The Pavé Setting: The Complete Guide

by * Aug 17, 2021

Key Takeaways

  • Pavé is one of the most popular setting styles for engagement rings, and a great way to add in extra sparkle without going over your budget.
  • Pavé diamonds are almost always Round Brilliant melee diamonds, which are purchased by jewelers in bulk but very rarely individually graded. A good jeweler will use melee diamonds of very, very similar quality to avoid any noticeable discrepancies between the stones.
  • Pavé does make the process of resizing a ring difficult. For this reason, a half-pavé ring, rather than a full-pavé, can be a wiser choice.
  • Most wearers find pavé comfortable but, again, some do prefer a half-pavé for greater comfort and wearability.
pave diamond ring solitaire and pave wedding ring

Creating the perfect ring is, above all else, a process of learning quite how many different factors go into the creation of a single diamond ring. While that center diamond is undoubtedly your primary concern as you head into the jewelry store for the first time, it won’t be long before your jeweler starts asking questions about the rest of the ring, beyond that focal point.

More specifically, it won’t be long before they want to get your perspective on one of the most popular settings out there today: the pavé.

Beautiful, eye-capturing, and incredibly versatile, this technique is one that we would recommend all but the most minimalistic shoppers consider – and something you should keep at the front of your mind when you consult with your jeweler.

What is a Pavé Setting Engagement Ring?

Many small diamonds set closely alongside one another around the shank (band) of the ring.

The word pavé is French for ‘paving’ – pronounced pah-vey – as the jeweler quite literally paves the ring with these tiny, sparkling diamonds like stones along a sidewalk.

A pavé setting can be used the full length of the band, or halfway (leaving the palm-side of the band clear). Its popularity stems from the fact that it offers a great way to complement the center diamond – or diamonds – without risking overshadowing them.

What Size Are Pavé Diamonds?

Generally around 0.01 to 0.02 carats in weight, or about 1.5 – 1.7mm in diameter if your pavé stones are round cut. Any larger, and your jeweler would need to make the shank noticeably wider.

No diamond is pulled from the earth sparkling and perfectly faceted; it takes time and expertise to cut away the excess and craft the rough stone into a symmetrical and mesmerizing diamond. Pavé diamonds are created inadvertently during this cutting process, as small fragments that, with some shaping and polishing, emit their own beautiful sparkle.

In the US, they’re often referred to as ‘smalls’ or melee diamonds, provided they’re less than 0.2 carats in weight. But, believe it or not, melee diamonds can be much smaller than that. As a rare substance, no part of the diamond is wasted, provided it can still be turned into something beautiful. These minute stones, sometimes smaller than a millimeter in diameter, are used to create micro-pavé settings for skinny bands.

Are Pavé Diamonds Worth Anything?

Yes, but they are almost always sold in bulk, and for a price nowhere near as high as a larger, single diamond.

All diamond has value, and melee diamonds will never be considered useless. The popularity of pavé, channel and halo settings mean that there will always be a demand for these tiny offcuts, though, obviously, not the same level of demand that there is for beautiful center diamonds – particularly those above one carat in weight.

Consider the fact that, for every dazzling diamond atop someone’s engagement ring, there is at least a small handful of melee diamonds out there. These diamonds will have been added to a larger collection, and sold to jewelers based on their total carat weight (TCW), rather than individually.

When you buy a pavé set ring, you might see the phrase ‘total carat weight’ used. This is simply an easier way of calculating the cost of many tiny diamonds. A total carat weight of, say, one will likely cost less than a one carat diamond of similar quality, since larger diamonds are less common.

Are Pavé Diamonds Good Quality?

This depends on your source. A reputable jeweler will ensure proper sourcing, which will make certain that the diamonds are real (not lab grown) and that they are conflict free, whereas online-only sources may not be quite so thorough.

Since pavé diamonds are sold by the bag, it is all too easy for poor quality, artificial or unethically sourced stones to be added into the mix in order to raise the (supposed) TCW of the collection.

Online jewelry producers deal with thousands of orders, and, for some, individually checking each diamond that comes into their production line is absolutely impossible. Each business will have their own methods for sorting these diamonds, but we would always recommend the expertise and painstaking eye of your chosen jeweler.

Not only will they be able to offer complete transparency about how they source their diamonds, but they will be able to give you the time and knowledge you need in order to feel secure in your purchase. It takes an expert to look at a diamond so small and assess whether or not it’s up to standard, so ask your jeweler as many questions as you need.

Like with your center diamond, you’ll want your pavé diamonds to have look eye clean, close to colorless and be uniformly cut. The smaller the diamond, the more difficult it is to spot any inclusions or blemishes, but some melee diamonds can still suffer from poor clarity. Again, finding quality diamonds will be simple if you work with a reputable local jeweler.

jeweler creating diamond ring - The Pavé Setting

Are Pavé Diamonds Always Round?

Round or Oval cut pavé diamonds (more commonly referred to as melee diamonds) are far more common than other shapes.

It is, however, possible for you to accent your ring’s design with other shapes. For instance, channel settings using very small Emerald cut diamonds enjoy some popularity, so you can talk to your jeweler abut this.

Round melee diamonds, however, mean that you are able to capture as much sparkle as possible within your pavé setting. The eye will inevitably be drawn to that center stone, and the pavé will create a stunning sparkle in the background, which is why so many people prefer to stick to the traditional round pavé diamonds.

How Do You Keep Pavé Diamonds From Falling Out?

With prongs or tiny metal beads, which secure the diamonds in place without being too obvious.

From a distance, anyone could be forgiven for thinking that those pavé diamonds are somehow floating in the band, and that the slightest knock could send them flying at all angles.

This is, of course, an illusion – and an example of how stealthy an expert jeweler can be when it comes to securing even the smallest of diamonds in their place. It’s not easy, but the idea is always to make it look as though they simply belong there, and as though the metalwork securing them in place is simply a part of the shank’s decoration.

It takes a great deal of detail, precision and patience, the results are definitely worth it in the end.

Do Pavé Diamonds Fall Out Easily?

No – not so long as they’ve been set by an experienced jeweler, and the diamonds sourced from a quality supplier.

It’s not impossible for any diamond to work itself loose from its setting over time but, with regular check-ins at your jeweler’s – say, once or twice a year – and a gentle cleaning and maintenance routine, this is pretty unlikely to happen.

What Is The Difference Between Pavé And Channel Set Diamonds?

The method of securing the diamonds in place. While a pavé setting leaves the metalwork holding the diamonds in place visible, channel settings leave the diamonds looking as though they are simply floating within the band.

As the name suggests, a channel setting required the jeweler to create a channel inside the shank that the melee diamonds can fit into. They are secured using a very fine groove cut into this channel (the girdle, or wide edge) of the diamond can slot into, or by creating a very small lip over the top of the diamond.

The result? The diamonds seem to have been embedded within the shank without the need for any small metal prongs or beads.

The difference between a pavé and channel setting is pretty subtle from a distance, but much more obvious up close – particularly when you know what you’re looking for – and is pretty much a matter of personal preference.

What’s more, pavé and channel settings often feature different diamond shapes – another factor which might sway you one way or another…

What Shape Are Pavé Diamonds?

99 times out of 100, pavé settings feature round or oval cut diamonds.

These shapes are also the easiest to get a hold of when shopping for melee diamonds. And, if you’re looking to use your pavé setting to create as much extra sparkle around the finger as possible, a round cut will be your best bet.

The round cut is also versatile enough that it looks great alongside any diamond shape. This emerald cut pavé engagement ring, for instance, features a half-pavé of round cut diamond rings which perfectly balance with the center stone. While the step cut sparkles in a more controlled, geometric way than those round melee diamonds, one complements the other, rather than appearing incompatible.

If you’re interested in decorating the shank with diamonds of more unusual shapes, however, it is still possible, but the channel setting is better suited to holding them in place. A step cut diamond, for instance, can create a striking impression when embedded within the shank – although these shapes will likely be a little more expensive.

Does Pavé Make the Diamond Look Bigger?

The extra sparkle can definitely play a little trick on the eye, and make the entire ring look more dominant on the hand. It won’t make a huge difference, but the results will be gorgeous, nonetheless.

The best part about a pavé setting is that it doesn’t encroach upon the diamond at all – it offers a beautiful complement to that center setting while remaining secondary to it.

Pavé diamonds sparkle in a very different way to large diamonds. Their much smaller surface area – and the fact that there are more of them – mean that they seem to react to light like glitter, with a dazzling twinkle that rolls over the bridge of the finger with every hand movement and gesture.

A solitary center diamond of around one carat or more sparkles in the same way, but on a bigger scale. The effect is totally different, and more mesmerizing – flashes of fire and brilliance, rather than a continuous, bright glimmer.

Together, the effect is truly entrancing – and a compelling reason to complement your diamond with a pavé setting.

Can Pavé Settings be Resized?

Yes, but this setting can make it much more complicated, depending on how much of the shank features these small diamonds.

Resizing a ring is always a complicated business. It’s much easier to say, ‘I’ll have it put down a size,’ than it is for a jeweler to work out how to alter the size of the shank without interrupting any of those intricate details or shapes.

A full pavé – that is, one that covers the entire shank – will be incredibly difficult to resize, since each diamond is placed uniformly along the shank and cannot be moved a single millimeter in either direction.

If the pavé only features on the shoulders (upper half) of the ring, then the jeweler will have more space to stretch or remove a segment of the ring. Still, a process like this is far from simple, and may still require the jeweler to spend a lot of time ensuring that none of the ring’s decorative elements are disrupted by the change.

Our advice? Find a way to figure out her ring size as accurately as possible, depending on how much of a secret your ring shopping is. Ask a friend, sister, or mom – check her jewelry box – or whip out the tape measure while she’s napping.

holding hands with halo diamond ring pave setting - The Pavé Setting

Is Pavé Comfortable?

Yes, as the diamonds are only placed along the edges of the shank that do not press against the finger.

If you’re still worried about the diamonds poking or scratching, then go for a half-pavé instead – that way, the palm-side of the shank will be smooth and site comfortably at the base of the finger throughout the day.

What is a Cathedral Pavé Setting?

A combination of the arched, cathedral shape rising above the shank, and completed with a pavé setting for added sparkle.

One of the most important things to know about the pavé setting is quite how versatile it is. Whether you wish to use it with a cathedral setting, on a split or twisted shank, or on either side of a three stone engagement ring setting, its beautiful though understated look will harmonize with the center setting – and the rest of the rings design – without looking like ‘too much’.

Is Platinum Better for Pavé?

Yes and no – but, in general, it comes down to personal preference. Platinum is tricky to work with and, as a result, more expensive, but the results are truly striking and worth the added investment.

Platinum is a strong metal, and working it into the incredibly precise and minute shapes the jeweler needs to achieve when creating a pavé setting is no mean feat. It takes a lot of work to get it right, particularly because of the fact it needs to be perfect the first time round, as platinum is no good for jewelry after being re-melted.

Don’t let that frighten you off, however; a good jeweler will know what to do. Besides, no other precious metal can rival platinum’s luminescent, white sheen – something which will make your pavé diamonds look as bright as stars when they are finally placed upon your bride-to-be’s finger.

Even so, the incredible contrast created between clear pavé diamonds and a warm toned band, like this rose gold halo cut engagement ring, is not an option that any shopper should be quick to cast aside.

A gold band, whether yellow, rose, or white, will also work out a little cheaper than platinum, but you can’t be sure where your preference lies until you see these metals in person – and, of course, how they interact with diamond.

What is French Pavé?

A subtle variation on the standard pavé, this style features a little ‘V’ shaped groove between each melee diamond.

Not only does this add more intricacy and texture to the shank but, most importantly, it allows a little extra light to reach each of the melee diamonds. In turn, this helps to create a little more sparkle.

The pavé diamonds are still secured in place using beads or prongs, though they are that bit more vulnerable to snagging on clothing, since more of the diamond is left uncovered in French pavé.

Can You Have a Pavé Wedding Band?

Yes, one of the most effective ways of making a wedding band look more special – or as part of a cohesive set with the engagement ring – is to use a pavé setting.

You might choose to mirror the pavé band in both your engagement ring and your wedding band, or to keep the shank of your engagement ring plain, and complement its center stone with a more intricated wedding band decorated with tiny pavé diamonds.

Again, you could pick either a full or half-pavé, keeping in mind the difficulty involved in resizing a full pavé band.

couple with diamond ring pave setting - The Pavé Setting

So, Should You Pick a Pavé Setting?

Out of all the design elements you can choose from as you begin designing your engagement ring, pavé is one of the most beautiful, most versatile, and most popular styles out there.

There is something very beautiful about a simple, plain band that lets the center diamond do all the talking but, at the same time, echoing that diamond’s incredible sparkle within the twinkling light of a pavé band is the ultimate way to bring any ring design to the next level.

As always, our best advice is to take a look for yourself. There’s no easy way of describing the magical way these tiny pavé diamonds explode with brilliance and fire when they are worn on the finger, and we defy anyone to make up their mind before they’ve seen it for themselves.