How To Choose Diamond Side Stones (4 Key Points)

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If you’re looking to add extra flair to your rings then you’re likely looking at side stones, and wondering just how you should choose them. It seems side stones are everywhere but once you stop to think about what you want to do with them in your own ring design, all the ideas just disappear. No worries, we’re here to help and guide you through the key points you need to consider when deciding on the side stones. First though, we should clarify what we mean by sides stones because you’ll quickly notice everyone has a slightly different opinion.

What are side stones exactly ?

Side stones are the two or four gemstones that flank a center gemstone on either side, usually on a ring. The traditional definition claims only the stones that flank the center ones are side stones, the rest are accent stones. But as time went on and ring designs became more and more creative, the distinction between accent stones and side stones became very fuzzy. So today you can easily refer to the stones on a ring shank as side stones, the stones in a halo as side stones, and the actual side stones as, yes, side stones.

In this post we’re discussing actual side stones that sit on either side of the center stone, and are not ring shank stones or halo stones. We will touch on those as well, but our main concern are the stones hat will be on either side of the center stone. We will also focus on diamond side stones for diamond center stones, but we will also touch on colored gemstones in this post.

How to choose diamond side stones

Choose your diamond side stones based on the center stone, so they fall within the same color and clarity range. Side stones should generally be smaller than the center stone, and be within the same cut style as the center stone (either step cut or brilliant). The shape of the side stones should compliment the center diamond and together they should form a beautiful design, no matter how simple or complex.

We should take a look at these pointers, because while they sound simple you really should get to know them very well. If this is an engagement ring we’re discussing then the look of it will be crucial. This is a ring you or your loved one will be wearing for the rest of your lives, so it must look pleasing.

1. Keep the clarity and color grades in the same range as the center stone

If your center stone is a diamond it has a certain color and clarity grade. Whichever grades it has, the side stones must not be noticeably different from the center stone, otherwise they will ruin the overall look of the ring.

So if your center diamond is an E color with VVS1 clarity, your side stones should be and F at least, with VVS2 at least in clarity. And, if your center diamond is an H in color and VS1 in clarity, the sides can go down to I in color and VS2 in clarity. So a step below your center diamond is generally acceptable for the side stones. Of course, the exact same color and clarity grade would be ideal.

Read also: Are Black Diamonds Real ? 

There is an exception to this rule though. If your center diamond is very special, such as a salt and pepper diamond or grey diamond, it will be vastly different from the side stone diamonds. So you can safely use your artistic sense to choose the side diamonds in such cases. We generally recommend keeping the side diamonds very simple and clean if you want to accentuate the color or inclusions within the center diamond.

2. Go for noticeably smaller stones than the center stone

Side stones are there to make the center stone look great, so there should always be a size difference between them. How much of a difference is up to you, but most rings feature side stones that are at least 25% smaller than the center stone. Of course you can opt for much smaller stones to get a more dramatic effect, such as half the size of the center stone, or even gradually smaller side stones.

There is no limit to the number of side stones you can use, though most opt for two – one on either side.

side stones round 1
left – 25% smaller side stones, middle – 60% smaller side stones, right – graduating 7 stone ring

Your final ring design also matters when deciding how large or small the side stones should be, or how many there are. For example three stone rings that feature birth stones will usually have all three stones of the same size, or the side stones just a bit smaller than the center stone, regardless of whether the center is a diamond or not.

And you don’t necessarily have to have a symmetrical ring design either. A more organic or artistic looking ring may feature 2 stones on one side and 5 on the other side, all of different sizes and all of them complimenting the center stone. Here’s an example of what we mean.

3. Stay within the cut style – step cut or brilliant

Your  center diamond has a certain cut style, regardless of shape. If it’s a round cut then it is a brilliant cut, the style of diamond cut that maximizes sparkle and is very good at hiding inclusions and color (to a degree). If your center stone is rectangular it could be either a brilliant cut or a step cut, such as radiant, princess cut, emerald cut, Asscher cut, and so on. Every diamond shape that is not a round brilliant is referred to as a fancy cut diamond. Not for the color, just for the cut shape.

So keep in mind that a brilliant cut style will emphasize sparkle, so it works best with side stones that are also brilliant cut, whether they’re round, oval, marquise, pears, or anything else that sparkles.

If your center diamond is a step cut, the kind that has large facets running parallel to each other, it does not sparkle as much but will show clarity and color more, so it always has to be a higher grade diamond. Examples are emerald cut, Asscher, baguette, kites, and baguettes. These diamonds go best with other step cuts, simply because a sparkly brilliant cut would distract from the elegance of a simple step cut.

Overall, the style of your ring matters the most. Is it meant to be sparkle and glamorous ? Is it meant to be subtle and elegant ? Is it meant to be different form all the rest ? Is it an avant-garde ring with some risque design choices ?

4. Go for shapes that compliment the center stone

Whichever color and clarity grade you get for your side stones, and no matter the cut style, you should always get shapes that complement the center stone. This means that your side stones should make sense when looking at the whole ring. Of course, ‘sense’ can be quite artistic and arbitrary, so not everyone will agree with your choice, but it’s you who has to like the ring.

side stones style 1
left – princess cut with princess cut sides, middle – round cut diamond with marquise and round cut sides, right – emerald cut diamond with tapered baguette sides.

So in general it seems that rectangular cut diamonds go best with other rectangular diamonds or other shapes with sharp, straight lines. Examples include a square center with triangle sides, or trapezoids.

For rounded centers such as an oval, pear, or actual round diamond your best bet is another rounded shape, but you could also go with a marquise, a half-moon, or a triangle if the design looks like it could work. Below we’ll talk about a few examples you can use to get you inspired for your personal ring design, and we’ll consider the most popular center diamonds.

Side stone examples for the most popular center diamonds

When looking at the classic side stone layout you’ll notice that the center stone and side stone form a nice line together, they work very well when paired. We’re going to show you a few options for the most common and popular center stones, so you can get a better idea of what would work for the center stone you chose.

Round and oval cuts

Round and oval cuts tend to work best with other rounded cuts like other rounds, ovals, pears, and even marquise. If you’re looking to use something like a baguette or emerald cut the design might be a bit risky but it might just work, as long as you let the center round or oval be the focus of the ring. This means tapered baguettes as side stones, forming a sort of trapeze on the ring shoulders.

Most of the time though, you will see a round or oval cut diamond on either side of the center stone. And then a pave band or a channel-set one.

Another option would be to incorporate shapes with sharp, crisp outlines but with a brilliant cut, such as trillion cuts or radiants. Here’s an example with trillion cut sides.

Rectangular cuts or sharp line cuts

Emerald cut diamonds are really great on their own. These are elegant, simple diamonds that showcase clarity and lack of color in a diamond. But if you do like to add something, we recommend sticking to another step-cut diamond like other emeralds, baguettes, or kites.

Do side stones fall out ?

Side stones do not normally fall out if they are properly set. Or rather they fall out at the same rate as center stones. It all depends on the quality of the craftsmanship, the metal used, the exact setting type, and how long you’ve worn the ring for.

For example pave and channel set stones might fall out faster than other stones. This is because there isn’t much metal keeping them in and actually covering the gems, so after several years of wear and tear, the metal will wear down.

The safest settings for side stones are prong and bezel settings. Prong settings mean 4 or more claws hold onto the diamond at key points, and in some cases cover the weak points like a sharp point on a pear or marquise. Bezel settings are a thin band of metal that hugs the diamond’s girdle and extends a bit onto the crown of the diamond. It keeps the diamond nice and snug.

Are pave and channel set stones side stones ?

Traditionally speaking channel set stones and pave stones are not side stones, as they’re there to decorate the ring shank, not flank the center stone. That being said, today’s  jewelry industry sometimes refers to the shank stones as side stones. Or rather any gemstone that is not the center stone can be called a side stone, regardless of where it is (shank, halo, sunburst, chevron, etc). In our opinion pave and channel set stones that decorate the shank are not side stone, they are accent stones.

Are halo stones side stones ?

Halo stones are not side stones, as they’re there to provide a halo of sparkle to the center stone. They are there to make the center stone look better and in some cases make the overall ring look larger. They are there to emphasize the sparkle of the ring.

That being said, of all the non-side stone that people sometimes call side stones, halos come the closest to actual side stones. Again, they’re more of an accent stone, but they come pretty close.

It appears the best size for halo diamonds is 0.1 carats, to allow the center diamond to get the most attention, while they sparkle on the sides. Being so small, they don’t stand out as much as regular side stones but their affect is noticeable. Their lack of presence is also noticeable, such as a simple solitaire vs halo with a simple band.

Can you use colored gemstones as side stones for a diamond ?

Colored gemstones are not usually used for a diamond center stone, simply because they don’t sparkle as much. but they can definitely be used in your ring design if you want a specific gemstone combination, or want to achieve a color combination with those stones.

One thing you should know, when using colored gems as side stones there is no way to hide the metal that keeps them tight. Metals are white, yellow, or rose gold so most gems will have the prongs or bezels very noticeable.

Can you use diamonds as side stones for a colored gemstone ?

Diamonds are very often used as side stones or halos for a colored gemstone center, and perhaps the most well known example is the later Princess Diana’s sapphire and diamond ring. The center stone is a large oval-cut sapphire, surrounded by a halo of round-cut diamonds.

There are plenty of rings inspired by this one ring, and even f you simply have an emerald center stone with a diamond in either side, the effect is always fantastic. Much like adding delicate white trimming to an extravagant dress.

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