Girdle, culet, shank, gallery rail, prongs -- if this sounds like pure gibberish, don't worry! We're here to dissect the anatomy of a gemstone, engagement ring, and wedding band to help make your ring shopping and designing experience a bit easier. We'll try to keep it as simple as possible and stick to the basics in order to give a general understanding of layout of a ring.
Before we begin with the anatomy of a ring itself, it's good to have a basic understanding of gemstone anatomy, as this can affect the way an engagement ring is designed and the way a stone fits into a ring mounting.
The table is the "top" of a gemstone where it has a large horizontal flat facet. This usually is the part of the stone that faces up towards the wearer and acts as a window looking into the stone. Why the quotation marks around "top?" While the table is typically the top of a gemstone, that is not always the case. Some gemstones, like double cut stones, have no "right" side up or down. They have been faceted in a way that the stone can be set either direction - one side usually has the traditional flat table, while the other side typically has a rose cut faceting. This is really common in salt and pepper diamonds as well as some moss agate stones. If you choose a double cut stone for your ring, you are able to specify if you want the stone set "table up" or "table down."
The girdle is essentially the edge of a stone. It is the widest part of the gemstone where the crown and pavilion meet. It is typically used when setting the gemstone in a ring mounting. A girdle can be different thicknesses, which can affect the durability and the way a stone looks. A thick girdle can allow more brilliance and light in a stone, giving it a brighter appearance, but can make a stone look smaller when looking at it from the top. This is because more of the carat weight of a stone is concentrated in the middle, meaning the stone is likely deeper rather and will sit higher off the finger. Meanwhile, a girdle that is too thin is more susceptible to chipping and other durability issues. A medium girdle is considered best as it provides the best balance between durability and appearance. On lab-grown diamonds, a microscopic laser-inscription of the stone's report number is engraved into the girdle.
A culet is a tiny flat facet on the bottom of a gemstone. Not every gemstone has a culet - many brilliant cuts are simply faceted into a sharp point at the bottom. However, in some cases a culet is added in order to avoid any chipping at the pavilion. Most antique cut gemstones (such as Old Mine cuts) will have a large culet. These stones were hand-cut before the invention of modern technology, and it was not yet possible to achieve the sharp point seen in modern brilliant cuts.
A crown of a gemstone is the slanted space between the table and the girdle. This is where most of the light enters the stone.
The pavilion of a stone is the bottom portion below the girdle or between the girdle and culet. This is where some lapidary artists get creative and are able to use unique cutting patterns to create interesting visual effects in a stone.
Engagement Ring Anatomy
Now for the important stuff - the anatomy of an engagement ring. Engagement rings are more complicated than many people realize, and their design elements are very intentional. Whether it's for aesthetics, durability, or both, each element has an important role to play.
- Gallery Rail
- Sizing Area
Prongs are a very important part of an engagement ring - these little metal pieces hold in your stone to keep it secure and protected! They are the small metal bars that are bent in order to create a cradle for the center stone. The more prongs a ring has, the more secure the stones will be. Prongs can also help protect sharp points of gemstones, especially cuts like kite, shield, pear, baguette, etc. that have sharp corners, from chipping or even from scratching the wearer. Prongs can be normal with round edges, or can be used as a design element and made into claw prongs, which have a more sharp claw-like appearance. There are also double prongs, triple prongs, chevron prongs, or other ornamental prong types. An alternative to having prongs on a ring would be to have a bezel setting, where solid metal is wrapped around a stone securely holding it in place. Prongs allow more light into a stone and allow a stone to stand out more, but are not as secure as bezel settings and may need to be re-tipped/repaired occasionally.
The gallery of a ring is the portion that sits under the center stone that can be seen from the side-profile. Rings can have very simple galleries, or can be very detailed and even include accent stones. Our "Ophelia" design is a great example of a ring with an ornate gallery.
A gallery rail is an optional piece that is added to some rings to add extra security for the center stone. It is a horizontal metal bar added between the prongs just above the gallery, and usually in line with the girdle of the center stone. This helps to prevent prongs from bending and stones from falling out. Settings that have this extra bar are often referred to as "basket" settings.
The head refers to the top portion of an engagement ring, encompassing the prongs, center stone, gallery, basket, etc.
The shoulders are at the very top of the shank and connect the head of the engagement ring to the shank.
A bridge sits underneath the head and at the top of the wearer's finger.
The shank is simply the main band portion of the ring, and the part of the ring that rests on the wearer's finger. It can be solid metal or feature accent stones, milgrain, metal work, and more ornamental details. We often like to add inlays into the shanks of our designs. The inside of the shank is always stamped with the metal-type, in our case, "14K" to signify the 14K gold we use for engagement rings.
When a ring needs to be resized, metal is either cut out or added to the very bottom section of the shank. This area of the shank is therefore referred to as the sizing area or sizing bar.
Wedding Band Anatomy
The ring base is the most important part of a wedding band! It is the metal foundation in which the rest of the ring is crafted on.
A rail is a metal bar that separates inlays in a ring. Inlays can be done with or without rails, but a rail helps to keep edges smooth and materials/inlays separated when using crushed/powdery materials like turquoise, opal, etc.
A channel is quite literally a channel formed by metal walls. This is typically either rails or the metal sides of a ring. Channels are filled in with inlay materials.
Inlays are materials that are added into the channel of a ring. We often use crushed turquoise, malachite, opal, wood, antler, or even materials customers send in.
Overlays are materials that are added over the top of the metal base of a ring that go to the very edge of the ring or slightly overhang the edge of the ring. Normally bands would have metal edges, but with an overlay there are not metal edges. It is worth noting that an overlay will be a bit less durable than a ring with metal edges, as the metal edges provide protection for the materials in the ring.
Ring linings are materials that are inlayed in the inside of a band. Linings are not visible while the ring is being worn, making them perfect for those wanting something more subtle. Note that adding a lining to a ring may mean an engraving cannot be added to the inside of the band. Only metal linings can be engraved.
The profile of a ring refers to the shape of the band when viewed from the side. Most of our rings have a flat profile, but we also offer some rings with domed profiles. Many of our rings also have a "beveled" profile, meaning the metal edges of the ring have a slope that is less than ninety degrees.
With your newfound knowledge of the anatomy of the wedding ring, it will be much easier to communicate your wants when designing or looking for the perfect ring! We offer a wide variety of ring styles like vintage, Art Deco, solitaires, whimsical, and much more, but if you don't find your perfect ring in our collections of customizable rings, you can work with our team of designers to create something new and meaningful.