“Elegance is not dependent on money. Of the four things I have mentioned above, the most important of all is care. Care in choosing your clothes. Care in wearing them. Care in keeping them.” – Christian Dior
Pave is a method of encrusting a jewel’s surface with an intricate mosaic of very small gemstones. Each individual “tile” is held by tiny beads carved on the metal surface without any binding material or glue.
A micro pavé is a type of pave where small stones are packed tight without any gaps.
Advances in the automated cutting of very small calibrated diamonds allowed this type of pave to proliferate.
The French word pavé (pronounced Pah-vay) literally means “pavement.” The metal surface is “cobbled” with diamonds like a road with cobblestones. The micro pavé is also known by other names: microscopic pavé, mini-pavé, and micro-set.
Micro pave covers the exposed metal with tiny gems, usually diamonds. The stones, typically 1.2 mm or smaller, are densely packed in multiple interlocked rows. Some stones are minuscule, as small as 0.4 mm, which is finer than a grain of sand!
Micro pave curves with the surface, wrapping it without sudden breaks. The stones are arranged in intersecting lines forming a honeycomb pattern.
The traditional pave is set with larger stones arranged in distinct rows separated by walls, edges, or empty spaces.
Technically speaking, micro pave requires a minimum of three rows of stones. This rule is widely ignored, and the term micro pave is used to describe any pave using small stones.
A single row of stones technically is not a micro pave, but it’s called micro pave anyway. It distinguishes the modern pave style from the traditional bright-cut pave. But even the bright-cut pave set with tiny stones is incorrectly referred to as micro pave.
Using a microscope during the setting does not turn the pave into micro pave. Microscopes are used for all kinds of jewelry work, including setting center stones.
The stones in micro pave are typically uniform, except for random micro pave that uses a mix of sizes arranged in no particular order.
A microscope is an essential tool for setting micro pavé.
High magnification has a limited field of view, making the use of head visors impossible.
A skilled setter carves beads to just the right size to hold stones securely in place without blocking them.
Poorly set pave has beads that are too large, making the pave appear dull and uneven. It is rough and covered with clumps of metal like a freshly plowed field. It makes it impossible to recognize individual stones.
When beads are disproportionately small, they are too weak to hold the stone, and they are prone to losing their grip or even breaking.
Metal beads pressed too hard during the setting can break or chip diamonds. It takes years for a setter to learn how to apply just enough force to press the beads against the stones without crushing them. At the same time, not enough pressure will result in a sliver of open space between the bead and the stone where dirt and fibers can snag.
A lot of patience and precision is required from the professional setter to produce the silky smooth micro pave where the diamonds seem to float unobstructed.
Yes, it is true. Diamonds used in micro pave are even finer than grains of sand. It is rumored that the palace of King Jaffe Joffer of Zamunda once had a beach covered entirely with small diamonds. According to unofficial records, more than 16 million carats of microscopic diamonds ranging from 2 to 0.5 mm were used. Unfortunately, after the King’s untimely bereavement, the guests often took a handful of diamonds to encrust their gold and platinum grills in honor of the late King. Very soon, the beach was decimated and finally closed for good.
Micro pave epitomizes luxury with its smooth nap and velvety appearance. It is a mosaic of gems intended to conceal the exposed metal under the dazzling suede-like texture. Each micro pave stone is a miniature tile without an intrinsic value. Unlike center- or accent-stones, micro pave “tiles” are considered disposable and easily replaced when lost.
Micro pave illuminates the surface, making it appear brighter and more delicate. It’s often used to brighten up the metal surface, even in places not visible from the top.
Even a simple micro pave band can have hundreds of stones, while more elaborate pieces can have thousands.
Even the highly accurate electronic scales used by jewelers cannot register the weight of just one stone because of its tiny size. So instead, a diameter measured in fractions of a millimeter is used to indicate the stone size.
Stones smaller than 0.7 mm are incredibly scarce, and they are priced by the piece, not by weight. The most common sizes range from 0.7 mm to 1.2 mm.
The tiny stones tend to have higher clarity grades because they are naturally free of inclusions. Using low-grade diamonds does not make sense because the cost of setting a stone is higher than the cost of the diamond itself.
It’s unlikely you’ll get to choose diamonds to be set in your ring beyond color and cut. Instead, a jeweler selects the melee to match the color of the center stone. It comes in three primary grades.
The collection-grade diamond melee averages D-F/VVS. For most projects, it’s overkill. F-G/VS diamonds are considered a standard quality for fine jewelry.
The commercial-grade diamonds for mass production are G-H-I/ SI.
There are lower grades of stones, but they are usually found in low-end or “artisan” jewelry.
The stone itself costs less than the setter’s labor, so using low-grade melee in fine jewelry does not make sense. Small stones are faceted with high precision by machines into ideal cuts with nearly identical proportions.
Setting poorly cut stones is more complicated and time-consuming, thereby offsetting potential savings on diamonds. Inferior diamonds make the micro pave look bumpy and uneven.
Yes, they do, but only very small ones, generally one millimeter or less.
Typically stones used in micro pavé are full-cuts, which means each stone has the same number of facets as any regular-size round brilliant. They sparkle nicely, but as the size gets smaller, the facets also get tinier, and their brilliance loses contrast. It is the dreaded “crushed-ice” look.
Single-cut diamonds have fewer facets ( 17 vs. full-cut’s 57), so each facet is more prominent. Large reflections are brighter and more dramatic.
High-quality single cuts are mainly used in Swiss watches to embellish the dials and mark the hours. The watch industry consumes almost all single cut’s production. The single-cuts are typically used in the most exclusive high-end jewelry.
From an artistic point of view, the single cuts are definitely worth their premium price. Available by special request, the rich, luxurious look of single-cut diamonds is an impressive upgrade from the standard full-cut melee.
Micro pave jewelry should be very smooth to the touch. You should be able to distinguish each diamond when the piece is shaded. Crisp, rounded even beads are covering stones just enough to hold them securely without blocking the view.
Poorly set micro pave has uneven texture, ill-defined rows, and a lack of distinct pattern. Sloppy setting jobs are evident by the shapeless beadwork, uneven gaps between stones, and poorly leveled tables.
To reduce costs, the producers cut corners using cheap overseas labor and low-grade diamonds. This inferior, hastily crafted micro pave jewelry doesn’t stand up well to the test of time.
Take a close look, and you will see a mess of poorly formed misshapen beads barely holding the stones yet still blocking their view.
Micro pavé first appeared in the late 1970s when the faceting of tiny diamonds became fully automated. Until then, the small diamond crystals were slated for industrial use along with black, brown, “cognac,” “chocolate,” “champagne,” and other vile material.
The diamond industry turned what was essentially considered trash into gems worthy of jewelry.
Very soon, European jewelers started to experiment and develop special techniques suitable for setting microscopic diamonds. Setting micro pave requires carving multiple diamond seats simultaneously instead of doing it one at a time. The innovation dramatically speeds up production, making it fast and affordable. Setting micro pave also requires powerful magnification of a microscope.
Initially, micro pavé was employed to highlight the immense value of important gemstones and the high-end couture settings holding them.
Today micro pave has lost its badge of exclusivity thanks to automated diamond cutting, the proliferation of lab-grown diamonds, and industrial-scale manufacturing using unskilled labor.
Micro Pavé is not a fad. It’s a legitimate technique for making beautiful jewelry.
Cheap overseas labor and the flood of small diamonds diminished the micro pave image. What once was an exclusive treatment limited to museum-quality jewels has now become a frequent sign of poor taste.
Micro pave prestige suffers every time a hip-hop star wears a giant dollar sign adorned with thousands of stones or a bloated attorney jams his diamond-encrusted tee into Bermuda turf.
Melee is a category of gemstones and diamonds weighing less than 0.20 carats each. Stones of this size are usually used in sets, mainly as accents or “tiles” in pave. Melee can be any shape, but mainly they are round brilliants. Stones larger than 0.20 carats are rarely used in pave, so it’s correct to assume that every pave is set with melee.
Leon Mege was at the forefront of the micro pave revolution. He was one of the first jewelers in America to develop and use micro pave in his pieces.
Leon Mege coined the term micro-pave in the early 90s and registered the micropave.com URL before the widespread use of micro pave. Throughout his jewelry career, his shop has set hundreds of thousands of diamonds.
Leon Mege is widely credited with pioneering a Belgian-style setting (the type of pave where rows of stones meet at a sharp angle) in the US. Leon Mege is one of only a handful of jewelry designers with intimate knowledge of the work involved in a diamond setting. He is uniquely qualified to assess and mitigate the effect of micro pave on the ring’s design and construction.
All fine jewelry is delicate. Proper precautions are necessary to avoid excessive damage during the wear.
Even the most meticulously crafted micro pavé jewelry is susceptible to eventual damage. The beads holding each stone are very delicate and can be easily broken, bent or squashed.
Rings and bracelets are the leading cause of concern. At the same time, earrings, pendants, and necklaces are rarely damaged because they do not come in direct contact with things and objects. Engagement rings worn daily are the most likely to sustain damage.
Micro pave jewelry is more delicate than jewelry without pave and has to be worn with extra care. Nevertheless, pave is sturdy enough to withstand daily wear and tear. With proper care, it can last forever.
Many factors beyond the quality of the setting determine how long it will last. Personal wearing habits, ring design and fit, and even the shape of a finger can potentially cause damage.
The composite armor of stones embedded into the metal adds strength and protects the metal under the diamond skin.
Wearing jewelry should be enjoyable. If you do not want to bother monitoring your ring’s condition or cannot tolerate a stone loss without a nervous breakdown, you are advised to avoid rings with pave.
Losing a stone or two from your ring can be frustrating, but it is not a cause for concern. Micro pave stones are tiny tiles, and every mosaic eventually loses a few.
When a micro pavé piece is worn daily, this is practically unavoidable.
Some irresponsible salespeople afraid of losing commission are eager to assure clients that they never lose a pave diamond. An honest jeweler experienced in making micro pave jewelry will never say that.
The question is not if but when. In most cases, the cost of replacing the missing stones is negligible.
The poor quality of the setting is usually not the reason the stones get lost. Low-quality pave initially holds well, but its rough surface is prone to snagging on clothing or upholstery. That can pull the beads away, resulting in the stone loss. A smooth, high-end micro pave less likely to snag and is, therefore, safer and more reliable. Over time beads flatten and expand; they grip stones better. However, the overall look of the piece is impaired.
The main culprit behind lost stones is usually metal deformation from rough wear. Often unnoticeable to the owner, the metal bends and dislodges stones from their seats.
Sooner or later, it will happen, but no worries, the lost stones are easily replaced. You are advised to stop wearing the ring immediately and bring it to your jeweler as soon as possible. The metalwork is extremely vulnerable without the stone. It can easily sustain additional damage that might be expensive to repair.
To set a missing stone takes less than an hour, in most cases about 15 minutes, assuming no additional repairs are needed.
It costs about $50 to replace a stone.
Micro pavé can be repaired many times unless it is wrecked or smashed. Bent metal, cracks, ripped pave beads, and other sustained damages require careful attention and service before the new stone can be set in.
Micro pavé jewelry requires the exact same care as any other fine jewelry. Use a soft toothbrush and a bowl of lukewarm water with a drop of dishwashing liquid to brush the piece gently. Rinse with warm water and dry on a paper towel.
In loving hands, a micro pavé ring will stay like-new for many decades.
Diamond melee can be both natural or lab-grown.
All fine jewelry is set with natural diamonds by default. The diamonds are tested at a gem lab, and sealed parcels are delivered to the jeweler to avoid contamination.
Diamond suppliers provide manufacturers with certificates verifying the natural origin of the stones.
Reputable jewelers can guarantee the natural origin of every diamond set in pave.
It is nearly impossible for large producers to prevent occasional cross-contamination.
It is not practical to test each tiny stone after setting them. Even random testing returns inconclusive, often unreliable results. It is generally assumed that low-end jewelry contains up to 20 percent of lab-grown melee.
The lab-grown melee is primarily used in the jewelry set with lab-grown center stones.