A simple breakdown: Gold filled vs other Gold
Hey GEMS Friends! Back in March, I shared a post about why I favor gold filled materials over plated, vermeil, or solid. I lighty explained the difference between gold plated vs gold filled, but I’d like to share more information for you so you can have a better understanding when buying your own jewelry. It’s easy to get swept up in the confusion surrounding gold items.
Here at GEMS, we have 7 core values; one of which is Integrity. We believe in the “do right rule” to uphold high standards in every situation. We stand by our work and care deeply about your satisfaction. Along with that, I want you to be educated on the other types of gold materials you’ll see for sale. Each gold option has pros and cons to it so let’s dive in.
Solid Gold jewelry is the most valuable form of jewelry you can buy. You'll see solid gold jewelry denoted as a number followed by 'k' or 'ct'. (Such as 14k or 14ct.) This refers to the 'purity' of gold, which is expressed as karats or carats. 24k is its most pure form and is actually quite soft, scratches easily, and is altogether too weak to work with. Because pure gold is too soft to practically use in jewelry, it’s mixed, or ‘alloyed’, with other metals to make it more durable. The higher proportion of pure gold to other metals is how they measure the number of karats the gold is. The most popular types of solid gold used for jewelry are 9k, 14k and 18k. Solid gold will not wear away like gold filled or plated jewelry and can be easily melted down and reused/recycled over and over again to create new pieces of jewelry.
Gold filled is not the same as solid gold. Instead of alloying, there is a solid gold layer bonded to a base metal (usually brass) to give it the appearance of solid gold, but it’s a fraction of the cost. The process involves a high amount of heat and pressure and the resultant gold filled piece is much more durable than a gold plated piece, but does not last as long as solid gold.
By law, gold filled jewelry must contain at least 5% gold by weight to be categorized as gold filled. That means the coating of pure gold is much thicker than gold plated jewelry (by about 100x). While filled jewelry will maintain its gold cast for significantly longer, it will inevitably undergo discoloration and tarnishing after time if not properly taken care of.
Gold Plated jewelry consists of a very thin layer of gold being electrically charged onto a base metal (often brass or silver). While plated pieces often possess the same lovely luster at first, it’s known to quickly fade when washed, rinsed, or worn often. When that happens, your skin is discolored by the base metal, and your jewelry looks dirty. Most fashion jewelry found in retail stores is gold-plated, and priced very low.
If gold is plated over sterling silver, it’s known as “Vermeil” (pronounced ver-may). Vermeil is hypoallergenic due to the sterling silver base, and has a thicker layer of gold. Keep in mind that with enough scuffs and scratches, the plating can also wear off if it’s not taken care of properly.
There are pros and cons to all types of metals. Solid gold is generally more sought after because it’s the most durable, valuable and least irritating to those that have allergies to base metals. Like I mentioned above, solid gold is more expensive than gold filled or gold plated. So if you’re not ready to invest in a higher quality piece, look into gold filled.
Gold Filled pieces are a more affordable alternative to solid gold. They hold up beautifully, and will last a very long time- especially if taken care of properly. Many will wear their gold filled jewelry daily for years and happily report that it still looks new. I also have had this experience with my own jewelry, which is why GEMS jewelry is mainly gold filled. You’ll get an incredible product that will last years and years without emptying your wallet– and that is priceless.
Gold plated pieces are the most affordable of the four options because of the small amount of gold, which is great for costume/fashion jewelry. For those who would like to wear it daily, it would require a lot more care and maintenance. When gold plated jewelry is exposed to small amounts of moisture, sweat, soaps, and lotions, it will wear out quickly. I suggest cleaning your gold plated items often, don’t shower or swim in them, take them off at night and put them on after you’ve applied your lotion, makeup, and perfumes. I also recommend wearing gold plated pieces by themselves to avoid rubbing against other jewelry which will wear the plated gold layer down quickly.
I hope you found this helpful! I know it was life-changing for me to learn about gold filled jewelry. I needed something that wasn’t cheap jewelry I could find in a big box store, and I definitely couldn’t splurge on several solid gold items. Gold filled is the sweet spot between the two and continues to exceed my expectations.