ring design. While the inspiration may be historic, cathedral settings are still a popular style today thanks to designers’ tireless efforts to revolutionize the design.

Cathedral settings can be simple and elegant or ornate and complex, meaning they can fit any person’s taste.

Consider the cathedral setting for your next purchase, or opt for a cathedral setting engagement ring when the time comes.🤹🏻 If you’re interested in learning more about other ring settings, read our article on 15 popular ring settings to get started!

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