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Melee diamonds are the small diamonds that you would normally see set around a center stone of a piece of jewelry or on its band. Also known as ‘accent’ stones, these diamonds are hardly noticed since the center stone usually grabs everyone’s attention. However, they’re a highly important part of the jewelry market.
Here’s a quick look at these little accent diamonds and everything you need to know about them before you purchase melee diamond jewelry.
What are Melee Diamonds?
Melee diamonds surround the center stone and decorate the shank in this ring. See more here.
Melee diamonds weigh less than half a carat and are typically found on rings (especially diamond engagement rings) as well as other various types of jewelry. They’re main purpose is to highlight or ‘accent’ the bigger center stone on the piece, making it stand out. However, some jewelry pieces come without a center stone, but with several melee diamonds on them, forming beautiful shapes on their own.
Melee diamonds got their name from the French word ‘meler’, meaning ‘mixed’. They’re commonly referred to as ‘diamond chips’ by jewelers and consumers. While they come from all corners of the globe, more than 90% of melee diamonds on the market come from India, known as one of the world’s largest diamond producers.
Types of Melee Diamonds
Just like larger diamonds, melee diamonds can be cut into various shapes and sizes from about 0.001 carats to 0.18 carats. There are two types of melees, classified according to the way they’re cut: single cut and full cut.
Single Cut vs. Full Cut Melee Diamonds
Single cut melee diamonds are quite similar to larger, single cut diamonds. They have 8 facets on their crown and another 8 on the pavilion – which add up to 16 facets in total. Full cut melees on the other hand, have up to about 57 facets. They’re more brilliant due to the enhanced light play on the larger number of facets.
In the past, jewelers had to cut gemstones by hand. Because melee diamonds are so small, full cut proved to be impossible.
Back then, single cut was the only available option but when specialized diamond cutting machines were created, full cut melees began to flood the market. Today, they make up at least 99% of all melees used in jewelry making.
Finding single cut melee diamonds is now quite difficult since the full cut ones are far more popular. Their many facets allow for more light to reflect through the stone, making them more brilliant than single cut melees, which is why they’re highly sought after.
Melee Diamond Shapes
While it’s a common misconception that melee diamonds are ONLY cut in round shapes, there are actually several variants in various shapes. Here are some of the most common ones:
- Princess Cut – A princess cut is perfect for modern jewelry with maximum sparkle. It’s square on the top and has four beveled sides and clean lines which give it a contemporary look.
Diamond ring featuring princess cut melees. See it here.
- Baguette Cut – Baguette cut melee diamonds are rarer as melee diamonds, but their step cut, and elongated shape add sophistication as accent stones. Because they tessellate, they are perfect when you wish to create the illusion of paved, endless road of diamonds on a ring shank.
Baguette-shaped melee diamonds on solitaire ring. See it here.
- Marquise Cut – This is a more unique cut for melee diamonds, and adds an elongated, vintage look to jewelry designs. Because these diamonds have sharp edges, they require careful designing to offer protection while enhancing the beauty of the stone.
Marquise melee diamond eternity ring. See it here.
- Small Round Cut – This is the most prevalent cut for melee diamonds, used in almost any setting. Round is the favorite cut for diamonds, and this extends to the melee diamond too.
Gold ring with round cut melees by Park Row Antiques. See it here.
Are Melee Diamonds True Diamonds?
Many people tend to think that melee diamonds aren’t real because they’re too small and look too insignificant. However, they’re just as ‘real’ as any other diamond, but priced differently.
Melee diamonds are usually sold in large packs and priced according to the total carat weight, rather than individually. This is because grading such tiny diamonds would take up too much time and be too expensive so that their final cost would be unreasonably high for their size.
While all melee diamonds in a pack are usually of similar size and quality, some jewelers tend to pass off lower quality pieces as high-quality diamonds. To avoid being ripped off and buying low quality stones, make sure you purchase your jewelry or diamonds from reputable vendors.
Melee Diamond Sizes
While melee diamonds are available in various sizes, they’re all less than 0.2. Diamonds that are any bigger don’t qualify as melee diamonds. The smallest melee diamonds available on the market are only about 0.001 carats in weight, whereas the largest ones can reach 0.18 carats with a diameter of 4 millimeters.
Vintage ring with 0.02 carat melee diamonds by Avitaland Co Jewelry. See it here.
Like with any gemstone, larger melee diamonds are higher priced, but the smaller ones are much more affordable. These can be used to create all kinds of beautiful designer, vintage and pave settings, since the size of the diamond won’t affect the beauty of the finished product. When used correctly, they can actually make the piece look far more sparkly and expensive than it actually is.
What Do Melee Diamonds Cost?
Melee diamonds are sold at various prices which depend on their size, quality, distributor and manufacturer. They typically cost around $300 for 1 total carat weight (TCW) of average quality stones. Stones with higher quality can cost upwards of $1,000 per 1 TCW.
The price of larger diamonds typically increases with the carat weight, but not when it comes to melee diamonds which are quite affordable due to their tiny size.
Tips When Choosing Melee Diamonds
Usually, when choosing a gemstone, it’s extremely important to take the 4 Cs into consideration – cut, clarity, color and carat. However, in the case of melee diamonds, information about the 4Cs isn’t readily available. This is because these diamonds aren’t graded.
So, you might want to consider the following criteria instead:
- The appearance of the diamonds – Check to see if the diamonds are designed and set in a way so that they draw attention to the center stone. Ensure that the color of the melees don’t contrast negatively with the center stone. They should ideally be the same hue. They should also be the same brilliance or less bright than the center stone. Inspect the jewelry carefully to check whether it’s well-made. If it’s not, the melee diamonds could get dislodged or fall out over time.
- The jewelry price – Melee diamonds may cost less than other diamonds, but if the price of the jewelry you’re looking at is too good to be true, it’s possible that the accents aren’t real melee diamonds. Some jewelers use cubic zirconia in place of actual diamonds but they won’t disclose this information to you.
- The reputation of the retailer – Watch out for untrustworthy vendors who can easily rip you off. As we’ve mentioned before, make sure you do some research and purchase your diamonds from a reputable vendor with an impressive track record. When purchasing online, read the description of the diamond carefully and check the images.
Best Engagement Ring Settings with Melee Diamonds
Melee diamonds suit various jewelry settings, but are especially popular in engagement rings as they add sparkle, brilliance and fire to the design.
The pave setting is a popular one for engagement rings in which the shank (or band) is set with diamond accents. The diamonds are held by beads or metal prongs, making it look like a continuous line of eye-catching, sparkly little diamonds. This setting is an excellent way of making the entire ring look glamorous rather than having only the center stone stand out.
Three Stone Setting
Three stone engagement ring with diamond accents by Szeki Studio. See it here.
This setting features one large stone in the center (typically a diamond), with smaller ones on either side. The simplest design consists of one very small diamond on each side of the center stone, forming a clean and neat setting. Even though there are only three stones, the ring can still look very beautiful and impressive if the chosen stones are of good quality and well-designed.
The halo is another of the most popular settings used for engagement rings since it’s cost-effective and looks amazing. The halo setting features a large center diamond, with melee diamonds arranged in a circle around it. This setting makes the center diamond look larger than it really is and perfect if you’re looking for an affordable, yet stunning engagement ring.
How to Take Care of Melee Diamonds
If you opt for a piece of jewelry with melee diamonds, like an engagement ring for example, you might want to keep in mind that they can get loose or dislodged over time. To prevent this from happening, it’s important to take good care of your jewelry.
Cleaning jewelry with melee diamonds can be quite difficult since there are many crevices where dirt can accumulate. Use mild liquid detergent and warm water to clean the piece and in some cases you might need to use a soft brush to get the dirt out. However, avoid brushing too vigorously, or the stones will get loose. Never place your melee jewelry in ultrasonic cleaners since the vibrations can shake the diamonds out of their setting.
Remember to take your jewelry to a jeweler at least once every six months to fix loose stones or for cleaning, if you find it difficult to do at home by yourself.
Where Can I Buy Jewelry with Melee Diamonds?
If you’re planning to buy your diamonds online, make sure you purchase them from a reputable and trustworthy retailer. Here are four of the best online jewelry stores you can check out:
Blue Nile – The largest online diamond retailer with an impeccable reputation, Blue Nile is famous for high quality jewelry and excellent customer service. They offer an extensive collection of melee jewelry that’s also quite affordable.
James Allen – With their latest Diamond Display Technology, James Allen offers a wide range of diamond jewelry at very fair prices. All jewelry items are shown in 360-degree videos and they all come with certification. There are also jewelry experts available to chat with 24/7, in case you have any questions.
Although melee diamonds are often underestimated, they play an important role in every jewelry piece. They can make even the most plain-looking ring look gorgeous and can even be quite stunning when arranged on their own. If you’re after a gorgeous piece of jewelry that’s not too hard on your budget, melee jewelry could be the best choice for you.