When you look at a ring, you may see tiny diamonds surrounding the main stone. These are called melee diamonds. Because they're smaller, these diamonds are usually sold in parcels according to carat weight. Diamond melee is crucial for setting and custom work where they can accentuate and complement a main stone.
Single Cut Melee
Melee diamonds can come in various cuts. A single cut simply means a 16-facet cutting style is used. There are 8 facets apiece to the crown and pavilion. These melee diamonds are more historic in nature than anything else. They aren't requested very often any more, but they can still be used in pieces made in vintage style, or recycled from older pieces.
Single cut diamonds generally flash more than they sparkle. This is because their surfaces are slightly broader. When the light is caught by a facet, there's more surface area at that angle to reflect off of.
Full Cut Melee
Full cut diamond melee has since replaced single cut melee. Nearly 99% of melee diamonds used today are full cut. The full cut uses the same style that's found in modern round diamonds. That means 57 facets, which make the diamond glitter much more keenly.
The sheer number of facets in full cut diamond melee means that they refract and reflect color in an energetic way. You'll see a fiery sparkle.
Which Should You Choose?
In general, full cut melee is recommended for most pieces. They shine with a complexity that's very popular and that can bring out the brightness in other stones. Single cut can be a good choice for very particular custom pieces, such as rings that use faceted stones or step cut faceted ones. They may also be useful for colors that are deeper but not as bright, as you might find in emeralds, rubies, and sapphires.
In this way, full cut melee diamonds are suitable for most modern pieces. Single cut melee should be used in a very deliberate fashion.
If buying loose melee diamonds, it's highly recommended they undergo the K. Rosengart melee analysis service. This analysis sorts melee-size diamonds and ensures that all the melee diamonds in question are natural and not synthetic.