The Art of Pavé
Pavé and Micropave Explained
There is a lot of confusion regarding the term Pave and Micropave, in fact, Pave has become a generic word used to describe any ring that is set with small diamonds, usually because most jewellers find it easier to show a customer what they want to see rather than take the time to explain the various different techniques of pave setting styles and methods.
Pavé (pronounced pah-vay) derives its name originally from the French word meaning paved or cobblestones. It is a style of setting small diamonds in a single row or slightly offset in mutliple rows. It is used to showcase the fire of diamonds and other gem quality stones. Very little metal is seen in the finished piece of jewellery when the stones are set by an experienced and skilled master setter. In the majority of pavé settings, a very small hole is drilled in the metal for the stone to sit in, and small beads of metal are pushed and raised around each stone one by one, to serve as prongs and hold each stone securely in place.
What is Micropavé ?
As the name suggests, micropavé (or micro-setting) uses smaller stones than traditional pavé, and is a relatively modern technique. Probably best described as the highly precise setting of very small diamonds using a microscope. Many jewellery connoisseurs only consider an item ‘pave’ or ‘micro-pave’ if it was made entirely by hand. Typically Micro-pave will feature 2 or more rows of small diamonds no larger than 1.2mm. Micropave diamonds are set directly into solid metal as opposed to being set into a predrilled hole. Therefore the underside is smooth and solid. Stones are set close together and tightly woven with no separation between each row, forming a honeycomb or pavement pattern.
Many high quality makers of jewellery actually use CAD-CAM to create a bespoke or a custom project but they will not use the technology to form the tiny prongs or beads to hold the stones. Instead, like Daniel Prince, we use a highly skilled diamond setter to meticulously layout each and every diamond to fit into the design, then carefully set each stone by hand. This is very labour intensive and requires Master level diamond setters. As a result, the highest quality micropave setting is a true luxury.
Whilst the pave setting method and style goes back to the earliest days of jewellery making, the finished product coming from the hands of a master setter can make for some of the most breathtakingly beautiful and stunningly intricate designs.
Micro pavé settings have an enduring elegance, however the style has only been around since the early seventies when cutters perfected their cutting technology so that stones could more easily be cut in uniform sizes. Like any fashion or fad, the popularity of any style will come and go, but micro pavé immediately had a timeless luxury about it.
What quality stones are used in micro pavé
At Daniel Prince of London we use collection quality diamonds (meleé) of excellent cut, colour and clarity (typically e/vvs). Whilst they are not large in size (0.50 mm – 1.2 mm) and they are relatively inexpensive, often a ring will contain tens or hundreds of these stones and consequently the labour costs can cause micro pavé to be exclusive as its more expensive.
How are micro pave stones set?
Setting micro pavé is very labour intensive and the finest work can only be achieved by a select few master setters under very high magnification, resulting in an exquisite dance of colours as light reflects off the various rows of diamonds from all angles. There are typically two ways to secure the stones: 6 metal beads will secure 3 stones or 4 smaller beads can secure each stone. Typically the 4 bead technique is preferred because less metal is used and it will result in more sparkle and scintillation. Since there are no shared prongs, stones are less likely to fall out too. A true work of art!
Will stones fall out?
If you opt for a design with micro pavé set stones, there is a good chance you will lose a stone or two over the course of a lifetime, Even with the best setting techniques in the world. When you enjoy a piece of jewellery, you will wear it and stones may become dislodged if the ring bumps against a hard or sharp surface.
Some micro pave designs may have 100-200 diamonds, so there lots of opportunities for a single diamond to fall out. Some of the micro pave diamonds are less than 1mm in diameter and you can imagine the prongs holding these small diamonds are a fraction of that. So the amount of metal actually holding each tiny diamond is very small indeed so any direct hit on one of these small prongs or diamonds could easily dislodge one. Even modern cleaning techniques such as ultrasonics and steam cleaners can dislodge micro pave set stones.
That said, well made micro pave, when cared for, can give many years of problem free wear. The key point is using a jeweller that is willing to replace the occasional missing stone. At Daniel Prince we have a comprehensive guarantee policy for added peace of mind and assurance.
What is the difference between Single Cut Diamonds and Full Cut Diamonds?
We often get asked what the difference is between full cut diamonds and single cut. So I've put together a seperate information page that explains the difference and the pros and cons of one cut over the other. Read more here about What are Single Cut Diamonds.