What Are Melee Diamonds? (And Why They Matter)

what are melee diamonds

If you’ve looked at a beautiful pave or halo engagement ring, you probably noticed the extra sparkle from tiny diamonds on the setting. These small stones are known as melee diamonds. And in this article, we reveal the key things you need to know about them.

A list of things we will cover in this write-up:

What is a Melee Diamond?
How Are the Different Types of Melee Diamonds Cut?
Things to Take Note of When Buying a Ring With Melee Diamonds
Popular Engagement Ring Settings for Melee Diamonds

What is a Melee Diamond?

Melee diamonds are tiny diamonds that weigh less than 0.15 carat and they are either single cut or full cut (we’ll cover this in the next section). Given their small sizes, they are usually sold in parcels which are sorted according to their carat weight.

Melees serve a variety of purposes in the jewelry industry. Some of their most common uses include custom work where jewelry designers utilize them as cost effective methods adding a layer of brilliance. They are also frequently used in repair and replacement work.

How Are the Different Types of Melee Diamonds Cut?

single- cut vs full cut melee differences

Differences in facet diagram of single cut melee vs full cut melee.

The single cut is a simple 16 facet cutting style that has 8 facets on the crown and 8 facets on the pavilion. It was the first iteration of polishing tiny diamonds dated back to the 20th century and these melees are extremely rare now.

The full cut melee is the most widely used melee found in jewelry today (almost 99% of melees used are full cut). Basically, the full cut has exactly the same cutting style employed in modern round diamonds (57 facets) except that it is scaled down to a tinier size.

On a practical note, the differences between these 2 cutting styles of melees lie in appearance and performance. Single cut diamonds will not have a vibrant scintillation patterning or sparkle when compared with full cut diamonds.

I personally have a preference for full cut melees because they look better and complement modern day diamond jewelry better. Unless you have a specific requirement for vintage designs or are looking for sentimental pieces, there’s no reason to choose single cut melees over full cut melees.

Things to Take Note of When Buying a Ring With Melee Diamonds

Unlike buying a diamond center stone where you can make specific choices on the 4Cs (cut, color, clarity & carat), most vendors will not give you much choices of choosing the quality of melees used.

One key difference is that there are no grading reports available for individual melees due to economic reasons. i.e. the cost of grading a diamond far outweighs the few dollars that the melee costs. As a result, you will have to rely on the jeweler’s words or claims about the quality of melees used.

Also, when melee diamonds are used in a piece of jewelry, their weight is usually aggregated and represented using carat total weight (CTW).

Now, there are many unethical jewelers who use sub par melees that are misrepresented just to earn a few extra dollars at YOUR expense. One common way they do this is to overstate the quality melees and use inferior goods that are abraided/chipped instead.

And this is one of those myopic practices that pisses me off. The fact is, these jewelers would be far better off in the long run by delivering a better quality product at the expense of a few dollars.

So, when an unethical vendors says their melees are G VS2, they are actually J SI2 instead. And there’s no way for the average consumer to know unless you are somewhat skilled in the trade.

The way to mitigate problems like these is to buy from reliable sources. If you are looking for high quality diamond jewelry, I recommend White Flash, Brian Gavin and James Allen.

Most Popular Styles of Engagement Ring Settings Using Melee Diamonds?

As mentioned earlier, the use of melee diamonds can lead to creative designs and versatility. Besides adding sparkle and brilliance, melees can also be used as accent stones to draw attention towards the center stone.

Here are some of my favorite ways in which melees are used in jewelry and diamond rings.

Diamond earrings with fancy geometric shapes: Together with carefully crafted metal settings, melees can be used to accent a geometric shape and create a shimmering appearance.

flower shaped diamond earrings made from small diamonds
star shaped earring studs


Pave settings: Smaller diamonds lining the shank of the ring can accent and lead the viewing eye to place more emphasis on the center stone. For a more detailed look on pave settings, click here

accenting narrowing shank with different sized melee stones
pave twisted shank diamond ring infinity meaning


Halo setting: Using melees to create a halo effect around a center diamond is a cost efficient way to get a larger looking diamond without actually paying the premium for one.

wedding ring branded verragio set
platinum halo ring setting superb quality


When it comes to buying a high quality piece of jewelry, the details matter. I often hear people saying that quality doesn’t matter as much in smaller stones but this is far from the truth. With that, I hope you’ve learnt something useful in this write up and if you have any questions, feel free to get in touch!

If you are shopping for diamond jewelry with melees and you want the best of the best in sparkle, I highly recommend White Flash, Brian Gavin and James Allen. These vendors pay attention to details and are the few vendors that use super ideal cut melees in their jewelry manufacturing.

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8 Comments

  1. Bruno-
    September 30, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    I have a question that I hope you can answer. Should I buy my own melee diamonds for a ring where I can handpick a parcel and provide them myself or should I let the vendor choose the quality for me?

    I am intending to get an anniversary gift for my wife this coming November and she mentioned that she wants a diamond ring with pave sidestones.

    So, as I was doing my research online, I found that vendors only offer pre-set pave settings with melee diamonds which came in various ranges of clarity and color (for example, F to G color – SI1 to SI2 clarity). 

    I am pretty concerned with the quality of the melee diamonds used as there is no mention of the cut quality at all. Here’s my question, should I handpick my own melee diamonds (if possible, how could I do so?) or am I worrying too much about the small details?

    Hope you can get back to me with some advice soon.

  2. Paul Gian-
    October 1, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    That’s a very good question. From your query, I can tell you are pretty experienced in diamond shopping. Melees are something most consumers overlook when selecting ring settings. Most people tend to place a lot of emphasis on the main center diamond when doing their research and making purchases. However, I had seen some rings which had their overall WOW factor dragged down by dull looking sidestones.

    So, the answer to your question is yes. The cut quality of the melee stones does play a part in the overall beauty of the ring. Usually, vendors will have a pre-chosen quality of melee stones and these are typically based on color and clarity like what you had mentioned. Cut quality is not the main concern of most vendors but rather, it is the costs to procuring these small stones that is a major factor.

    However, there are some vendors like Brian Gavin Diamonds who believe in providing the highest quality jewelry to their customers. Unlike most vendors who use generic melees that are bulk-purchased, Brian Gavin utilizes signature hearts and arrows melees in their ring settings. To them, cut is of the utmost importance and you will find that their in-house setting designs are all mounted with signature cut melees.

    signature melee diamond cut grade

    Ring settings with F/G color, VS clarity – Brian Gavin signature melees

    Click here to view more details on the above ring setting…

    Of course, quality comes along with a higher price tag with it. Many consumers choose Brian Gavin Diamonds for their settings even though they are expensive because they are assured of the best possible quality in the piece of jewelry they are getting.

    The take back is, selecting your own melee diamonds for a ring setting isn’t an option most vendors would allow. At best, they would only give you the option to customize the melees based on color and clarity grades. Hope this helps answer your questions…

  3. Cynthia J. Davis-
    September 30, 2015 at 12:44 am

    Greetings!

    Thanks for the great tips and advice in the article. I have a question though. When it comes to 3 stones settings, is it a good idea to let the jeweler choose the diamonds used on my behalf?

    It seems like the degree of customization for such settings is limited by what the jeweler has to offer.

  4. Paul-
    September 30, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    Hi Cynthia,

    You need to ensure that the sidestones have matching colors to the center gemstone. Usually, jewelers will customize the ring based on the choice of center stone that you had purchased.

    It doesn’t hurt to double check with the jeweler that you intend to work with on the details of the ring setting. After all, you are the paying customer.

    Paul

  5. john-
    March 13, 2018 at 7:25 am

    I am trying to do a deal with a supplier from india and one of the quotation they sent had “smaller goods” and “coarse melee” indicated. Do you know what these terms mean?

  6. Paul Gian-
    March 15, 2018 at 9:19 pm

    Different suppliers from different countries may use different technical jargons to list their inventory.

    Smaller goods typical refer to stones with less than 1.75mm in their diameter. For stones between 0.75mm to 1.75mm, they are sometimes referred to as stars.

    Coarse melee refer to diamonds with carat weight between 0.12ct and 0.15ct. These are relatively larger and hence the term “coarse”.

  7. Tana-
    July 12, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    Can you provide some examples where single cut melees would be better for an engagement ring design compared to using full cut melees?

  8. Paul Gian-
    July 19, 2018 at 9:02 am

    The choice and application of single cut diamonds will work better in vintage or in combination with step cut style gemstones. This is because the single cut has larger sized facets and result in broader flashes of light.

    They go well with gemstone jewelry like rubies or sapphires too. Modern full cut melees have a more splintery appearance and they complement the brilliant cutting styles of center stones better.

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