Gold-Filled Jewelry vs Gold-Plated Jewelry vs Gold Vermeil
Have you ever wondered what the difference is between gold filled and gold vermeil jewelry? Or how about plated vs bonded? And what in the world is demi-fine jewelry?
I get asked about these differences all the time, and rightfully so! Metal types can be quite confusing for the everyday consumer. But never fear, we have the lowdown on all of the different types of gold jewelry, along with some bonus tips and tricks on how to take care of them.
What’s the difference between gold-filled and gold plate?
Gold plating is a process where a gold layer is applied to a base metal using an electroplate bath. The base metal is usually jeweler’s quality metal (like brass), and a thin sheet of gold is essentially dipped over the outside of the base. Because gold-plated jewelry is not regulated in the United States, the amount of solid gold used in gold-plated jewelry can vary greatly. This also means that the longevity and durability of gold-plated jewelry can vary greatly. With only a thin layer of gold, gold plated jewelry is more prone to tarnish, and the gold will eventually wear away. Things like heat, water, and pollution can all easily cause damage. Gold-plated jewelry is considered fashion jewelry or costume jewelry.
It's worth noting that not all gold plated jewelry is created equal. Because gold plating is unregulated in the US, there can be big differences in quality between different brands, with some using less gold than others. For higher quality gold plated jewelry, look for brands that are transparent about how many microns of gold they use in their plating. Our gold charms, for instance, have 1 micron of gold plating, which is considered a jeweler's quality plating. By comparison, the average gold plated jewelry is only 0.175 microns thick - that's just 0.5 microns or one millionth of a meter.
Gold Vermeil: thick plated jewelry over sterling silver
Gold vermeil jewelry is a high-quality gold-plated jewelry. It is the only gold-plated jewelry regulated in the United States. The electroplating process is the same - composed of a solid layer of 14k gold over a base metal. However, the gold in gold vermeil is much thicker, with a minimum of 2.5 microns of karat gold layered over sterling silver (or 2.5% gold by weight). Gold vermeil has excellent durability compared to regular gold plate. This type of jewelry is considered demi-fine and is long-lasting, and hypoallergenic for most people. Gold vermeil, however, is still prone to scratching and is not water proof.
Gold Filled Jewelry - Jewelry that will last:
The real difference between gold-filled vs gold plated jewelry is in both how it is made and the amount of gold that is used to make the jewelry. 14kt gold-filled jewelry is made by bonding the gold alloy to the base through intense heat and pressure, leaving a permanent finish of gold. It will not flake or change colors. This creates a piece of jewelry that is extremely durable and resistant to tarnishing. Gold-filled jewelry will last years, rather than months. To legally classify as "Gold Filled" in the United States, gold-filled pieces must contain at least 5 microns of pure gold layer (or 5% of the total weight) and are quality marked with “14k gf” stamp. (Though gold filled items made in the 30s and 40s will often be marked with “RGP” or rolled gold plate.)
Why Gold filled jewelry is better:
Gold-filled jewelry is considered demi-fine jewelry and is a great (and economical) alternative to solid 14-karat gold jewelry – with a gold content that is often 100x times thicker than gold plate. Because the gold is bonded to a base metal, rather than plated, this type of gold is great for sensitive skin, easy to maintain and can normally last 10 to 30 years with proper care.
Daily Wear: Like solid gold, 14k gold-filled jewelry is great for everyday! Though highly durable, we do recommend you remove your gold-filled items when swimming in salt water or chlorine, as well as when putting putting on lotions or sunscreen. If you shower in your jewelry, then you can also swipe a gentle soap across the surface while you are in the shower to remove any grime and dirt buildup, and make sure to keep your jewelry in a jewelry box when not in use.