The difference between single cut diamond melee and full cut diamond melee is small but significant. It can change the entire appearance of that diamond and any stones it complements. Both cut categories describe the faceting used in small, round diamonds that weigh less than 0.10 ct. Such diamonds are used regularly in pave work to create a stunning effect. How can you understand if you're looking at single cut or full cut diamond melee?
The simplest way to understand the difference is by considering the number of facets each cut gives the diamond:
Single cut diamond melee features 8 facets along the crown in an 8/8 arrangement. The table at the top makes 9. There are another 8 facets on the pavilion, adding up to a total of 17 facets.
Full cut diamond melee uses a 16/16 facet arrangement. The effect is somewhat exponential in places, increasing the number of facets to 57.
The Visual Effect
Is having more facets better? After all, full cut is designed to appear more like their larger cousins, round brilliant diamonds. There are some important differences to consider here. Neither cut is necessarily better. Each offers different characteristics that suit different jewelry pieces. Let's take full cut first:
The strength of full cut is that more facets mean the light is being split more throughout the diamond, reflecting and refracting a fiery, energetic look. As light is split, you perceive splinters of color throughout the spectrum. As the jewelry shifts angle or moves, those colors will glimmer. In this way, a pave setting of several full cut diamond melee stones has the visual effect of prisms catching the light and setting it aglow in the jewelry itself.
The strength of single cut is that melee stones are by their nature smaller in size. Single cut has the quality of catching the eye in a different way, and making the stones appear a little bit larger. Single cut may have fewer facets, but the trade-off is that those facets are larger. They won't catch the light and split it so much as they'll catch the light and reflect more of it at a time. This creates a flash of light that accentuates each stone as a whole. There's less danger of the edges visually disappearing into the metal work.
Full cut can be absolutely absorbing up-close, and single cut diamond melee catches the eye better at a distance. Full cut lends modern complexity and color, while single cut is more classically elegant and accentuates the stone as a whole. Each has its strengths and will complement larger stones in different ways.
A Bit of History
Single cut is the older cut, having been used throughout the 19th century. As technology improved, the 1970s saw the rise of full cut diamond melee. It wasn't so much that more complex cuts couldn't be done before this – it was that the cut couldn't be done consistently and cost-effectively. By the 1980s, the technology existed and was accessible enough that that melee production shifted over to using full cut as a new standard.
Full cut still makes up most melee stones, and many jewelers don't even use single cut anymore. Despite this, some jewelers realize that each cut brings its own unique strengths to the table. By using each cut where it's strongest, they can offer a wider variety of look and subtlety in their designs.
Are Single Cut Stones Accessible?
Single cut can still be found, and these stones are still produced widely for the Swiss watch industry. The difficulty is that jewelry quality stones are rarer and thus prized highly. That means they're more expensive than full cut melee.
Beware low-cost single cut and who's making them. While there is a burgeoning industry for single cut out of India, the resulting melee stones often feature crooked facets and lack symmetry. It's worth it to stick with the suppliers that other high-end companies also rely upon.
The easiest access to single cut for jewelers is through vintage jewelry. This might suit individual or bespoke pieces, but doesn't produce stones regular enough to be relied upon for production runs of any great size. Finding the right stones for the right pieces can also be prohibitive in terms of the time (and thus cost) invested.
If it's your first time working with single cut and you're curious how it can expand your designs, it's worth it to order single cut diamond melee in a limited amount and see the different effects they evoke as you work with them. Also seek out a jeweler who does work with single cut and take note of how you think it changes or expands their designs.
How to Use Each Cut
Single cut is ideal for vintage looks. This is especially true in rings with step cut center stones or that feature vintage facets. Since full cut is so fiery, it can often take away from colorful stones such as emeralds, rubies, or sapphires. Single cut will provide a whiter color that helps accentuate these stones more fully.
Full cut's more colorful appearance is ideal for similarly cut center stones. Round brilliants and radiant cuts absolutely benefit from full cut diamond melee.
Where center stones aren't at play, just remember what each cut evokes in the jewelry itself. Single cut has a more vintage appeal that accentuates each stone; full cut is more modern and blends the stones into a singularly impressive visual effect.
Need help choosing the right diamond melee stones for your design? Contact the team at K. Rosengart. We're happy to help!