For many of those not closely familiar with the diamond industry, the term “melee” doesn’t mean much, even though many of those same individuals may be wearing melee diamonds right this moment.
The tiny stones, referred to as melee stones, are very commonly used to adorn engagement rings and wedding rings, as well as other jewelry pieces.
What is a Melee?
Though tiny, true melees are carefully cut stones that provide additional sparkle to the setting, despite their miniature stature. They are cut to fit pave, eternity, and halo settings. The size of the stones varies, but they are never larger than 0.2 carats, and some are as tiny as 0.001 carats.
Single Cut vs. Full Cut vs. Diamond Chip
There are truly only two accepted approaches to melee stones — single-cut and full-cut. However, in some instances, diamond chips are used in similar diamond settings.
Single-cut melee diamond cuts are those that are cut to have either 17 or 18 facets. They provide shine, but it is a slightly flat shine reminiscent of antique or vintage jewelry. They are cut to have a table facet, in addition to eight pavilions and eight crowns. However, there may also be a culet, which can bring the facet count to eighteen.
In most jewelry store cases, one will find full-cut melee stones on display. They are cut to mimic the larger stones set in rings and necklaces. The brilliant round cut maximizes shimmer and shine with up to 58 facets on even the smallest of the stones. Light reflects brilliantly as a result of the vast number of melee diamond cuts.
When buying jewelry featuring the tiny stones, one must be careful to ensure that the diamonds are true melees. Diamond chips are an inexpensive means of filling the spaces reserved for melees. The chips are not fully cut and, in some cases, they aren’t cut at all. This can result in uneven shapes and less secure diamond settings. Diamond chips also lack the sparkle of properly cut and polished stones.
The Cost of Melee
It’s important to understand that buying loose melee stones is not easily done by members of the general public. The stones, on their own, are generally too small to carry any great value as stand-alone pieces. Therefore, the melees are sold in bulk quantities and priced by total carat weight. The parcels can contain hundreds of diamonds and will then be priced based on carat weight as well as grade. While average grade melee packets would generally be priced at less than $500 per carat, stone parcels of excellent clarity and color can cost more than $1,000 per carat.
In most cases, full-cut diamonds are the preferred stones these days. They are commonly used to add additional sparkle to engagement and wedding rings. However, there is still a market for single-cut melees, which are featured in many high-end watch brands, as well as in vintage-style ring settings.
Although single-cut melees require less time and energy to cut, they carry a higher price tag these days because they are not as common. They don’t pair as well with diamonds of modern cut and polish. They simply can’t match the level of shine. There is a fine line when matching melees to a center stone. If the melees carry too much sparkle, they can make the center stone look drab in comparison.