Insider’s Guide to Cathedral Settings

by * Aug 17, 2021

Key Takeaways

  • Made to accommodate any design, the cluster ring can be used to create unique shapes from stones that would otherwise have been too small to feature on their own.
  • They behave differently to other diamonds, only sparkling on a smaller scale.
  • They are also cheaper than a more traditional one diamond setting, which makes them far easier to come by.
  •  If you are looking for something intricate, then the cluster setting could be the right one for you. It is certainly different in its appearance and sparkle, but there are many other designs such as the halo setting which you should aim to compare it with first.
round cut diamond ring halo - The Cluster Setting

While the solitaire setting represents the most convenient way of presenting your bride-to-be with a diamond, the cluster setting proves that there’s more than one way to set her finger sparkling.

Whether you’re looking for a vintage, intricate vibe or looking to design an affordable engagement ring with no shortage of sparkle, this setting could be one to consider – although there’s a few things you should know about it before you start collecting your diamonds.

What is a Diamond Cluster?

Rather than one main diamond, a diamond cluster features a number of much smaller diamonds set in close proximity.

These diamonds may form a circle, or a particular shape. The flower setting is one example of the more intricate ways diamond clusters can be used to create an entirely new shape from stones that would be considered far too small to be featured prominently on their own.

In some rings, these diamonds are clustered around a slightly larger center stone – in others, they are all selected for their uniform size and shape.

When a larger stone is used in the center, a tight cluster of smaller diamonds surrounding it can give the illusion that the center diamond is bigger than it really is. Still, there is one factor which prevents a cluster setting from imitating a large solitaire diamond…

Do Cluster Diamonds Sparkle?

Yes, but not like a solitaire diamond. Since you’re looking at many small diamonds interact with the light, instead of one large one, the sparkle will be very different.

If you can, try to imagine the difference between a ring that sparkles and a ring that twinkles.

Since the diamonds used in a cluster setting have a much smaller surface area than the diamonds we typically see in engagement rings, there are certain limitations on the ways it interacts with light. The brilliance and fire (white and colored flashes) that dance across every angle of a diamond are a result of the many twists and turns light takes as it travels through the gemstone.

Cluster diamonds are not only much smaller, but a lot of their surface area is set within the ring, and hidden from light sources.

The result? That same characteristic light performance, on a much, much smaller scale, happening many times over as the light travels over the cluster.

So, yes, cluster diamonds do sparkle and react to the light, but they don’t behave in the way most of us expect when we think of a diamond’s light performance.

Are Cluster Diamonds Good?

No – but, while beautiful in their own right, cluster diamonds are not generally recommended over and above styles featuring a larger center diamond – particularly for engagement rings – because of the limited brilliance and fire given by these smaller stones.

It does, however, boil down to personal preference. The ornate and highly intricate design offers a vintage look that holds its own appeal, although we would definitely recommend that you go and see this rings in person first. The difference in sparkle will be far more obvious if you ask your jeweler to show you a few examples, side by side.

So, no – there’s nothing objectively ‘bad’ about cluster diamonds.There are, however, a few things to consider that may make the cluster setting a less appealing choice for your bride-to-be.

Are Cluster Diamonds Cheaper?

Generally, yes. Cluster diamonds utilize stones that would be considered too small to feature in the center setting of a ring on their own, meaning that, while the ring uses many more diamonds, it is considerably less expensive.

These diamonds are known as ‘smalls’, and tend to be created as byproducts of the diamond cutting process. For this reason, they are easy to come by, and don’t hold a huge amount of value for jewelers as they will probably only be used for creating settings and accents on much more expensive diamond rings.

round diamond engagement ring and wedding ring

How Much is a 1 Carat Diamond Cluster Ring Worth?

For a ring with a total carat weight (TCW) of one, the price will likely fall anywhere from $1,000+. 

A one carat diamond can cost between $1800 and $10,000 – or more, if it’s of an exceptionally high quality in terms of cut, clarity, and color. The diameter of a one carat round cut diamond is around 6.5mm, however, while the tiny diamonds used in clusters are generally much, much smaller.

What’s more, their combined value will still be lower than a single diamond of good quality and carat weight So, a ring with a total carat weight of one carat will be unlikely to cost the same amount as a ring featuring a one carat diamond at its center.

Are Cluster Rings in Style?

In some ways, yes. The cluster setting offers a distinctly vintage look – a fact which allows it to represent a pretty timeless option for any bride-to-be who likes this style. Still, it is not among the most popular settings today.

This is primarily down to the fact that the solitaire diamond is still the first thing that pops into most of our heads when we hear the phrase ‘engagement ring’. Other setting styles, such as the highly popular pavé setting, build upon that original solitaire diamond design.

The cluster setting reinvents it altogether, and, while it gives the wearer more in terms of intricacy and minute detail, it does require some sacrifices, too.

For anyone who likes the cluster setting, but would rather not push the boat so far out, the halo setting may represent the ideal compromise.

How Do You Clean Cluster Rings?

A weekly soak in warm water and a mild detergent, and a gentle clean with a soft-bristled toothbrush should be sufficient.

The guidelines for taking care of a cluster ring aren’t any different to our standard recommendations for caring for a diamond ring, but these settings can be a little more difficult to keep clean. The intricacy of the setting means that dirt and oils can easily get ‘stick’ between the tiny diamonds, which may dull their sparkle without a very strict cleaning routine.

So, Should You Pick a Cluster Setting?

In our opinion, the downsides to this design outweigh the benefits, but that needn’t deter you if you have your heart set on a cluster diamond ring.

Whatever your choice, the diamond cluster is a beautiful and eye-capturing design – and a little more unusual than some of the more popular styles. Our best advice is to check out these styles during your consultation with your jeweler, and make up your own mind about their unique sparkle and appearance.