Leon Megé European-trained setters are masters of setting diamonds and gemstones using a technique called “pavé,” from the French for “pavement.” Pavé stones are held in place with “beads” – rounded, raised wedges of metal.
Old styles of pavé are so-called “illusion” types. They were designed to work with stones that are less than uniform in size and shape. In order to mask these inconsistencies, setters would engrave faux shiny surfaces on the metal of the setting so the diamonds would blend in. The old “fishtail” pavé used engraved external V-shaped grooves resembling a fishtail to achieve that goal.
The most easily recognizable type of pavé is called “Bright Cut.” In this method, stones are placed between two reflective surfaces confined by parallel walls. These surfaces are either smooth or granulated (millgrained).
Leon Megé was one of the first jewelers to bring the micro pavé technique to the US. The term micro pavé has lost its original meaning; it is currently used to describe pavé that is set with very small stones – less than 1 point (0.01 ct) each. The process of setting stones that are so small (less than 1.2 mm) in diameter must be done using a microscope, hence the adoption of the term “micro pavé” to simply mean “microscopic setting.”
Setting micro pavé is a meticulous process done by our highly skilled craftsmen. This level of precision is only possible by using high magnification and specialized tools. The end result of this tedious process is sparkling micro pavé jewelry that is certain to draw the eye of anyone who sees it.
Unlike earrings and pendants, rings are subjected to constant wear, sometimes extreme, because our hands are in perpetual use throughout the day. We often don’t realize how much duress a ring will sustain during its daily interaction with the environment.
Pavé stones held in place by the skin of their teeth were never meant to withstand the nonstop daily use of one’s finger. The smaller the stones, the smaller the beads will be. A typical micro pavé bead is only 0.015 mm in size!
The sheer beauty of micro pavé, originating as an exclusive element of couture jewelry meant to be only occasionally worn, eventually transitioned into the realm of bridal jewelry that is worn daily. Doorknobs, handrails, handles, and countless knocks on tabletops and counters all leave a mark every time they come in contact with a ring. Even softer surfaces such as wood or leather could bend or dent a ring when enough force is applied. Compounded daily, these minute impacts cause the beads holding the pavé stones to weaken, bend or break, and can cause a diamond to fall out.
A missing pavé stone is not a disaster – it’s something that is easily remedied by any diamond setter specializing in micro pavé. In most cases, it’s not an indication of poor craftsmanship but rather a natural outcome of our choice to wear our jewelry every day. Micro pavé jewelry, just like all other bridal jewelry, is not eternal; it will be affected by the relentless advent of time, although the rate at which the micro pavé jewelry disintegrates depends almost entirely on one’s awareness of her immediate surroundings.
Leon Megé Standard Diamond Grade
At Leon Megé, all-round diamonds under 2.0 mm in diameter used in pavé are:
- Ideal cut
- Uniform in proportion
- Color F-G or higher
- Clarity VS or higher
- Having no fluorescence
With rare exceptions, this is the standard grade for small stones, called a melee, used in all our jewelry. Our price estimates are all based on this grade of stones.
The old, as well as the new pavé techniques, could be also used with modern, precisely calibrated diamonds produced by machines. These ideal-cut stones are full-cut 57-facet diamonds just like the much bigger stone you might have on your hand. The smallest diamonds we have ever worked with were 0.4 mm in diameter – smaller than a grain of the finest sand.
At Leon Megé, we use exclusively F/G -VS grade of ideal-cut diamonds with no fluorescence.
Single-cut diamonds have only 17 facets. In the old days, single cuts were low-grade, poorly shaped stones that were too small to cut by hand. These days, single-cut diamonds are premium stones and cost more. The reason for this is that in such small sizes, the facets of a full-cut stone are too small to produce a noticeable reflection, negatively affecting the stone’s fire and brilliance.
Swiss watchmakers, for example, use exclusively single cuts for the watch dial’s hour markers.
We are able to use single cut diamonds on customer request. There is a steep premium for using these stones, which makes them less practical. However, for projects involving antique-cut stones, the use of single-cut diamonds might be a good choice.
We discourage the use of lower color stones in pavé because that affects the appearance of the pavé. Lower color melee is usually produced with inconsistent proportions and less precision. Pavé resulting from the use of such stones will look rugged, uneven, misaligned and unbalanced.
At Leon Megé, we do not consider a center stone with lower color to be detrimental to its natural beauty, so we view matching the pavé color as pointless and unnecessary. We urge our customers to embrace their stone for its natural beauty and not try to blend it in with the pavé but rather think of it as a focal point framed by the finest diamond pavé.
Reducing Pavé Cost
Setting pavé is a time-consuming process that requires highly skilled labor. Since the cost of setting stones is much higher than the cost of the stones themselves, the use of less expensive, lower grade stones will not lead to an overall cost reduction. Similarly, colored stones are more difficult to set and are more prone to breakage, which will offset the savings in stone cost.
The latest scourge of the diamond industry is mixing synthetic diamonds with natural ones, done usually overseas by some unscrupulous suppliers. The industry currently estimates an average of between 5% and as much as 30% of mixed parcels can be found in any given lot.
Machines capable of detecting and sorting huge quantities of minute stones are very expensive and scarce, so only a handful of producers are able to guarantee that all their melee is of natural origin. Our diamond suppliers are among the fortunate few who employ such a machine on a regular basis, and they state that fact in writing.
Nonetheless, as a consumer, you should not be overly concerned about an occasional synthetic stone mixed in, since the stones are indistinguishable and their value differential is insignificant when compared to the cost of actually setting them.
Replacing a missing pavé stone is not a complicated task. On the other hand, repairing or re-tipping pavé beads is difficult. Sometimes the metal is worn out because of the age of the piece or due to friction between adjacent rings. Repairing such a ring might be impractical because of the costs involved. Re-setting a single micro pavé stone rarely costs more than $50. The best option is to get the ring to us; the repair is usually done the same day. If you prefer taking the ring to a local jeweler, make sure that the repair is done under a microscope.
In most cases, we give our customers the benefit of the doubt and (when asked nicely!) waive the charge the first time a stone is lost, unless the ring is showing signs of neglect or has been worn for more than a few months.
Most of the time, the stones in micro pavé become lost when the ring is bent or warped. When this occurs, the ring must be examined in order to determine whether any structural damage has occurred. Because of this, any potential repair costs can only be estimated after careful examination of the piece.
“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.
The channel setting and pave setting is not the same. Average consumers often confuse a channel setting with a bright-cut pave. Both look remarkably similar, especially when set with small diamonds.
Despite their visual similarity, there is a significant difference in how the stones are held. From a jeweler’s standpoint, channel and pave have nothing in common.
Bright-cut pave has tiny, bead-shaped prongs holding the stones. The pave walls are borders; they merely frame the rows of stones adding definition to the space covered with pave. In contrast, the wall of the channel setting overlaps the stones, so the walls’ edges are holding them.
In the past, mass production relied on channel setting as the cheapest way to add bling to low-end jewelry.
Modern CAD technology makes it easier for an unskilled setter to set pave. More affordable pave replaced channel-setting as the cheapest way of setting small stones. The channel setting is still widely used for setting square baguettes and French cut diamonds in high-end pieces.
Stones in Bright-cut pave are laid along the bottom of a V-shaped chiseled groove. The groove’s walls work as mirrors, giving diamonds the illusion of having a different shape determined by the edge boundaried. Because of that, the bright-cut pave was used for concealing the irregular shapes of antique diamonds. Correcting odd shapes is no longer needed for modern precision-cut, perfectly calibrated stones.
Vintage bright-cut pave was usually set with two common beads holding two adjacent stones. Additional beads would be used to fill the gaps between stones. In contrast, a contemporary bright-cut pave usually has four beads for each stone. The stones are better secured, and the beads are less visible.
Millgrain (millegraine or milgrain) is a row of decorative beading along the top edge of the wall. This row of tiny beads is embossed with a special tool. It gives a piece an intricate, lacy appearance. It is also helpful for masking nicks and scratches from wear and tear. Millgrain was used extensively during Victorian and Edwardian times.
Advancements in machine cutting allow small diamonds to be so precise that the need for corrective measures such as mirrors and borders has disappeared.
Cut-down, mushroom, V-cut, and fishtail are variations of single row pave where the metal on both sides of the diamonds slopes away. The main difference is in the way the metal on both sides of the pave is finished. That and the relationship between metal width and stone sizes gives each style its distinct rounded look.
The vast majority of modern pave uses four equally-spaced beads to hold each stone. Unlike old-fashioned two-bead pave, four beads are better at holding stones. In a shared bead setting, two beads are shared by neighboring stones.
Since there are fewer of them, each bead is thicker. Two-prong pave visually stretches the stones, and they appear slightly ovalish.
Cut-down pave is a single row of stones with small arches and small vertical slits on both sides. Occasionally called French pave or U-cut, cut-down is familiar to professional jewelers and setters as the most common pave.
Mushroom pave is possible only with tiny stones of less than 1.2 mm on the metal of the same width. It’s a delicate type of setting used to embellish decorative elements, baskets, and prongs. It creates a miniature string of stones seemingly suspended in the air.
V-cut pave set with larger stones – 1.3 mm and up. The V-shaped pattern engraved on both sides of the diamonds camouflages the excess of metal. The engraving is a low-profile bas-relief of prong-like extensions intersected at an acute angle. This is a labor-intensive type of setting suitable for larger stones.
Fishtail pave is a pattern of small mirrors faceted on the metal next to the stones. These mirrors mimic diamond facets in how they reflect the light, creating the illusion of larger stones. The facets mask the exposed metal, which is left thicker for strength. The metal faceting echoes the look of the forked tail of a fish, hence the name. Fishtail pave makes small diamonds (1.1 mm or less) look bigger and sparklier. Larger stones require a deeper engraving that looks like spur gear.
Micro pave is a gemstone mosaic covering the surface of the metal. It has multiple interlocking rows of stones that follow the exterior curve.
Micro pave is usually set with small stones, but it can also include stones of all sizes. Micro pave is used as a generic term to describe any pave set with small stones. This usage is not correct. A single row of pave is not micro pave, no matter how small the stones are.
Random pave is a variation of micro pave. Instead of uniform stone sizes, it has a mix of sizes arranged together in an artistic, nature-invoking, seemingly random way.
Belgium pave is formed by two interlocking rows of pave meeting at a sharp angle. Very difficult to set, therefore rarely used.
Royal pave or six-bead pave
Royal pave is an old-fashioned technique, a precursor of modern pave. It forms a honeycomb pattern dotted with metal beads. Each bead is the tip of a prong occupying a small space between three adjacent stones. One bead holds all three stones at the same time.
Modern pave is easily recognizable – it has a rounded look without hard edges, and stones stand out from the underlying metal. The setting is done by jamming each diamond into a cone-shaped opening and pushing it down with small beads.
There is always a compromise between the beauty and wearability of pave. Smaller beads are less visible. However, their tiny size also makes them more vulnerable to wear and tear.