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Metals 101: Gold Plated vs Gold Vermeil vs Gold Fill vs Solid Gold

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There are so many different types of gold jewelry available out there and it can be very confusing and frustrating if you don't know your 4 G's (gold plated, gold vermeil, gold filled and solid gold). Knowing your 4 G's is key to keeping you and your jewelry happy. You know what I am talking about... your favourite earrings turning your ears green or your fave gold necklace no longer looking so gold.

Most jewelry lovers think the terms gold plated, gold vermeil and gold filled are interchangeable, but these jewelry categories are actually very different in very important ways.  At The Pirate + The Gypsy we are committed to handcrafting jewelry that it is perfect for everyday wear and is safe for sensitive skin. Because of this we wanted to explain the differences between the types of gold jewelry available, compare them and decide which is the best choice for you.

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.

What is gold plating?

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 air, sweat, lotion, perfume, etc). Gold plated jewelry is much cheaper than the other types of gold jewelry because it uses a tiny amount of gold. Gold plated is a good option for jewelry you need for just an occasion or trying out new trends.  We do not make any jewelry using gold plating because of my severe metal allergies and our goal here is provide our customers with timeless pieces that can be passed down through the ages.

WHAT IS GOLD VERMEIL?

Gold vermeil (pronounced ver-may) is heavy gold plating (2.5 microns by US standards) over sterling silver. It does not tarnish and is hypoallergenic, so people with metal allergies can wear it safely. Since the gold plating in vermeil is much heavier than gold plated jewelry, the gold lasts much longer and will not rub off (although over time, some gold may wear off).

What is gold vermeil?

Many charms can’t be made gold filled due to the way it’s created, so we use gold vermeil in place. A few of our necklaces have gold vermeil charms on gold filled chains, such as our No Bull Mini NecklaceCrescent Moon Necklace, and Horizontal Name Plate Necklace. Gold vermeil jewelry is a great choice for those who want something to wear daily without tarnishing, while still being affordable.

WHAT IS GOLD FILLED?

Gold filled is a solid layer of gold mechanically bonded to a base - usually jeweler's brass. The layer of gold consists at least 1/20th of the jewelry’s total weight. The gold is usually 14k gold, but sometimes may be 12k gold (sometimes stamped with 14/20 or 12/20, respectively).

What is gold filled?

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. It has the same qualities as solid gold jewelry at a fraction of the cost. Gold filled jewelry is also great for people who are allergic to metals, as the material will not cause an allergic reaction.

Gold filled jewelry is our material of choice; we use gold filled where ever we can, as it’s higher quality than vermeil and gold plated, but still not as expensive as solid gold. Our favourite 100% gold filled jewelry pieces include: Golden Sun StudsGypsy Coin NecklaceGypsy HoopsBeaded Stacker RingPersonalized Coin Necklace, and Aqua Tear Drop Necklace

Gold filled jewelry is perfect for everyday wear, as 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. 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.

What is solid gold?

Solid gold is the best quality of gold there is - it’s great to wear everyday, won’t tarnish or fade, and is hypoallergenic. However, since the whole piece of jewelry is made of gold, it is very expensive and unaffordable to many.  We do offer solid gold jewelry and do our best to bring them to you at the lowest price possible.  A Few of our favorite pieces are our Stevie Ring, Starburst Ring and our Gypsy Queen Ring

Gold Plating and Allergies

If you happen to have allergies to lower base metals like brass, copper or nickel, it’s best to either choose vermeil jewelry or gold filled jewelry. The gold layer on plated jewelry is usually too thin to cover the lower metal, and if any gold begins to wear down, you will get an allergic reaction.

So Which Type of Jewelry Should I Choose?

If you’re looking for the highest-quality, demi-fine jewelry, a vermeil collection with thick plating in 14 k to 18 k gold would be a good choice. If you don’t mind a lower base metal, gold filled pieces are probably your best bet when it comes to long-lasting and durable jewelry.  Gifts for loved ones, bridal jewelry and commemorative pieces are all best suited to vermeil or gold fill. Casual fashion wear or what we call disposable/temporary jewelry, can work great with just a thin layer of gold plating as long as you don't have any metal allergies.  

While pure 14k or 18k gold or platinum pieces are always the best choice for high-quality, permanent pieces of your collection, vermeil and gold filled are a good alternative for the budget-conscious fashionista.

Here’s a chart that summarizes each type of gold jewelry.