Single Cut and Full Cut Melee refer to the type of faceting in smaller sized round diamonds most often used in pave work. Melee refers to round diamonds that typically weigh less than 0.10ct or 10 points. The Single Cut variety of melee are vintage round diamonds that have 17 facets in total. Full Cut melee are replicas of larger modern round brilliant diamonds that have a combined 57 facets.
Single cut melee were used in jewelry mainly through the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries. Single cut melee feature an 8/8 facet arrangement with 8 facets along the crown (top) and 8 facets on the pavilion (bottom) of a diamond plus a table facet for a total of 17 facets. In the jewelry trade, single-cuts are commonly referred to as “huit huit” (pronounced weet weet) from the French term “huit” for the number eight.
The 1970s and 1980s were a transitional period in the melee world with the advent of the 16/16 cut in Antwerp Belgium with the aptly named "dix-seize, dix-seize" from the french "dix" for ten and "seize" for six in French. This cut doubled the amount of facets of the traditional 8/8 single cut. These 16/16 faceted melee had a much shorter period of popularity of roughly two decades as compared to the classic 8/8 cut.
Coinciding roughly with the 1980s and onward, cutters were able to transplant the 57-58 facet design of larger modern round brilliant diamonds into stones that weighed 0.10ct (10 points) and smaller. By the mid to late 1980s almost all melee production had moved to the new standard, full cuts, supplanting single cut melee.
The Current State of Melee
Full Cut melee are the overwhelming majority of melee found today. There is a huge width and breadth of qualities available to jewelry designers. Advancements in the past few decades in cutting technology have enabled manufacturers to consistently and precisely produce melee as small as 0.6mm (1/5 of one point) with 57 facets of a modern round brilliant diamond. The switch to full cut melee has been so complete that many jewelry designers or jewelry stores are unaware of single cuts or do not have access to them.
Single cut melee are a rarity in the modern day which are produced by smaller, boutique melee diamond manufacturers. Precision cut single cut melee are highly prized in watch making and are often used in high end Swiss watches. In fact, the overwhelming majority of high quality single cut production is consumed by the watch making industry. Swiss watch quality single cut melee are manufactured in the D-F Color ranges and VVS-IF Clarities therefore lower colored single-cuts are an extreme rarity as there is an exceedingly small market for them. The scarcity of these stones combined with the strong demand from the high end watch making industry sustain high prices for single cut melee as opposed to the full cut variety. This might seem counter intuitive when considering the fact that single cut melee have fewer facets which takes less manufacturing time (labor) to produce.
Low quality and inexpensive single cut melee can also be found which are usually sourced from recycled vintage jewelry. Additionally, a small amount of low quality and inexpensive single cut melee is manufactured by Indian melee manufacturers that trade at a significant discount to full cut melee. These types of stones are cut very haphazardly having crooked facets and commonly being out of round in their outline.
We at Victor Canera, exclusively use precision cut single cut melee in our jewelry designs, the same assortment of which is used by high end Swiss watch brands. Our precision cut single cut melee feature nearly perfect faceting and symmetry making them ideal for use in micro pave especially in vintage inspired jewelry designs.
The visual differences between single cut and full cut melee are subtle due to their relatively small sizes used in pave work. The melee sizes used in modern micro pave are typically 1.5mm and smaller. In spite of this small scale, single cut melee usually present a more subdued sparkle that reflect larger, distinctive flashes of light through their less numerous and larger 17 facets. This is in comparison to full cut melee’s 57 facets which present a more “fiery” appearance that reflect smaller, more splintery reflections of light and color. The difference is akin to comparing an Old European Cut to a Modern Round Brilliant diamond in a smaller scale.
Which Melee to Choose
Diamonds including melee are a matter of taste and personal preference for many people. With that being said, our general recommendation is to go with single cut melee in rings with vintage faceted or step cut faceted center stones. Single cut melee also ideally match the subdued character of colored stones such as sapphires, rubies, emeralds etc. Full cut melee on the other hand pair beautifully with "fiery" modern brilliant faceted center stones such as Round Brilliants, Ovals, Radiant Cuts, Modern Cushions and others. In jewelry without center stones, personal preference comes into play and our recommendation is more open ended. Single cut melee add a vintage character to jewelry whereas full cuts maintain a modern motif. Single cut melee have more "presence" in pave where the eye can delineate each stone because of their larger reflections of light. Full cut melee on the other hand are less individually distinctive seeming to have more fire and meld into the pave metal work.