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Types of Gold Jewelry Explained: Gold Plated, Vermeil, Gold Filled, & Solid Gold

Updated: Nov 19, 2022

Throughout my experience with fast fashion accessory brands, most of the pieces would easily tarnish and were said to be nickel-free according to their website write-up. Nevertheless, I would purchase a few pieces, and they would only last me a night or two. After years of experiencing this, I wanted to create a brand that used sustainable materials that would not easily tarnish, were hypoallergenic for sensitive skin, and were also handcrafted perfectly for everyday wear. This is why I 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 of the differences between the types of gold jewelry:

What is Gold Plated Jewelry?

Gold-plated jewelry is a very thin layer of gold (0.05% actual gold or less) on top of a base metal (usually brass or copper). A thin layer of gold is plated onto the base metal to create gold-plated jewelry.

Since the gold plating is very thin, it can rub off easily. It is also more susceptible 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 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 to try out new trends.

What is Gold Vermeil?

Gold vermeil, or just vermeil (pronounced "ver-may"), is a term used to refer to jewelry or other items made of silver and coated with gold. That’s really a simple explanation, isn’t it? Don’t worry, let’s go into more details:)

How is Gold Vermeil Made?

Vermeil jewelry is made by first creating the base of the item out of silver and then plating it with a layer of gold. The method used to cover the surface of the piece with gold is called electrolysis. Gold vermeil can be made with gold of varying purity. The minimum requirement for a piece of jewelry to be considered vermeil is that it be plated with gold that is at least 10 karats (which corresponds to approximately 45% of gold content). At Boho Beau, our vermeil pieces are purchased from a reputable 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 fill 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 North Star Necklace, Vida Heart Engraved Necklace, and Adella Mermaid Pendant Necklace. 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 (also known as rolled gold) comprises a solid brass (copper and zinc) core to which gold is then mechanically bonded using heat and pressure. By law, gold-filled items must contain 5%, or 1/20, of gold by weight. The gold used is generally 12K or 14K, but sometimes it may be 12K gold (sometimes stamped with 14/20 or 12/20, respectively).

What do we mean by 12K, 14K or 18K?

It means how much gold actually contained in your jewelry pieces.

24 karat = 100% gold

Too soft for fine jewelry

22 karat = 92.7% gold

Too soft for fine jewelry

18 karat = 75.0% gold

Ideal for fine jewelry

14 karat = 58.3% gold

Ideal for fine jewelry

10 karat = 41.7% gold

Ideal for fine jewelry

14k/20 Gold filled = 5% gold

Ideal for fine jewelry

Gold vermeil = 0.5 –1% gold

Not suitable for fine jewelry

Gold plated = 0.05% gold

Not suitable for fine jewelry

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 metal, we use gold vermeil instead.

Gold-filled jewelry has almost 100 times 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.

We prefer US gold filled jewelry whenever possible because it is higher quality than gold vermeil and gold plating but less expensive than solid gold.Our favorite 100% gold-filled jewelry includes the Karma Necklace, Lexi White CZ Necklace, Love Knot Ring, and Bar Stud Earrings.

Overall, gold-filled jewelry is perfect for everyday wear because it can handle the wear and tear of daily life and is 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 determine the amount of gold in an alloy. Pure gold (24 karat) 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 uses less gold.

Solid gold is the best quality of gold there is; it’s great to wear every day, 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 like gold filled and gold vermeil because they are both affordable and of high enough quality to be worn every day.

Here are some steps in case you need them before you start your journey with Boho Beau.

  • Store your jewelry in your fabric pouch when it’s not being worn.

  • Wear no jewelry to bed (sleeping without jewels improves your sleep quality).

  • Potions and lotions will corrode the gold coating over time, so always put jewelry on after applying perfume.

  • Wear rubber gloves when cleaning, as bleach and harsh chemicals can thin the gold overlay.

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:)