Gold is a sensational color and it's no wonder why so many people love to wear gold jewelry. But what exactly does "gold" mean when it comes to jewelry?
Photo by David William Baum
There are four different types of gold that you might come across when browsing for your next piece: plated, filled, vermeil, and solid gold. Let's break it down.
Gold-plated jewelry typically has the thinnest layer of precious metal over a base metal like brass or silver. This process is done by taking the item that is made of either brass or silver then dipping it in a gold solution for a brief period of time. The gold content of jewelry that has been plated is generally less than 1%.
To tell whether a piece is gold-plated, look at the inside or back of the piece — it should say "gold-plated" on a stamp. If you can't verify if it's gold-plated by looking, try to ask the seller or brand before making any decisions.
Keep in mind gold-plated jewelry should be treated like a costume piece and not worn every day. It will eventually wear off, leaving your piece with a layer of base metal showing underneath. This is generally what causes the skin to get discolored.
While gold-plated can be a beautiful and affordable option for jewelry, it has a limited amount of wearability and requires a little bit more maintenance and upkeep to ensure it lasts. If you're looking for something more durable or with a higher gold content, consider moving up the chain into one of these other three options: filled, vermeil or solid gold.
Gold-filled jewelry is similar to gold-plated, but undergoes a different mechanical process and contains more pure gold content. Instead of dipping the base metal in a gold bath, the gold is melted onto the base metal in gold filled jewelry.
By law, gold filled jewelry must contain a minimum of 5% pure gold by weight for it to be classified as such and because of a higher gold content, it will be less likely to wear off and should last much longer than a piece that is plated with gold. While filled jewelry will retain its gold color for a longer period of time, it will experience a similar fate to gold-plated jewelry and eventually discolor and tarnish over time.
Pronounced ver·may, the word "vermeil" in French means "gilded silver." Gold vermeil is similar to plated and filled jewelry in that most vermeil jewelry use a base metal made of sterling silver, which has been gilded with a layer of gold. However, vermeil differs from plated and filled items because the thickness and karat level of the coating tend to be thicker. The thickness will vary depending on each maker, but expect at least three times as much thickness compared to its plated and filled counterparts. Not only that, vermeil jewelry undergoes an additional process to create an oxidized change in the appearance and help prevent tarnishing by rubberizing the surface.
Gold vermeil jewelry is a hot topic in the industry. It has been going strong for years, and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. The advantage to buying vermeil jewelry is that because less precious metal was used during production, they are usually more affordable than pieces that are solid gold.
Don't be fooled by how much it weighs on your finger though — most of that weight in a piece like this comes from its base metal and not the actual precious material. If you are interested in adding to your collection but would prefer something solid instead of plated, solid gold is the way to go.
Last but not least, we have our good old-fashioned solid gold jewelry! This is the real deal when it comes to a high content of precious metal. Unlike the other three options that are plated or coated in gold on top of a base metal, when something is made from pure gold, it's considered to be solid.
If you have the budget, solid gold pieces are always the best option because these don't have any base metals, giving you the highest quality of gold. Because it's 100% pure, in most cases, you'll find that more expensive pieces are always solid gold.
On the interior of solid gold pieces, there will always be a stamp indicating the Karat. These items should be cared for just like any other expensive piece of jewelry and are durable enough to wear everyday or worn on special occasions. Solid gold jewelry is a long-term investment that will last a lifetime and beyond!
Photo by David William Baum
The first thing to consider when purchasing a new piece is what type of metal you want your jewelry made out of. The quality of the metal is important to consider because metals might react differently in certain conditions, especially in wet environments like hot-sweaty-weather, showers, pools or oceans.
Plated and filled pieces tend to be lower in cost because they don't have as much precious material used like vermeil or solid gold pieces. Keep in mind that if you're wearing the piece every day, you will probably need to get it re-plated at some point.
For those who are looking for quality jewelry but still want an affordable option, vermeil is usually the best bet because of its durability and price range. Similar to gold plated or filled jewelry though, you will still need to get your item gold-vermeil coated down the road.
Finally, solid gold jewelry is generally the most expensive option, but with proper care, it will last you a lifetime. You may wear this jewelry every day without worrying about it tarnishing. Of course, professional cleaning is still recommended once a year to maintain its durability.
As a result, we choose to use solid 14k gold for all of our INO gold jewelry. What we bring into the world, both in terms of tangible and the intangible, is critical. We don't want to make more goods; we want to make better ones. That is why we believe it is imperative to pass along knowledge surrounding jewelry.
If you have any concerns about the materials we use in our gold jewelry, please visit our process page or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.