Pavé diamonds are small stones set in a cluster, making the piece of jewelry they adorn look as if it is paved with them. Stones in pave settings are held in place by small prongs that look more like tiny drops of metal. Let’s see how you should evaluate pave diamonds when you are shopping for jewelry.
Evaluating Pave Diamonds
The value of pave diamonds is based on the four major diamond quality characteristics: color, clarity, cut, and carat weight (size).
As with all diamonds, the more colorless a pave diamond, the higher its value.
Check the color grade of the stones in the pave setting, and keep in mind that you don’t need to pay for the highest possible grade to get pave diamonds that look reasonably white.
Diamonds graded G or H look pretty colorless and do not cost as much as stones with a color grade of D, E or F.
Also, make sure the color of the diamonds in the setting is consistent throughout – you don’t want patches of brighter or darker stones standing out in the diamond cluster and spoiling the overall impression.
The higher the clarity grade of pave diamonds, the higher their value. However, since these stones are small, you don’t need to go for perfect clarity, which nobody would be able to appreciate anyway.
So, instead of buying pave diamonds of FL or IF clarity, take a look at the jewelry made with VS1 or VS2 stones – in most cases, you will find that it looks not much different but is much cheaper.
As with diamond color, you also need to make sure the clarity of the stones in the pave setting is consistent and no diamonds stick out as darker spots when you look at the jewelry.
The cut of pave diamonds is something you don’t need to worry much about. Since these stones are small, they are cut in simpler shapes than diamonds of regular size to reduce labor costs.
Cut affects sparkle and brilliance, and the best way to evaluate them when it comes to pave diamonds is to just look at the set of stones and see how bright it looks.
Pave diamonds are small, and the smaller a diamond, the less it costs per carat. The carat of a pave-diamond piece of jewelry is usually stated in total carat weight (abbreviated TCW or CTW), which is the sum of the carats of all stones in the setting.
By dividing the price of pave jewelry items by their TCW, you can compare them on their price per carat and see which piece is a better deal.
Also, make sure the size of the pave diamonds is consistent and there are no stones that are visibly bigger or smaller than the rest.
Here are some additional guidelines on how to inspect a pave-diamond piece to make sure its quality is acceptable:
Check for loose stones.
To ensure that the pave diamonds are held securely in their places, touch the surface of the piece and run your fingers over it.
There should not be any stones that move or wiggle when touched. Look at the setting with a loupe, and see if there are any prongs that hold their stones loosely.
Check the alignment of the diamonds.
Make sure the pave surface is smooth to the touch. Sometimes, there are stones that are out of alignment because they were not set properly. Check for such diamonds that stick out.
Check for damaged diamonds.
Oftentimes, when pave diamonds are set in a mounting, some of the stones may break if too much force is exerted in the process.
Take a magnifying glass, and look closely at the diamonds: There shouldn’t be any stones that are chipped, cracked, or otherwise damaged.
Stones should not overlap.
Inspect the diamonds with a loupe, and look at how they are arranged. The stones should be set close next to each other, and they can even touch, but they shouldn’t overlap.
If a diamond is set so that a part of it is on top of another stone, the pressure and friction can cause either diamond to chip or crack at some point.
Prongs should not stick out.
Run your fingers over the pave setting’s surface to feel if some of the prongs stick out.
Also, check them using a loupe. If the prongs’ tips sit too high, they could catch on clothes or hair and get easily damaged when hit accidentally.
Prongs should not be too big or too small.
This is a somewhat aesthetic consideration: If the prongs holding the pave diamonds are too big, the stones will be overshadowed.
On the other hand, the prongs should not be too small to hold the stones in place securely.
Where to Buy Diamonds and Diamond Jewelry?
For diamond jewelry, we highly recommend James Allen because it shows real photos and videos for each diamond so you can take a 360-degree look at any stone before buying it.
For colored diamonds, we recommend Leibish & Co., which specializes in fancy color diamonds (use code JewelryNotes200 at checkout to get a 5% discount).