Types of Gold Jewelry Explained: Gold Plated, Vermeil, Gold Filled, & Solid Gold
There are so many types of gold jewelry available, which can be very confusing and frustrating when you’re shopping. We’ve all been there - your favorite necklace turning your neck green. At Simple & Dainty, we are committed to handcrafting jewelry that is perfect for everyday wear. We wanted to explain the differences between the types of gold jewelry available - gold plated, gold vermeil, gold filled, and solid gold.
Here's a quick summary - you can also Pin it for later!
Read on for more details, and you’ll see why gold filled & gold vermeil are our main materials!
What is Gold Plated Jewelry?
Gold plated jewelry is a very light layer of gold - 0.05% actual gold or less - on top of a base metal (usually brass or copper). The thin layer of gold is plated onto the base metal to create gold plated jewelry.
Since the gold plating is very thin, the gold can rub off easily. It is also more prone to tarnishing when exposed to any kinds of liquids or chemicals. Although gold itself does not corrode, copper and brass will, especially when exposed to liquids (in the air, sweat, lotion, perfume, etc). Gold plated jewelry is much, much cheaper than the other types of gold jewelry because it uses a tiny amount of gold on top of a base metal. Gold plated jewelry is a good option if you need jewelry for just an occasion, or for trying out new trends.
What is Gold Vermeil?
Gold vermeil (pronounced ver-may) is 2.5 microns of gold plating on top of sterling silver. US standards require there to be at least 2.5 microns of gold plated on top of sterling silver, but some other countries require less, such as Canada only requiring 1.0 micron. It is hypoallergenic, so people with metal allergies can wear it safely. Gold vermeil lasts much, much longer than gold plated jewelry because the plating is so much thicker. Over years, with lots of excessive use, the gold can wear off in areas with a lot of contact.
Since the base metal of gold vermeil is sterling silver, and sterling silver can tarnish, gold vermeil can tarnish if it's left in the open and not sealed in an air tight bag. Luckily, you can easily clean off the dark spots with a polishing cloth. Gold vermeil should be treated just like a sterling silver piece.
We recommend purchasing gold vermeil products from trusted brands because some companies can claim their products are vermeil, but their products don't actually have 2.5 microns of gold. 2.5 microns converted to inches is .0001", so as you can imagine, it's quite hard to measure without proper equipment. At Simple & Dainty, we send our vermeil pieces to a reputable plating factory that has the capability of measuring how much gold they are plating on top of the sterling silver.
Many charms can’t be made of gold filled due to its limitations (more on that soon!), so we use gold vermeil instead. A few of our necklaces have gold vermeil charms on gold filled chains, such as our Dainty Horn Necklace, Roman Coin Necklaces, and Tiny Lock Necklace - and we absolutely adore our gold vermeil rings (Starburst Dome Ring, Starburst Signet Ring, & Dainty Baguette Ring to name a few). Gold vermeil jewelry is a great choice for those who want something to wear daily while still being affordable.
What is Gold Filled?
Gold filled is a solid layer of gold mechanically bonded to a base - jeweler’s brass. US standards require the gold layer to consist of 1/20th (or 5%) of the jewelry’s total weight. Gold filled can be made with 14k or 12k gold, with 14k being more common. Sometimes there is a marking on the jewelry piece that says 1/20 14K GF or 1/20 14K, but not necessarily all the time.
Gold filled jewelry has almost 100x more gold than gold plated jewelry. Since the gold is mechanically bonded to the base rather than plated, it can’t rub off, unlike gold plated jewelry. It has the same qualities as solid gold jewelry at a fraction of the cost - it's tarnish resistant and waterproof, making it great for everyday wear. Gold filled jewelry is also great for people who are allergic to metals, as the material will not cause an allergic reaction.
Gold filled has some limitations because of the way it is manufactured; it is only available in wire or sheet form, so it cannot be casted or poured into a mold. Gold filled charms are either flat (made from sheets), or hollow (two pieces of sheet metal soldered together). Whenever we can't make charms or rings out of gold filled, we use gold vermeil instead.
US gold filled jewelry is our material of choice; we use gold filled where ever we can because it is higher quality than gold vermeil and gold plated, but still not as expensive as solid gold. Our favorite 100% gold filled jewelry includes: Traveler's Coin Necklace, Croissant Hoop Earrings, Everyday Hoop Earrings, Gold Solitaire Ring, Saint Christopher Necklace, and Tiny Tag Necklace.
Brazilian gold filled, which is different than US gold filled, is another type of gold filled that is very popular nowadays. Brazilian gold filled consists of 1/30th (or 3%) of 18k gold over a base metal. It has 40% less gold than US gold filled, but can still last a while with proper care.
We have four Brazilian gold filled pieces: our Herringbone Necklace, Herringbone Bracelet, Chunky Rope Necklace, and Chunky Rope Bracelet. We try to carry US gold filled pieces as much as we can but it can get expensive, so we use Brazilian gold filled to bring the price down.
Overall - gold filled jewelry is perfect for everyday wear because it can handle the wear and tear of daily life, and it's very affordable. With proper care, gold filled jewelry can last a lifetime!
What is Solid Gold?
Solid gold jewelry is just as the name suggests - the whole jewelry piece is made entirely of gold (no base metal). There are many different karats of gold, which determines the amount of gold vs alloy. Pure gold (24k) is too soft and malleable to wear in jewelry, so the gold must be alloyed with other metals to give it strength and durability. 14k solid gold means 14 parts gold (58.3%) and 10 parts alloys (41.7%), while 18k solid gold means 18 parts gold (75%) and 6 parts alloys (25%). The lower the karat, the less expensive it is because it is using less gold.
Solid gold is the best quality of gold there is - it’s great to wear everyday, won't fade, and is hypoallergenic. However, since the entire piece of jewelry is made of gold, it is very expensive and unaffordable to many people. Many retailers of solid gold jewelry also have high markups, so one simple necklace can be hundreds of dollars.
What’s the Best for Me?
The best type of gold jewelry that's suited for you depends on a number of factors, such as your budget, how often you wear your jewelry, whether you’ll be able to take good care of it, and more. We love gold filled and gold vermeil because they're both affordable, yet high quality enough for everyday wear. Here’s a chart that summarizes each type of gold jewelry.
We hope this post was educational to you and helped you understand more about the different types of gold available! Let us know if you enjoyed the post in the comments below, or if you have any questions :)
May 24, 2023
I absolutely love this guide on types of gold jewelry! It’s informative and well-written, making it easy for beginners like me to understand the different styles and trends. The visuals are stunning too, making me want to explore more options for my next gold jewelry purchase. Thank you for sharing!