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WHAT ARE DIAMOND CHIPS?

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What is a Diamond Chip?

If I point to some small diamonds in a mounting and ask a customer what they are, half the people will say “diamonds“, the other half will say “chips“.

In fact, most customers consider small diamonds “diamond chips“. But you know what? It’s not true.

99.99% of the time “diamond chip” is not the correct answer.

To understand why this is wrong, we need to understand one thing…



What is a diamond chip?

(Not to be confused with chipped diamonds.)

A diamond chip is nothing more than a small jagged piece of diamond. Whether it was mined that way, accidentally broken, or fractured during the cutting process. Either way, it’s a piece of the diamond rock that’s not symmetrical, not cut, or not faceted properly. It’s uneven, lopped off, and not very pretty (see picture.)

Imagine an ice cube. Now imagine crushing that ice cube with a hammer. All those little rough pieces of ice would be considered “chips“. They are rough, incomplete remnants.

Diamond chips are not really round, smooth, or consistent. Plus, they usually don’t sparkle or shine much (because facets, cut, and proportion creates sparkle). The only light you get from them is light reflected off from the surface.

A chip off the old block.

In the olden days, diamond chips were a common thing. Men would just chop off one side of a diamond and stick the chip into a mounting. Easy as that. They figured the diamond was small and hard to see anyway. Putting small facets on a tiny diamond seemed pretty pointless, time consuming, and costly.

If you look at any antique jewelry, estate pieces, or vintage jewelry with a microscope or a 10x jeweler’s loupe you’ll probably run across a few uneven chunks of diamond chips.

Faceted diamonds replaced chips.

Diamond chips worked well until the invention of the modern diamond cutting machine. This machine was able to hold and cut the tiny diamonds which quickly replaced the need for chips. Jewelers could use stones that were faceted, symmetrical, and had sparkle. That was a huge bonus and really made the jewelry look better.

These small faceted diamonds were called “melee” or “single cuts“, and sometimes even called “accent stones“.

Most of these small diamonds are under .10 points in size. Look at any rings, pendants, bracelets, or earrings in the jewelry stores today and you’ll find plenty of single cut stones.

The funny thing is, you will probably never hear a jeweler use the term “diamond chip” anymore. That is a derogatory phrase that is very misleading, especially since chips are a thing of the past. Customers are the only ones that still call them chips. For some reason the name has stuck and I have a feeling it’s not going anywhere.

“Oh look… a chip!”

In over 20 years of looking at jewelry, I’ve only come across a couple of items that actually had real diamond chips in them. They were pretty fascinating to see.

One ring had a diamond set in the mounting that literally stuck right up like a pyramid (that was a crazy weapon). Very dangerous.

The other one didn’t look so bad. It was almost flat on top, but the stone was not round in the least. It was like a wobbly tire with grooves.

Needless to say, a chip can take on any shape or form because it’s just a fragment or a broken chunk of diamond.

Melee diamonds:

Chips may not be around anymore, but there are certainly tons and tons of melee or single cut diamonds out there. There are actually more melee than full cut diamonds.

Pretty much any diamond that’s small, like under .10 points or so, is probably a melee. Melee diamonds only have around 16-18 facets on them. Just enough to give them some sparkle and shine. A full faceted diamond like the brilliant cut, has 58 facets to it.

Chips sold today:

Even though chips have died out long ago, there are still jewelers that sell chips. Most will carry these chips in case they need to repair an antique ring or vintage piece of jewelry (granted, I have run across at least one place that still puts chips in modern diamond engagement rings, so it’s wise to magnify them).

They can still call these diamonds “chips” (they have to disclose that), so you won’t get them confused with a real faceted diamond. And they do sell these stones much cheaper than regular cut diamonds (which is the selling point). That’s also a good thing.

But, they state that these chips have great sparkle… This is hard to believe (impossible to believe). Chips aren’t faceted, so they can’t refract light. They don’t sparkle like a faceted diamond. Facets are what makes a diamond sparkle. Without them, they’d be dull, dark and dreary.

My advice:

Pass the chips up. They’re not worth the deal. A chip is a broken fragment of diamond. Look at it under a microscope. Judge for yourself. It’s not worth the savings. Plus, you would never be able to resell a chip. Ever! No one wants them.

If you want a diamond, buy a faceted one.

Because a chip is a chip…

And a melee is a diamond.

Cheers! :)


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1 Comment on WHAT ARE DIAMOND CHIPS?

  1. There are currently some “table-cut” diamonds sold (usually in gold-plated silver “antique” style jewelry), which look a lot like diamond chips: the have a large ‘table’, so they look very large for their carat weight, but their shape is uneven… How much do you believe such a diamond would cost, e.g. one of 0.25ct?

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