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What are Melee Diamonds?

by David Weliver

One of the best ways to increase an engagement ring’s sparkle and visual impact is to use melee diamonds. They are most noticeable in pave and halo engagement rings, which add brilliance around a centerpiece diamond. Still, melee diamonds can be used in various ways to enhance jewelry. So let’s learn more about these unique diamonds.

What Are Melee Diamonds?

Melee diamonds (pronounced may-lay) are tiny diamonds, less than 0.2 carats, typically cut and polished the same way as larger brilliant-cut diamonds. However, melee diamonds can be small, down to just 0.001 carats, and are also sometimes referred to as accent diamonds.

Unlike diamond chips, irregular pieces chipped off of a larger stone during cutting and processing, melee diamonds are cut and faceted for shine and brilliance. Thanks to modern technology, these stones can be smaller and cut more precisely than ever, giving them significant impact despite their small size.

Are Melee Diamonds Real?

Melee diamonds are natural but too small to be used alone in jewelry. So instead, they are used in clusters and groupings to add brilliance.

Melee Diamonds Sizes

The sizes of melee diamonds differ from country to country. As a rule, they are diamonds that are under 0.2 carats, and they can be as small as 0.001 carats. Most often, they are between 0.005 and 0.17ct in weight, ranging from about 1.0 to 3.6mm in size, depending on the cut.

Melee Diamond Cuts

The defining feature of melee diamonds is that they are cut and polished for brilliance, despite their small size. There are three historical ways that melee diamonds have been cut:

The Single Cut

Until the first half of the 20th century, all melee diamonds were single-cut. The single-cut diamond is an 8/8 facet arrangement (also called a “huit huit” cut, using the French words for “8/8”). It has 8 facets along the crown, 8 facets around the pavilion, and a table facet on top for 17 or 18 facets.

The 16/16 Cut

In the 1970s, the 16/16 cut was invented in Antwerp. This cut doubled the facts of an 8/8 for even more sparkle. In the 70s and 80s, the 16/16 was extremely popular for melee diamonds.

The Full Cut

In the late 1980s, cutters developed the means to apply the 57-58 facet design of large brilliant diamonds into tiny melee stones. Advancements in cutting technology allow diamond cutters to cut consistently and precisely smaller and smaller stones.

What are Melee Diamonds

Single Cut vs. Full Cut Melee Diamond

Today, the full cut has almost entirely replaced single-cut melee diamonds in jewelry. The full cut adds so much fire and brilliance that single-cut melee has become a rarity outside watchmaking. Single-cut melee diamonds are often found in vintage jewelry or inexpensive diamonds sold at a discount. Discount single-cut diamonds today are almost always low-quality stones with inconsistent facets and shaping, so it is best to choose full-cut melee diamonds when possible. 

Melee Diamonds Prices

Melee diamonds are always more affordable than single diamonds for the equivalent carat weight; two diamonds weighing 0.25ct each cost less than a single diamond weighing 0.50ct because the larger diamond is more uncommon.

Like all diamonds, melee diamonds vary in price based on their size and quality. While the same factors (cut, color, clarity, and carat) can be applied to melee diamonds as any other diamond, they are too small to be graded individually. So instead, they are sold in parcels of similar stones and priced by total carat weight.

Average-grade melee diamonds typically cost $300-400 per carat. However, melee diamonds with better color and clarity can cost up to $800-1,000 per carat.

While color and clarity are essential factors in diamond grading and pricing, melee diamonds are so small that these factors may have virtually no impact on the appearance of the jewelry. Instead, cut and color are far more visible and impactful.

Taking Care of Melee Diamonds

If you choose melee diamond jewelry, especially a diamond engagement or wedding ring that will be worn constantly, taking good care of your diamonds is essential. These diamonds have many tiny faces and crevices where dirt can accumulate, yet they need to be cleaned gently to prevent the stones from loosening over time. To clean jewelry with melee diamonds:

  • Combine mild liquid detergent and warm water
  • Use a soft brush to gently sweep away dirt and debris
  • Do not scrub aggressively, and do not use ultrasonic cleaners that vibrate. You may want to consider professional cleaning by a jeweler to keep your jewelry in peak condition without loosening any stones.
What are Melee Diamonds

Related Questions

On what type of jewelry are melee diamonds used?

Melee diamonds are used on all kinds of jewelry but are most popular in engagement rings, which surround and enhance a centerpiece diamond. In addition, melee diamonds are used in channel, split-shank, pave, cluster, and halo diamond engagement ring settings. Melee diamonds are also used in watches, earrings, and other types of jewelry.

How are melee diamonds priced?

Like other natural diamonds, melee diamonds are sorted into parcels by cut, color, and clarity and then sold by the total carat weight of the group. Because they are so small, they are not graded individually due to the amount of time involved. The price of melee diamonds depends on their size and grade, but average melee diamonds typically cost $300-400 per carat.

Are melee diamonds natural?

Yes, melee diamonds are natural and real diamonds. They are more common today because we have the technologies to handle and cut smaller diamonds than ever, with incredible consistency and precision that creates fire and brilliance. In the past, diamond chips and other irregular small diamonds were often used as accent stones than today’s full-cut, sparkling, melee diamonds.


Melee diamonds are an excellent way to complement a larger stone, adding sparkle and brilliance. They can also be clustered to create spectacular jewelry by themselves or add something special to the band of a ring. Melee diamonds are also available at affordable prices, allowing you to increase the total carat weight and visual impact of your jewelry cost-effectively and playing an important role in jewelry design.

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