You’ve probably heard the term ‘melee diamonds’ thrown around by jewelers while shopping for that perfect engagement ring. After all, it is pretty common to hear rather uncommon terms while shopping for fine diamond jewelry.
What are melee diamonds, and how do they compare to accent diamonds? How do they compare to the center stone in diamond engagement rings? We’ve got all these answers and more, so keep reading to find out!
What is a Melee Diamond?
Melee diamonds (pronounced meh-lee) are tiny and make a center stone in an engagement ring really pop.
The Gemological Institute of America defines melee diamonds as “small diamonds, either single cut or full cut, [and] weighing less than 1/5 carat.” Melee diamonds are small. So small, in fact, that at times they can be as tiny as 1/1000 carat weight, or 0.0001 carats.
How Did Melee Diamonds Get Their Name?
Melee diamonds are small and sold in bulk mixed with various little diamonds. Hence the ‘Melee,’ which translates from the French verb, ‘mêler,’ meaning ‘to mix.’
How are Melee Diamonds Different From Others?
There is no chemical difference between regular diamond jewelry and melee diamonds. Both diamond types form under immense heat and pressure in the earth’s crust (or in a lab).
The only substantial difference is that its carat weight is smaller than others. They are primarily accents in diamond ring settings. You cannot purchase them individually.
Diamond Chips vs. Melee Diamonds
Both are accent diamonds, and both bring attention to a larger diamond center stone in a ring.
However, diamond chips are not fully faceted. Because diamond chips are not fully faceted, they haven’t been cut and polished in the same way larger diamonds are. As a result, they have jagged and uneven edges that struggle to catch the light.
Because melee diamonds are finely cut and polished, either by the single or full cut methods mentioned below. They develop the textbook stunning sparkle that larger diamonds are known and loved for.
Melee Diamond Cuts
Much like larger cut stones, melee diamonds are versatile and can be cut in various ways. We organize them into one of two cuts: single cut or full cut.
Single Cut Melee Diamonds
These single-cut diamonds have 16-18 facets that result in a vintage-round diamond shape. This is due to much simpler cutting methods that were utilized as the smaller carat weight of the diamonds was unable to withstand the hand cutting needed for a full cut.
This has changed thanks to the invention of highly precise and perfectly calibrated diamond cutting machines that can effectively cut tiny diamonds with a smaller carat weight.
Full Cut Melee Diamonds
A full cut melee diamond, unlike single cut melees, is the result of diamond-cutting machines. A full cut melee diamond has 57-58 facets and perfectly resembles a brilliant-cut diamond. Because of their larger facet size, full cut diamonds better reflect light and maximize their brilliance and fire.
Jewelry designers and diamond experts prefer full cut melee diamonds for their improved cut quality.
What Engagement Ring Settings Compliment Melee Diamonds?
Well-set melee diamonds can truly add sparkle and draw attention to engagement rings. There is a wide array of popular ring settings that highlight and encourage the overall beauty of melee diamonds. We’ve rounded up the top settings below.
A beautiful pave setting engagement ring is a type of engagement ring that features melee diamonds all around its band. These are arranged in such a way that they form a pattern—usually in an even row on one side of the band and then alternating with rows on either side of it.
The effect is similar to a mosaic or puzzle-piece pattern across the entire band. This makes it look like there are many diamonds encircling your finger instead of one big one.
Pave settings are usually used for engagement rings because they allow for maximum visibility of each individual diamond while still keeping them together as part of a whole piece. This makes them easier to see than if they were set individually, which would make it harder to appreciate their beauty and value as part of something larger than themselves (and, therefore, less impressive).
Halo Setting Style
A halo setting engagement ring is a style of setting that uses melee diamonds to surround the center stone. This halo of stones is designed to be visible from multiple angles. It also adds sparkle and draws attention to the larger center diamond.
Halo settings can be done in different ways. A traditional halo setting surrounds the center stone with melee diamonds on one side only. This makes the larger diamond look like it’s floating above its surroundings. Another style is the cathedral-style halo; this type surrounds the center stone with the small stones on both sides and above and below it.
A channel-setting engagement ring is a type of engagement ring that typically has a band with a row of melee diamonds set into it. These diamonds generally sit parallel to the top of the band. They also sit on top of the prongs that hold them in place and in carved channels on the sides of the ring–not flush against the sides.
Channel settings are popular because they allow you to see all sides of your diamond, increasing its beauty and sparkle. Channel settings also make the stones easier to clean and maintain because they’re not as exposed to the elements as much. Thanks to these small stones and a large center stone, a channel set engagement ring is a timeless and classic yet modern engagement ring.
A cluster ring style engagement ring features several diamonds set together in a single piece of jewelry. The diamonds usually sit along the ring’s shank or on both sides of it. You can also choose to have them set into a band or another piece of jewelry you already own, such as a necklace or bracelet.
These rings usually have small diamonds rather than larger ones. This is because they look better clustered together rather than spaced out evenly across the surface area of the metal.
What to Keep in Mind When Buying Melee Diamonds
Due to their carat weight, most vendors and jewelers do not sell individual melee diamonds. Many sell according to their total carat weight. Prices usually start at $300 for 1 carat per total carat weight.
Why such a low cost per total carat weight? Unlike larger diamond stones, melee stones do not receive the same grading reports around the 4C’s.
Instead, their overall objective appearance determines their price. If well-cut melees accurately match and enhance the larger center stone, this can affect their price too. Are melee stones bringing the textbook sparkle to the diamond ring? If not, consider looking for more reputable vendors.
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