GOLD JEWELRY 101: Gold Plated vs. Gold Vermeil Vs. Gold Filled vs. Solid Gold

It’s time to learn your 4G’s: the difference between gold plated, gold vermeil, gold filled, and solid gold.  Understanding what these different terms mean, will allow you to expand your jewelry collection with confidence. You are on your way to being a more informed, and therefore much happier, customer.  OPHINE offers high quality options in gold plated, gold filled, and some vermeil. With the information in this Gem Class©, you’ll be able to make smart style choices that are best for you! So, let’s begin!


Gold plated jewelry is a relatively thin layer of gold plated over a base metal (usually brass or copper). The gold layer should measure between 0.5 and 2.5 microns (a micron is one-millionth of a meter, for context). The thicker the gold layer, the longer it maintains its finish. When wearing gold plated jewelry, it’s essential to avoid swimming, showering, using household cleaning products, or wearing it with heavy lotions and chemical-laden beauty products to reduce the risk of tarnishing. If properly cared for, and if you don’t have allergies to brass or copper, gold plated jewelry can be an every day, economical option.


Gold vermeil (pronounced ‘ver-may’) is almost the same as gold plated. The main difference is that the gold is plated over sterling silver.  Some countries have standards for how many microns of gold are required to designate jewelry as gold vermeil (in the USA, the standard is 2.5 microns). However, it’s hard to know how or if this standard is regulated or tracked. Therefore, it’s technically true to say that the only difference between gold vermeil and gold plated are the base metals. If you have an allergy to the brass or copper base metals used in gold plated jewelry, gold vermeil is clearly the better choice for you. However, both gold plated and gold vermeil jewelry are susceptible to tarnishing. But because gold vermeil consists of sterling silver, and a layer of gold that is usually slightly thicker than gold plated, it is typically more expensive.


Gold filled is a thick layer of solid gold (compared to plated or vermeil) that is mechanically bonded to a base metal - usually jeweler's brass. Mechanical bonding creates a stronger bond than plating, so the gold in gold filled jewelry is less likely to rub off. The layer of gold is at least 5% of the jewelry’s total weight. The karat of gold used in gold filled jewelry is is usually 12K or 14k gold. However, because of the niche nature of the bonding process, it's rare to find gold filled jewelry that is not mass produced. Therefore, most gold filled jewelry consists of chain, wire, beads, and charms that are produced on a large scale by jewelry manufacturers with mechanical bonding capability. Jewelry designers can then use those components to create unique jewelry designs. It’s typically safe to swim and shower in gold-filled jewelry without risk of tarnishing. Although it’s a bit more expensive than gold plated or vermeil (depending on the size of the jewelry), gold filled is the most long-wearing, high quality, tarnish resistant option other than solid gold. With proper care, gold filled jewelry can last a lifetime!


All that glitters is not pure gold. Solid gold jewelry is not quite as solid as it sounds. Pure gold is much too soft to be used in jewelry, as it would easily break. So, “solid” gold is made from pure gold mixed with metal alloys. The metal alloys used in solid gold jewelry include silver, copper, nickel, iron, zinc, tin, manganese, cadmium, and titanium. The karat of the gold is what defines the amount of gold relative to the alloys.  The higher the karat, the more gold there is. For example, 14k gold is 14 parts gold (58.3%) and 10 parts alloys (41.7%), while 18k gold is 18 parts gold (75%) and 6 parts alloys (25%). The higher the karat, the higher the price and quality. Given that the average price of gold per ounce is about $1,700 nowadays, it’s the best quality, but often not the most affordable option for many. But hey, if you got the Midas touch, go for it!


Pop Quiz: So Which Type of Jewelry Should I Choose?

You should choose what makes you happy, and what’s suits your style needs!



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