by Dave Greene | Jan 25, 2020 | Metals
Gold is beautiful, and often symbolic, but it can also be expensive. Understanding the unique value of 18k, along with its limitations, will help you make sure you use this form of gold for the right jewelry pieces.
What is 18k gold? 18k Gold is an alloy that consists of 75% 24 karat gold and 25% from other metals that increase the hardness of the mixture and influence color. Metals like copper add both hardness and a pink overtone to 18k Rose Gold. 18 karat gold offers a great blend of enhanced durability and high purity.
In the paragraphs that follow, I’ll give you more detail on how 18 karat gold is made. I’ll also share information on how the look, and durability, of 18k gold compares with the look and durability of other common options, like 10k, 14k, and 24k.
Where is 18k Gold From?
Yellow gold is mined from the earth and refined to remove impurities. Pure gold is much too soft to wear as an engagement ring, or some other jewelry item that will be worn regularly. It’s easily scratched and marred by the accidental bumps that happen in everyday life.
In order to add hardness, other metals are added to a gold alloy, but which metals and what ratio depends on the objectives of the gold mixture. Carefully selected non-gold metals can add durability (scratch resistance) to the final metal mixture. It can also influence color, making the mixture lighter or darker.
Again, the MAIN ingredient in 18k gold is yellow gold, but the second-largest ingredient is Copper. From there, a number of other metals like Zinc, Silver, or Nickel could be added, as needed, to influence hardness and color.
Is 18k Gold Real?
While 18 karat gold isn’t completely pure, it still has very high purity, compared to other options like 10k and 14k. The fact that non-gold metals have been added doesn’t make 18k gold ‘fake’.
Again, these metals are intentionally added to improve the practicality of gold for many purposes that it couldn’t serve well in a pure form.
The 18k mark clearly discloses the fact that the piece isn’t made of pure gold. This helps consumers to be well informed before purchasing jewelry.
What is 18 Karat Gold Worth?
As we look at 18 karat gold price (or value) remember, that this metal is 75% gold (18 parts yellow gold and 6 parts non-gold metals like Copper, Zinc, or Nickel). If you want to calculate 18k gold price, at any given point, all you need to do it obtain the current spot value of 24k gold and then multiply it by .75. If 24 karat gold is valued at $49.89 per gram, for example, 75% of that value will be $37.42. 18k gold would be valued at $37.42 per gram in that instance.
Why is this information useful? If you’re selling used 18k jewelry to a refiner, it would certainly be helpful to be able to calculate the value of the gold you’ll be selling. It’s less valuable when you’re simply shopping for an engagement ring, for example, because the cost of gold isn’t the only factor involved in pricing.
Other factors influencing the cost of an 18k gold engagement ring could include:
- The design of the ring (both how thick and heavy, and also how intricate)
- The size of the ring (a size 14 will be heavier and require more gold to produce than a size 5 ring of the same style.
- Any stones that are also mounted
- The markup of a particular retailer (this might include a premium that you’re willing to pay for a shop with a stellar reputation for quality).
- The warranties, cleanings, resizing, and other non-tangible value included by a retailer
- Taxes paid on the item
If you want to purchase gold at a discount (less than retail prices), purchasing used rings private-party may be your best bet. There are often people getting out of relationships that may be willing to sell an engagement ring or wedding ring, for example, at a real discount. Why? Because they may need the cash quickly, because pawn shops are offering so little, or because they want to unload the jewelry right away for emotional reasons.
If you buy this way, please exercise extreme caution by testing the pieces. We’ll briefly explain the process below.
18k Gold vs 24k Gold
24 karat gold is the purest form of gold. That certainly comes with pros AND cons. Some quick reference information follows.
|Issue||18K Gold||24K Gold|
|Purity:||18 Parts Gold + 6 Parts Non-Gold (75% Pure)||24 Parts Gold + 0 Parts Non-Gold (100% Pure)|
|Hardness:||Significantly harder||Soft/easily scratched.|
18k Gold vs 14k Gold
How will an 18 karat gold ring be different than a similar ring made out of 14k gold? Here again, the 18k gold ring will have some pros and cons when compared with the other. The same would obviously also be true of an 18 karat gold necklace and other types of jewelry.
|Issue||18K Gold||14K Gold|
|Purity:||18 Parts Gold + 6 Parts Non-Gold (75% Pure)||14 Parts Gold + 10 Parts Non-Gold (58.3% Pure)|
|Hardness:||Softer (more likely to scratch)||Harder (less likely to scratch)|
Does 18k Gold Tarnish?
Gold isn’t a reactive metal. Pure gold won’t tarnish. 18k gold does have some non-gold metals mixed in. The non-gold metals could open the door to a little tarnish over time—but it isn’t likely or common. If tarnish does appear at some point, you can remove it with a good cleaning.
Will 18k Gold Turn Your Finger Green?
The same way that it’s possible, but unlikely, for 18k gold to tarnish, it’s also possible, but unlikely, that it will leave a green mark on your finger. Why will 18k gold turn skin green for some but not others?
All gold other than 24k will have non-gold metals mixed in to add hardness. The most common metal additive is Copper. Copper is known to tarnish. Jewelry items with lower purity have high Copper contributions, and a much greater chance of oxidation and tarnish.
Because of that, 18 karat gold is far less likely to oxidize or leave a mark on your finger than 10k or 14k gold for example. Despite the high level of purity, some people still get green or black marks on their skin when they wear 18k jewelry. The cause often comes down to one of the following issues.
- Hormone levels
- How sweaty your hands are
- Skin composition. The PH of your skin and sweat can influence marking
- Medications that you’re taking and the way they impact your body
- Lotions and hand creams that you use
If you notice marks being left on your fingers, you may want to try changing any lotions or skin creams that you might be using to see if things change. You can also create a clear barrier on the inside of your ring with clear fingernail polish. That coating should help to stop the marks on your skin until the barrier wears through. You’ll need to reapply the clear nail polish every few weeks to keep the coating intact.
Will 18k Gold Fade?
Solid 18k gold will not fade. The color remains consistent over time. It’s possible, however, for some fading to occur when gold is plated over some non-gold base metal. Fading doesn’t always happen with plated metals, and the fading process would take time and may not even be noticeable in many cases.
Will 18k Gold Rust?
Gold is incredibly non-reactive. It’s not prone to corrosion. The type and quantity of non-gold metals added to 18k gold don’t make the mixture susceptible to rust. Because of this, rust isn’t a form of metal corrosion that you’ll have to worry about with 18k gold jewelry.
Can You Wear 18k Gold in the Shower?
It’s not a good idea to wear gold jewelry of any kind in the shower. Your jewelry won’t immediately fall apart if you do. The damage takes time and won’t be immediately apparent. Chlorine and gold aren’t friendly with each other. It can do microscopic damage to gold (especially the prongs that hold center stones in place) that can eventually lead to bending or breakage.
Beyond those risks, hard water and soaps can build up and dull the appearance of your gold jewelry. My wife has worn her gold ring in the shower for years. On the surface, the ring looked undamaged, but it was weakened over time by chemical reactions, and the prongs eventually bent. We, fortunately, noticed the issue before the diamond fell out and got lost, but that’s a very real risk with this type of damage.
What’s 18k Gold Plated?
Gold plating is simply a layer of gold over a base metal that consists of something other than gold. Brass, for example, could be covered (or plated) with gold for example. The finished product would look identical to a solid gold piece from the outside. The main difference is durability. A solid gold piece could last a lifetime, while a plated piece might last weeks, months, or years.
The term plated is short for ‘Electroplated.’ Electroplating is the process that’s used to apply the gold over the base metal. Jewelry made from a non-gold base metal is submerged in a tank of special solution. A chunk of 18k gold is submerged in the same tank and solution. An electric current is then run through the solution in the tank.
The current causes gold atoms to separate from the gold chunk and settle on the base metal, creating a gold coating. The thickness of the layer will depend on the amount of time that the base metal is left in the tank.
Sometimes plated pieces only contain the thinnest of coatings. They look nice when they’re brand new, but can wear through and look terrible within days. Other pieces have thick coatings that may last for years before needing to be replated.
The main benefit of 18k gold plated jewelry, is that it allows you access to jewelry designs you wouldn’t normally be able to afford—if they were made of solid gold.
What is 18k Gold Vermeil?
Gold Vermeil (pronounced ver-MAY) is a thicker coating of 18k gold over a Sterling Silver base metal. In order to legally use the term Gold Vermeil, jewelry MUST have a layer of gold that’s AT LEAST 2.5 microns thick. The base metal also HAS TO BE Sterling Silver.
If any of those requirements aren’t met, the piece can’t be marketed at Gold Vermeil. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the government agency that polices and enforces the proper use of these terms.
Gold Vermeil essentially allows you to get the look of 18 karat gold on a Sterling Silver budget! While Gold Vermeil jewelry will likely cost more than a similar piece of Sterling Silver jewelry, the cost often isn’t much higher.
What is 18k Gold Filled?
The name ‘Gold Filled’ can be misleading at first glance. It sounds like gold would occupy the inside of a Gold Filled piece of jewelry, right? In reality, Gold Filled jewelry consists of a thick layer of gold on top of a non-gold base metal. The generous application of gold is probably the biggest distinguishing characteristic of Gold Filled jewelry.
For Gold filled items, at least 5% of the total weight of the piece MUST consist of gold. That means that if you have a gold chain that weighs 40 grams, it has to contain at least 2 grams of gold. The gold applied to Gold-Filled jewelry also has to be permanently bonded to the base metal (not just plated on top).
18k Gold filled jewelry can be super durable, but still significantly less expensive than solid 18k gold jewelry. It’s very common for the layer on Gold Filled jewelry to last for decades. It’s even possible for the layer to last through multiple generations if it’s not mistreated.
Spotting Fake 18k Gold Jewelry
There’s nothing wrong with buying 18k Gold Vermeil or 18k Gold Filled jewelry if that’s all your budget will allow for, or it meets your need. There IS a problem with paying for solid gold but getting gold plated jewelry though. It happens!
I just came across an article tonight about a man in my community that was just arrested for selling fake 1 ounce gold bars. One many bought at least 10 at $1,000 each before discovering that they weren’t real when he tried to resell them. When the guy was arrested, they searched his car and found more “gold” bars, “gold” rings, and diamond (which were also fake, I’m sure).
The story is a good reminder of how important it is to stay vigilant and verify that you got what you paid for (real gold). There are several easy ways to test your gold.
- The ‘Sniff Test’: If an item is being sold too inexpensively, it should be a warning sign. The con man that I mentioned above was selling his ‘gold’ bars for $1000, when they’re easily worth $1,500 for example.
- The Law of Attraction: Many metals are attracted to magnets, but gold isn’t one of them. If you hold a piece of jewelry up to a magnet and it clings to the magnet, it likely has another base metal beneath its surface.
- The Acid Test: You can purchase special 18 karat gold acid (a Nitric Acid) that’s intended for testing purposes. If you place a drop of the acid on the surface of gold that isn’t 18k, or on a non-gold metal, it will begin bubbling and changing color. If it sits and does nothing at all, it indicates that you’re dealing with real 18k gold.
**Important Disclaimer** If you place 18k acid on the surface of something like an 18k Gold Filled ring, it may falsely lead you to believe the pieces consist of solid 18k gold. That’s because the gold layer is so thick. You may need to find a worn area on the jewelry, or file it down a bit to get the acid deeper in the item (closer to a possible base metal.
18k gold is a wonderful choice for those that want high-purity gold that’s also more durable than absolutely pure gold would be. This gold is typically a good option for people with sensitive skin that reacts when it comes in contact with less pure gold mixtures like 10k.
When you’re looking at Rose Gold, 18k Rose Gold has lighter coloring than 10k or 14k. Because 18k has more yellow gold and less copper, it takes on a light pink hue. 10k gold has less yellow gold and more copper, so it generally has a much redder, Copper-like, appearance.
18k strikes the perfect balance between cost, purity, durability, and appearance for many jewelry shoppers.
What is 14K Gold Jewelry? 4 Reasons it’s BETTER Than 24K!
What Is the Difference Between Gold Vermeil & Gold Plating?
What Is Rose Gold? The Ultimate Guide for This Amazing Metal
by Dave Greene | Jan 12, 2020 | Metals
Rose Gold is an incredibly popular option among ‘brides and grooms to be’ for their engagement rings and wedding bands. In an effort to make better shopping decisions, many go online looking for answers to the following question …
What are the pros and cons of Rose Gold Engagement Rings?
The Pros of Rose Gold:
- Complementary of Many Skin Tones
- Often More Affordable
- Low Maintenance
- More Durable
- Vintage Look
- More Distinctive
- Complements Stones Like Morganite
- Used By Both Men and Women
The Cons of Rose Gold:
- Limited Selection
- Repairs Can Be More Difficult
- Not Hypoallergenic
- Risk of Color Clash
Before diving into deeper detail on the pros and cons listed above, I feel like I should quickly cover some basics. I’ll explain how Rose Gold is made, and what the various purity options are. Once you have that foundational understanding, that full list of benefits and drawbacks will should a lot more sense.
Understanding Rose Gold
Rose Gold, which is sometimes also referred to as Pink Gold or Red Gold, is a manufactured metal. There are no gold mines where Rose Gold or White Gold are mined from the earth. All gold starts out as yellow gold.
Pure gold is a very soft metal. How soft? Have you ever seen someone bite a gold coin and then look at it to see if it’s real? That’s something you’ve probably seen on television a time or two. It’s a real thing! Pure gold is so soft that biting it with your teeth can easily leave imprints in the metal. Lots of other things in your everyday environment are also hard enough to scrape and scar pure gold.
To protect it, harder metals can be added to a mixture along with yellow gold. Various ratios of gold to these other metal alloys can produce gold of various hardness and colors.
Copper is a common ingredient in gold that’s less than 24k. In fact, it’s almost always the second highest ingredient (after yellow gold). Rose Gold has a higher percentage of its metal mixture comprised of Copper. This is the reason that Copper takes on a pinkish or reddish tone. The shade depends on the percentage of the mixture that’s made up of Copper.
When more Copper is added, the mixture becomes harder and redder. The less Copper that’s added, the softer and pinker the mixture becomes.
24k (or 24 karat) gold is pure gold—with NO other metals mixed in. It’s ALWAYS yellow gold. Any number that’s smaller than 24 (like you’ll see with 18k, 14k, 12k, or 10k), will have some amount of other non-gold metals mixed in. The LOWER the number before the ‘k,’ the HIGHER the percentage of non-gold metals that were added to the mixture.
12 karat (12k) gold, for example, is 50% yellow gold and 50% other metal additives. 18k is 75% yellow gold and 25% other metals
This information is important to understand because you’ll have several different purity options to choose from as you shop and compare rings. Each of those different purities will have an impact on the hardness AND COLOR of your Rose Gold.
Now that you have some of the basics down, let’s go ahead and look at some of the detail behind the list that I shared earlier. We’ll touch on the positive aspects first.
The Pros of Rose Gold:
The benefits of Rose Gold could include all of the following. The importance and value of each of the following issues will be higher or lower for each individual, depending on their needs and preferences.
Complementary of Many Skin Tones
Rose Gold has a warm coloring. Many people love the way rose gold compliments the tone of their skin. That’s true for people with a wide variety of skin tones. It’s not the kind of thing that only looks good against one very particular type of skin tone.
Again, the color of Rose Gold varies depending on how pure the gold is. 18k gold is more pure, so it will have a pink tint to it. 10k Rose Gold is much less pure. It has more Copper added, making it redder, and more copper-like in appearance.
Often More Affordable
While Rose Gold costs a lot more than options like Sterling Silver or Stainless Steel, it is less expensive than other common alternatives—like Platinum. Because Rose Gold has other non-gold metals (like Copper) mixed in, it’s cheaper to produce than 24k yellow gold.
With gold trading at about $1,500/ounce, the substitution of Copper for some of the gold in the Rose Gold alloy can lead to some SERIOUS savings!
Unlike White Gold, Rose Gold doesn’t have any surface plating. It has the same metal mixture all the way through the ring. Plating can wear through pretty quickly, especially when there isn’t a very thick layer applied. When plating wears through, a jeweler has to apply it, which comes at a cost.
Since Rose Gold has no plating, it won’t need to have a surface layer reapplied periodically. That makes it a much more durable kind of ring to own for the long term!
Hardness means scratch resistance. Who wants to wear a scratched up engagement ring or wedding band…especially one you paid a lot of money for? Because Rose Gold contains such a high percentage of Copper, it tends to be harder than other gold options.
As I mentioned earlier darker colored Rose Gold rings, the ones that have a reddish look to them, are harder than the ones that have a light pink tone. The darker ones contain a higher percentage of Copper…so they’re harder and more scratch-resistant.
Again, those darker Rose Gold rings will often be 10k gold. 14k will be a little lighter, and 18k will be lighter still. Here’s a 14k Rose Gold and Diamond engagement ring that balances value and durability beautifully.
Darker Rose Gold can have a cool vintage kind of look to it. That’s brought out even more if oxidation happens in the ring because of the high Copper content. Some people love the look…and even TRY to speed the process of developing that look and style for their Rose Gold ring and jewelry.
Rose Gold rings are less common than Yellow or White Gold rings. That can help a Rose Gold engagement ring to feel all the more distinctive and unique. In addition, Rose Gold offers an incredibly wide range of color options. Because color is influenced by the type and quantity of non-gold metals that get mixed in, Rose Gold’s coloring can vary a lot from one manufacturer to another.
That color variation makes a Rose Gold ring much more unique. While there are others wearing Rose Gold rings, it’s unlikely that the shade of their ring will exactly match yours in most cases.
Complements Stones Like Morganite
The warm pinkish tone of Rose Gold can make Morganite look AMAZING! Morganite has coloring that typically involves shades of pink and peach. When the Morganite and Rose Gold is paired with tiny diamonds, set as accent stones or a halo, the Rose Gold and Morganite pairing pops even more! Here’s a great example of this type of ring. Notice how the Morganite and the Rose Gold complement each other so well!
Morganite is far from the ONLY kind of stone that Rose Gold can look incredible with, but it’s definitely one of my favorite pairings!
Used By Both Men and Women
Pink isn’t JUST for the ladies. It’s not uncommon to see a man rocking a pink shirt or a pink tie these days.
Similarly, men have been adopting Rose Gold in record numbers. There have been LOTS of articles in the media about men rushing out to grab Rose Gold Beats Headphones or a Rose Gold iPhone for example. Gadget manufacturers struggle to keep up with demand from both their male and female customers!
Watches and wedding bands are other areas where many men are embracing Rose Gold. Some couples even decide to get coordinating Rose Gold rings so they match!
The Cons of Rose Gold:
It can’t ALL be good news with Rose Gold, can it? No, as with anything, there are a few areas that may be considered drawbacks for some. I’ll outline the common ones below.
Jewelers offer more ring designs in Yellow Gold or White Gold. That means that you could stumble upon the perfect ring design, and then find that it isn’t even offered in Rose Gold.
There are still LOTS of rings available in Rose Gold…it’s just not EVERY ring.
Repairs Can Be More Difficult
You may have a harder time finding a jeweler to do resizing and repairs for your Rose Gold Ring. Working on a Rose Gold ring means trying to match the original metal color. It’s tough to get that exactly right! Because of that difficulty, some jewelers won’t even try.
While some jewelers turn away work on Rose Gold rings, others gladly welcome it! There are many jewelers that do a great deal of work with Rose Gold. If you don’t have a jeweler like that in your area, you can always mail your ring to a jeweler located in another city or state.
There are very reputable, and qualified, jewelers online that you can get help from if needed. Check their feedback on Google, and look them up with the BBB, to ensure they don’t have any disturbing complaints from past clients.
There really are some quality options out there. Finding one online shouldn’t be difficult.
Some people have allergic reactions when their skin comes in contact with certain metals. Allergies to Nickel seem most common. While Rose Gold generally doesn’t contain Nickel, it DOES contain metals other than just yellow gold.
Because of this, people with sensitivity to the metals that are mixed in, like Copper, for example, could have skin reactions when they wear it. The less pure the Rose Gold is, the more likely it is to cause problems for those with sensitive skin. The majority of the gold mixture for 10k gold is made up of non-gold metals, so it’s the most likely, of the common Rose Gold options, to trigger a reaction. 14k is a level of purity that seems to be safe for most people with mild sensitivity. 18k is an even safer bet. There are those with extreme sensitivity that can’t wear Rose Gold at all though.
Risk of Color Clash
When you pair gems like Aquamarine or Orange Tourmaline with Rose Gold, the colors can easily clash. A reddish or pinkish gold just won’t match every possible center stone. That’s not a big deal, but it’s something you need to be conscious of—especially if you’re ordering a custom ring online.
Yellow gold can also clash with certain colorful gems. White gold, on the other hand, is such a neutral background, that it can really be worn with any kind of center stone without concern of color conflict.
Rose Gold is a beautiful metal. It’s not without its limitations and challenges, but all things considered, it can be a great overall value for engagement rings! Eye-catching, distinctive, and durable, Rose Gold is a metal that’s certainly worth considering for your engagement ring.
What Is Rose Gold? The Ultimate Guide for This Amazing Metal
What is 14K Gold Jewelry? 4 Reasons it’s BETTER Than 24K!
What is Gold Vermeil? The Ultimate Guide!
by Dave Greene | Jan 8, 2020 | Metals
You’ll see lots of abbreviations as you shop for gold jewelry! 14K is one example. Understanding what it means and how it differs from 10k, 12k, 18k, and other options is important.
What is 14k gold jewelry? 14 karat gold is an alloy containing 58.3% yellow gold. The rest is made up of other metals, like Copper and Zinc. These metals make the gold harder and influence color. Higher purity gold is softer than lower purity gold, so 14k is less hard than 10k—but it’s more durable than 18k, 22k, or 24k.
Now that you understand some of the basics, I’ll share some other important information on what 14 karat jewelry is, how it’s used, and why it’s FAR BETTER than 24k gold for jewelry. Before getting to that, I need to give you a little context.
Is 14K Gold Real?
14k IS real gold, but it isn’t PURE gold. As I mentioned a little earlier, pure gold is a soft metal. It isn’t suitable for jewelry because it would get scratched and worn out too quickly. To solve this problem, other metals are added in specific ratios to increase the hardness (durability) of gold that’s used for things like jewelry.
Not being ENTIRELY gold, doesn’t it make it ‘FAKE’ gold. Again, other metals are added to make the gold mixture more practical for wearing as jewelry daily.
How 14K Gold is Made?
Gold is mined from the earth. All gold starts out as yellow gold. White Gold, Black Gold, and Rose Gold are created through metal mix-ins and/or plating. We’ll talk more about these various gold color options a little later.
Pure gold is referred to as 24 karat gold (24 parts, out of a possible 24, consist of gold). 24 karat gold has NO other metals mixed in. Gold of lesser purity (that DOES have other metals mixed in) has its purity expressed as the number of parts (out of a possible 24) that are made up of gold. 14K gold contains 14 parts pure gold and 10 parts other metals. That makes it 58.3% pure gold.
Copper is the second largest ingredient in 14k gold. Zinc is another common mix in, but it’s added in much smaller quantities.
Before digging into additional information, I should mention that there’s a difference between ‘karats’ and ‘carats’. Karats is a measure of gold purity, while Carats is a weight-based measurement used for diamonds. The term Karat is often abbreviated as either ‘k’ or ‘kt’.
How is 14K WHITE GOLD Made?
White gold is NOT a natural product. All gold starts out yellow. Various metals (like Silver and Nickel) can be added to a gold alloy to not only make it more durable, but also to lighten the color.
While the shade of white gold may be lighter than classic yellow gold, it’s still a far cry from actually being ‘white’. The color and finish that you’re used to seeing on white gold jewelry actually comes from Rhodium. Rhodium is a metal from the Platinum family (you can probably see the family resemblance).
Rhodium isn’t mixed into White Gold, it’s plated on top. The plating means that the finish is temporary. Plating eventually wears through and needs to be reapplied. Because of this, White Gold IS NOT a low maintenance ring to own.
White Gold is made in a wide variety of purities. You can get 14 karat White Gold, but you can also get in 10k, 12k, 18k etc. What you CAN’T get is 24k White Gold—it doesn’t exist! The reason that you can’t get 24 karat white gold, is that white gold always has to have other metals mixed in, so by definition, it CAN’T be pure gold (or 24k).
How is 14K ROSE GOLD Made?
Rose Gold has a unique coloring that ranges from ‘pinkish’ to ‘reddish.’ The coloring is created by adding Copper to yellow gold in various ratios. If you increase the Copper percentage of the alloy, you’ll get a metal mixture that has a more red, Copper-like, appearance.
If you dial the Copper and add more gold, you may end up with a beautiful strawberry blonde gold that has a pretty pink tint to it. As with White Gold, you can get 14 karat Rose Gold, along with a variety of other purity levels, but 24k Rose Gold doesn’t exist. Rose Gold has to be an alloy, but 24k gold is pure gold without anything mixed in—which is why you’ll never see 24k Rose Gold offered (legitimately).
If you’d like to learn more about this popular metal, read the article that I recently published covering Rose Gold in great detail.
Which Center Stones Work Well with 14K Jewelry?
14 kt gold can work well for any kind of center stone. You may choose yellow, white, or rose gold to pair with various gem colors, but you should be able to find a great match that complements the stone well. White Diamond, Moissanite, Sapphire, Morganite, and Cubic Zirconia can all look beautiful set against 14-karat gold!
4 Reasons Why 14K Gold is Better Than 24K for Jewelry
24k gold is the purest form of gold, but even affluent people often choose 14k gold over 24k for their jewelry. In this section, we’ll talk about some of the reasons why.
Here are FOUR very common reasons:
1. 14k Gold is Harder Than 24k Gold
We’ve already touched on this, but it’s a big factor! Some jewelry is more than just a fashion accessory—it has real sentimental value. For example, A jewelry fashion trend among celebrities right now, is wearing a Necklace, chain, or bracelet that has initials on it. Those initials often represent someone special to them (a partner or child for example).
24k gold is soft and scratches easily. 14k is MUCH harder! When you want the beautiful look of quality gold, but also want durability, 14k becomes a wonderful option. Even people with enough money for 24k, often choose 14k because of its added durability!
2. 14k Gold Offers a Better Blend of Safety and Durability
Because 24k gold doesn’t have metals mixed in, it’s the safest type of gold for sensitive skin, but again, it’s too soft for many jewelry applications. Because of that, people with sensitivity to some metals often turn to either 14k or 18k. While both of those options DO have other metals mixed in, they aren’t a high enough percentage to cause reactions for many people.
The added advantage of choosing 14k over 18k, is that it’s more durable. Again, who doesn’t want as much durability as possible for jewelry with high sentimental value?
Be aware, that White Gold is something that people with sensitive skin often try to avoid regardless of the karat value. White Gold often has some amount of Nickel added. Nickel is the metal that most commonly gives people skin reactions. If you have metal allergies, you may want to stick with either yellow gold or rose gold.
3. White Gold and Rose Gold AREN’T Available in 24k
Jewelry shoppers are forced to consider something other than 24k gold if they ever want White Gold or Rose Gold. Rose Gold is HOT right now…just look at how rose gold iPhones have been flying off the shelf in recent years—selling like hotcakes to both men and women!
Because White gold and Rose gold aren’t available in 24k, either 14k or 18k become the most common (high-quality) options available. Here again, 14k delivers better durability—and durability is often top-of-mind when considering a new piece of jewelry with high sentimental value.
4. 14 karat Gold is Less Expensive Than 24k
Money is a central focus for some, and an afterthought for others. Both groups have compelling reasons to choose 14k gold jewelry over 24k gold jewelry. The financial savings for choosing 14k for gold jewelry comes in TWO forms.
- A lower initial purchase price.
- Lower lifetime costs for repair and replacement
Pure gold is great for gold bricks that sit in a safe, but not for jewelry that’s worn daily. In the course of normal activities, it would come in direct contact with hundreds of everyday objects that could easily scratch it.
The Cons of 14k Jewelry
I’ve shared some of the advantages of 14k Gold (the pros), but what are the disadvantages (the cons) of choosing this option? Remember that song from the late ‘80’s ‘Every Rose Has its Thorn’? What are the ‘thorns’ of 14k gold? Here are a couple of ‘thorns’ that critics sometimes bring up.
Used 14K Jewelry Has a Lower Resale Value
On the surface, this looks like a drawback of 14k gold, but is it really? You pay less for 14k than you would pay for 24k jewelry, so it only makes sense that they would also resell as used jewelry for a lower price as well. After all, because 14k is less pure, there’s less actual gold in it, so it’s melt value (the actual value of the gold that you can get out of it) would also be lower.
Since you paid less for the 14k when it was new, I don’t see this as a true drawback or flaw. How many people think it’s smart to pay too much tax throughout the year…just so you can get a tax refund at some point in the future? It’s much better to pay less in tax now and NOT get a refund later, right?
This issue is similar! Paying more for 24k gold, just so you can have a higher resale value in the future, doesn’t sound very smart if you ask me!
14k Jewelry isn’t as Hard as 10k
It’s true that 10k is more durable than 14k, however, less than 50% of 10k is comprised of gold. Because the ratio of alloy mix-ins is so high, it can often cause skin irritation for people with sensitivity. 14k is the hardest, and least expensive, type of gold that’s generally safe for wearers with skin sensitivity.
How to Test 14K Gold and Recognize Fake Gold
First and foremost, I recommend shopping with credible and trusted retailers. It’s safest to avoid auction sites and other sites where you can buy from unknown ‘mom and pop’ retailers. They often import their inventory without testing the shipment. They rely on claims from the manufacturer about the product they’re shipping to you. These retailers can intentionally, or unintentionally, mislead you about the jewelry that you buy from them.
We’ll talk about how to test your jewelry in a moment, to confirm the purity of your gold. Testing doesn’t take the place of normal ‘due diligence’ though, like checking the reputation of the retailer, reading reviews from past buyers, and looking for the seller’s return policy. After reviewing all that, testing your metal can provide further confirmation. The processes you’ll want to follow are outlined below.
Start by touching the side of your 14k gold ring or 14k gold chain, for example, with a powerful magnet (like a Neodymium magnet). If the ring is gold, there shouldn’t be an attraction. If the ring sticks to the magnet, it likely has a base metal under the surface layer of gold. If that wasn’t disclosed, you should return the product and get a refund immediately.
Next, you can test the gold with a drop of 14k acid. This is a testing acid that won’t have any effect on 14k gold, but it will bubble and change colors (typically turning green or black) if there’s a lower grade gold (or a fake gold) on the surface.
14k gold jewelry is beautiful, durable, and more affordable than many other gold options. If you care for your 14 karat gold jewelly, it should last for a lifetime! Because of its relative hardness, the ability to be used for both Rose Gold and White Gold, and it’s more affordable nature, 14k is the BEST choice for many jewelry pieces.
What Is Rose Gold? The Ultimate Guide for This Amazing Metal
What is Gold Vermeil? The Ultimate Guide!
What is Gold Filled Jewelry? The Look, Durability, Cost, & Care
by Dave Greene | Jan 1, 2020 | Metals
Get the look you love, the durability you want, and the price you need with gold filled Jewelry! You can ‘have your cake, and eat it too’!
What is gold filled Jewelry? It consists of a thick layer of gold over a base metal like jeweler’s Brass. The gold is mechanically bonded to the base metal using heat and pressure. By law, the gold must represent at least 5% of the item’s total weight. This makes gold filled jewelry much more durable than other plated items.
Gold filled jewelry is PERFECT for many frugal jewelry shoppers searching for breathtaking…on a budget. The paragraphs that follow will fill you in on all the info on gold filled jewelry that you need to be aware of.
Who Buys Gold Filled Jewelry?
Gold jewelry shoppers who demand maximum value for their money often choose gold filled (GF) jewelry. Sometimes they choose it because they’re trying to make a limited jewelry budget go further than it otherwise could. Others turn to Gold Fill, even though they have enough money for solid gold because they feel their savings could be better used elsewhere.
One classic example is engaged couples shopping for wedding jewelry. They either need to stretch limited dollars, or they’d prefer to apply their savings toward paying down debt or saving for future expenses.
Gold filled jewelry brings savings without sacrifice for most people. They get the look of solid gold, great durability, and huge savings.
The terms ‘Gold Overlay,’ ‘Rolled Gold,’ ‘Rolled Gold Plate,’ ‘Rolled Gold Plated,’ and ‘Gold Filled’ are used interchangeably by some. In reality, the terms aren’t all synonymous. The first four terms can be used to describe pieces that have a thinner layer of gold applied than ‘gold filled’ would apply to. I’ll provide more detail below.
Because of the different ways that terms are sometimes presented, you have to be careful about the product titles and descriptions used by some sellers (particularly small shops, auction sites, and private sellers).
How is Gold Filled Jewelry Made?
I see the question, ‘what is gold filled jewellery?’ pretty regularly. There’s an interest, and confusion, around this type of jewelry that seems to be pretty common around the globe. Some have heard the term, but still wonder how it differs from other options like Gold Plating, Gold Vermeil, or Solid Gold. This section will make those distinctions far more clear!
Gold filled jewelry starts with a base metal like Jeweler’s Brass. That’s commonly made by combining Copper (90%) and Zinc (10%). The Brass is covered by an extremely thick sheet of gold that has a minimum purity of 10k. Again, it’s a solid sheet of gold that’s applied—not a bath of liquified gold that the base metal is dipped into.
The gold layer is then fused to the base metal through a mechanical application process involving heat and pressure. It’s a permanent bond, so the gold won’t flake or peel.
Gold filled is a regulated term that’s enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. That means that if you describe your product as “Gold Filled,” it has to meet certain specific requirements.
Those requirements include:
- A minimum of 1/20th (5%) of the item’s total weight must be made up of gold.
- The gold layer has to have a purity of at least 10-karat.
- The gold layer must be fused to the base layer through a ‘mechanical process’
- The composition of the piece needs to be ‘clearly and conspicuously’ disclosed. That means that the karat fineness of the gold needs to be stamped immediately before a term like ‘Gold Filled’ or ‘GF’ on the jewelry piece (I’ll provide examples of quality stamps below).
All of those requirements have to be met for a piece of jewelry to legally be considered gold filled. If even one of the requirements listed above isn’t met, the term can’t be used for that particular item.
If jewelry meets all the requirements listed above (except for gold thickness) and it has a gold layer that’s at least 1/40 (or 2.5%) thick—it can legally be sold as, Gold Overlay, Rolled Gold, Rolled Gold Plate, or Rolled Gold Plated. Here again, the amount of gold actually applied to the piece has to be ‘conspicuously’ displayed. For example, a stamp on the jewelry might read, “1/40th 10Kt RGP.” Again, I’ll share more on quality stamps below.
Single Clad vs Double Clad vs Wire Clad
Gold filled jewelry is made from sheets of where gold has been bonded to Brass, as described above. These sheets can come in several different finishes.
Single Clad sheets have all the gold applied to only ONE side. The other side of the sheet is exposed, Brass. Gold makes up at least 5% of the sheet’s total weight. Double Clad Sheets have gold applied to BOTH sides. These sheets also have at least 5% of their total weight in gold.
Both Single Clad and Double Clad sheets contain the same amount of gold, in total—the distribution of that gold is the only difference.
Wire Clad is a brass wire that has gold fully encasing it. The gold, again, represents at least 1/20th (5%) of the weight of the wire. The following ring was made with gold filled wire, for example.
The wire could be solid, or it could be a hollow tube (hollow copper tube with gold encasing it.
Gold Filled vs Gold Plated
Have you wondered what the difference between gold filled and gold plated jewelry is? It’s understandable to be confused because the two can look the same from the outside. In reality, there’s a significant difference between these two types of jewelry.
The biggest difference is the thickness of the gold coating that’s applied. Gold plating often applies a minuscule, almost microscopic, gold film that can often be worn through quickly. Gold filled jewelry is required to have at least 5% of its total weight in gold. That’s a SIGNIFICANT difference in thickness and durability.
Gold plated looks great when it’s new, but may not last more than a few days or weeks before the gold coating has been worn through. Gold-filled jewelry can last decades, and sometimes an entire lifetime!
The gold layer on gold filled jewelry is at least 50 times thicker (and sometimes up to 100,000 times thicker) than standard gold plating provides.
Gold Filled vs Vermeil
When you evaluate gold filled jewelry vs vermeil, you see that both provide more durability than standard gold plating offers, but the two are still very different from each other.
The term ‘gold vermeil,’ like the term ‘gold filled,’ is regulated in the United States by the FTC. Gold Vermeil is required to have at least 2.5 microns of gold on top of its base metal (which is always Sterling Silver).
As we’ve discussed, the gold requirement for GF jewelry isn’t measured in microns—it’s a weight ratio. This generally leads to a much thicker gold layer. In fact, the layer of gold on gold filled jewelry is often at least 17 times as thick. In some cases, the layer can be up to 25,000 times as thick!
That’s an enormous difference that plays a huge role in durability! Gold Vermeil is much more durable than standard gold plating, but gold filled jewelry is significantly more durable than both.
Gold filled jewelry is made with sheets of gold, not liquified gold that can be poured and molded. This presents limitations to the types of jewelry that can be made through the process. Jewelry made with electroplating, like Gold Vermeil, can have much more ornate and intricate designs. For more information on how the electroplating process works, check out my recent article on Gold Vermeil.
Gold Filled vs Solid Gold
What is the difference between solid gold and gold filled jewelry? Solid gold is going to be the most durable option available for jewelry that has the ‘gold’ look, but it’s also FAR more expensive than gold filled Jewelry.
When all factors have been weighed and considered, gold filled jewelry delivers incredible value! You get a substantial amount of gold, great durability, and a much lower cost. When other people look at your jewelry, they can’t visibly tell that it isn’t solid gold jewelry. You end up with the look you want at a price you can afford!
Is Gold Filled Jewelry Expensive
The cost for this jewelry is MUCH more reasonable than the cost for solid gold jewelry. The reason is simple, gold is priced based on weight. The more gold that’s used in a particular piece of jewelry, the more expensive it will be. Since GF pieces only need to have 5% of their total weight in gold content, that means that they can use low-cost Jeweler’s Brass for the other 95%. That provides ENORMOUS cost savings!
Imagine, If gold costs $48 per gram, and you have your eye on a piece of jewelry that weighs 50 grams. The cost for the gold portion when the item is made of solid gold would be $2,400. The GF version would only use 2.5 grams of gold, along with 45 grams of brass. The gold for this second piece would only cost $120. In this example, you end up saving $2280 (95%) on the cost of gold (which would have been buried in the middle where no one could see it anyway)! That’s a HUGE SAVINGS on a durable item that looks identical!
This is a great example of quality gold filled chains (necklaces) that are dramatically less expensive than identical looking solid gold versions would be.
Is Gold Filled Jewelry Worth Anything?
Gold filled jewelry does have intrinsic value (melt value), but how much is gold filled jewelry worth? The answer depends on the specifics of your item. The Hallmark provides information like the percentage of the item’s weight that is made up of gold (expressed as a fraction). It also lists the karat value of that gold (most is 12k or 14k). Once you have those two pieces of information and the spot value of gold in grams, the gold value of your jewelry can be easily calculated.
Pawnshops and refineries are happy to purchase a gold filled chain or other similar jewelry. They can quickly weigh your item and then tell you what they’re able to pay for the piece.
In my experience, it’s going to be a little less than the spot value. How much less depends on who you take the jewelry to. If you want to maximize the sale price, visit multiple places and compare what they’re willing to pay before deciding on who you’ll sell to. If you have a metal refinery in your area, it would be helpful to visit them in addition to the pawnshop.
You also have to option of selling ‘private party’ to someone that loves gold jewelry and wants to use your item as jewelry. You could consider selling through a local classified ad site (like craigslist.com or Kijiji.com), or online through a platform like eBay.
How to Identify Gold Filled Jewelry
From the outside, gold-filled jewelry looks identical to solid gold jewelry. The best way to identify gold-filled jewelry is through quality stamps or hallmarks. They’re placed in a spot that it’s visible to the people that see you wearing your jewelry. Rings will have the stamp on the inside of the band. Necklaces and bracelets often have the stamp on the backside of the clasp and on the metal beside the clasp. Notice the print on the following clasp that reads 14/20 (meaning that the clasp is covered in 14k gold comprising 1/20th of its weight).I’ll share specific information on quality stamps and some examples below.
Is Gold Filled Jewelry Fake?
Some might refer to GF jewelry as ‘fake’, but is it? These pieces contain a thick layer of REAL gold with at least 10k purity. More often, GF jewelry will contain 12k or 14k gold. While it’s true that the center of the jewelry item isn’t comprised of solid gold, that doesn’t make the jewelry ‘fake.’
It’s often interesting for those that are critical of gold filled jewelry to ponder the question, Is 14k or 22k gold ‘fake’?
Gold is typically an alloy that’s comprised of gold and other metals. For example, 22k isn’t ALL gold. 14k gold is only 58.3% gold. The other 41.7% is made up of metals like Copper and Zinc that add hardness and influence color. 10k gold is 41.6% gold (it’s MOSTLY other metals).
Non-Gold metals are an important and legitimate part of gold jewelry.
Is Gold Filled Fine Jewelry?
Gold filled jewelry isn’t considered ‘fine jewelry’—but who honestly cares? The impact of that classification is more psychological than anything else. No one can tell the difference between GF Jewelry and solid gold jewelry based on appearance. Gold filled is also durable and functional, so what’s the actual implication of not being considered ‘fine jewelry’? Would you ever go around announcing to friends that your gold jewelry is (or isn’t) ‘fine jewelry’? Doubtful! If not, then the classification is truly meaningless for most people.
So, if gold filled jewelry isn’t considered ‘Fine Jewelry,’ what IS it considered? It’s classified, along with Gold Vermeil, as ‘Fashion Jewelry’ or ‘Costume Jewelry.’ Gold Snobs that look down on everything other than solid gold love to use the term ‘Costume Jewelry’ the most.
Some use the term ‘Semi-fine’ jewelry to classify gold filled pieces. They use the term as a middle ground between ‘Fine Jewelry’ and ‘Costume Jewelry’, but that it’s not an officially recognized category.
What is Yellow Gold Filled Jewelry?
Yellow gold filled jewelry is classic, timeless, styling. It utilizes the process described throughout this article and can be made with 10-karat gold or better. Again, 12-karat and 14-karat are most common for this jewelry.
What is Rose Gold Filled Jewelry?
Rose Gold is like yellow gold, but the has common metal additives mixed in different ratios. Rose gold is heavy on the Copper content, for example, which is what gives it the beautiful rosy coloring that it’s famous for.
What is Black Gold Filled Jewelry?
Black gold is a bit of an illusion—just like White Gold. There’s no such thing as either white or black gold in nature. Yellow gold can be made lighter or darker by mixing other metals into it. Metals like Cobalt can darken a gold mixture. Black Rhodium can also be used to plate gold jewelry and give it the ‘black gold’ look.
A gold filled item is plated in a black gold alloy or Black Rhodium to change the appearance of its surface. As with all plated jewelry, the coating will need to be reapplied as it wears through.
What is White Gold Filled Jewelry
Like Black Gold, White Gold rings are dependant on plating to give them their expected appearance. It’s Rhodium plating that makes White Gold jewelry look the way it does. The gold underneath the plating looks yellowish. If you have a White Gold Filled piece of jewelry, you’ll need to have it re-plated with additional Rhodium occasionally.
Is Gold Filled Jewelry Hypoallergenic?
The answer is ‘yes’ AND ‘no.’ High purity gold (18k and above) is typically considered hypoallergenic—so the surface of the jewelry would qualify as long as the gold purity is high enough. Brass is at the core of most gold filled jewelry It isn’t a hypoallergenic metal.
Based on all that, most probably could wear this jewelry without any issues, as long as the gold layer continues to encapsulate the brass well. If the gold layer ever wears too thin, over time, people with sensitive skin could start to experience reactions from contact with the base metal.
How is Gold Filled Jewelry Marked?
Gold filled jewelry hallmarks are like industry shorthand that tells you about the composition of your jewelry. These markings are also referred to as Quality Stamps. They’re required by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for jewelry sold as Gold Filled, Rolled Gold, or Gold Overlay in the United States. Manufacturers are required to include some very specific information in these stamps. We’ll talk more about those elements in a moment.
The FTC protects consumers by ensuring that manufacturers and retailers are representing their products accurately.
Certain information is required to be disclosed, including:
- Gold quality (in karats)
- The ratio of gold used in the piece
- The term that best describes the jewelry item
All of this information needs to be communicated ‘clearly and conspicuously,’ meaning that there can’t be any fine print or misleading presentation of information. The information should all be printed in the same font, and in the same area.
For example, manufacturers couldn’t legally shorten the stamp on gold filled jewelry to just read ‘Gold’ … or even something like 12k or 14k. All of those examples could mislead buyers into thinking that the jewelry being offered is made of solid gold.
Stamps are often arranged so the purity of the gold (the karatage) is printed first. Immediately following that number is a forward slash (the “/” symbol), and a number to reflect the ratio of the item’s weight that’s made up of gold. For example, let’s say we have a gold filled bracelet that’s made of 14 karat gold. The gold comprises 1/20th (5%) of the piece. Based on all that, the stamp could be laid out like any of the following examples.
- 1/20th 14K GOLD FILLED
- 1/20 14KT GOLD-FILLED
- 1/10 22K GF
- 14/20 GF
Various combinations of those examples could also work.
When less than 1/20th of the item’s weight is made up of gold (but NOT less than 1/40th of the total weight), it may be referred to as Rolled Gold Plated (or Rolled Gold). In that case, the term can be used for the stamp, along with disclosure regarding how much of the total weight is made up of gold. Any of the following stamps could be used, for example.
- 1/30th 14K RGP
- 1/40 14K Gold Overlay
- 1/40 14 Kt Rolled Gold Plate
For example, you can put a “th” after the weight ratio, or not. Similarly, you can abbreviate karat with a ‘K’ or a ‘Kt’. Here again, I tried to show several variations that you could mix and match with as needed to align with your personal preferences.
How to Test Gold Filled Jewelry
When you test gold filled jewelry, you’re looking for a couple of primary checking to see if the gold purity is what it’s supposed to be. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to differentiate gold filled jewelry from solid gold jewelry without damaging the item. I’ll explain more about why that is in a moment.
Will gold filled jewelry pass an acid test? Yes, gold filled jewelry will often pass a simple surface-level acid test. To acid test gold, you apply an acid that matches the gold purity that you expect from a particular piece of jewelry. The color and activity in the acid will tell you things about the material you’re testing. If the acid drop turns colors or starts bubbling, you’re dealing with something other than the kind of gold you were looking for.
The 14k gold acid is the only that’s most often needed with gold filled jewelry. The acid test can help you confirm the purity of the gold in your jewelry. What it CAN’T always do, is tell you that the piece isn’t solid gold. The gold layer on GF jewelry is very thick, so there’s often no visible reaction that would alert you to the presence of a non-gold metal beneath it. You would need to get near the base metal somehow and apply the acid in that area to have the potential for a better outcome.
On a used piece of jewelry, you can sometimes look for worn points that might be more effective points to test. Otherwise, you would have to use a file or pocket knife to open, or wear down, the surface so you can apply acid on, or close to, a potential base metal.
Without scratching or filing the gold surface, it’s also difficult to gauge the thickness of the gold layer. Your only information on thickness is the hallmark imprint on the piece of jewelry.
Can gold filled jewelry be magnetic? No, again Brass is almost always the base metal for gold filled jewelry. It’s not a magnetic metal.
Can the Hallmark Stamp on Jewelry be Trusted?
Stamps are typically accurate. Manufacturers face prosecution for falsifying hallmarks. In spite of this, criminals will continue to counterfeit and mislead consumers.
Because it’s difficult to verify EVERY detail of the Hallmark on your own, I’d recommend ONLY buying from sources and retailers that you trust. I would never buy gold filled jewelry from one of the importing sites that allows you to buy jewelry directly from China. There are quality manufacturers there and there are manufacturers that may cut corners or mislabel. It’s not worth rolling the dice.
I also wouldn’t purchase off an auction site. These sellers are so small, that they can fly under the radar of the FTC. They also use terms like Gold Filled, Gold Overlay, and Rolled Gold when they don’t apply to attract buyers looking for that keyword. You might get what you expected, but the chances of getting ripped off are high.
I’ve purchased misrepresented jewelry directly from manufacturers in China. I’ve unknowingly purchased fraudulent items through auctions sites in the past as well. You may not find out that you’ve been lied to for several months, making it even harder to seek any kind of recourse. By that point, you may have already left positive feedback for the seller, or the window for leaving feedback has completely closed.
Can Gold Filled Rings be Resized?
It’s possible to resize a gold filled Ring, but it isn’t always easy to find someone willing to take that on—and the cost might make it impractical. You would be better off buying a similar gold filled ring in a larger or smaller size.
The other issue is how you give the ring a uniform gold appearance after the adjustment. I’ll address how that’s done in the next section.
Can Gold Filled Jewelry be Repaired?
Gold filled jewelry can be repaired, but not with the exact same gold filled finish. The piece will likely need to be plated afterward to give it a uniform appearance. If the item is electroplated following a repair, it may be worth paying extra to have an especially thick coating applied to create a more durable finish.
If you have any trouble finding a Jeweler in your area that’s able to repair your jewelry, you may want to ship your GF item to a jeweler in another area that is accustomed to the work and capable of doing what you need. A few search engine queries should help you to find some good prospects.
How Durable is Gold Filled Jewelry?
Durability is an important consideration for any jewelry. So, how does gold filled jewelry wear? Because the gold layer is so thick, it’s jewelry that should last for years. It can sometimes last decades. A critical factor in how long any jewelry lasts, is how it’s used. Jewelry that’s worn all day, every day, won’t last as long as jewelry that’s worn for a day or two every few weeks.
Jewelry that’s removed before showering and washing hands will likely last longer than jewelry that isn’t. Pieces with harder gold will, obviously, outlast pieces that are coated with softer gold. The lower the karat grade of the gold, the harder it is. This means that 10k gold is harder than 18k for example. It’s important to understand this when shopping for jewelry. If you want to maximize durability, minimize the purity of the gold (10k).To recap, Is gold filled jewelry durable? Yes, it has the potential to be. How long does gold filled jewelry last? That depends on the purity of the gold layer and how the piece is worn and cared for.
Can You Shower with Gold Filled Jewelry?
Gold filled jewelry generally isn’t affected by water any differently than solid gold jewelry is. Having said that, you really should remove gold jewelry before showering. Again, that’s even true of solid gold.
Tap water contains Chlorine. Chlorine can damage gold over time. It’s not something that’s immediately visible to the naked eye—it’s microscopic and gradual. That deterioration can lead to weakened gold that’s more prone to breaking. Rings that have stones mounted are especially vulnerable because gold prongs can get weak and break as damage progresses. Once prongs start bending and breaking, you’re in danger of losing your center stone.
Most water also contains dissolved minerals, often referred to as ‘hard water’. These minerals that can dull the appearance of your jewelry, and in some cases harm the surface in various ways.
Water itself is also effective at dissolving things. It’s so effective that it’s referred to as ‘The Universal Solvent’. Water carved out the Grand Canyon! Having shower water hit and washing over your Gold jewelry isn’t a great idea. It won’t dissolve before your eyes, but could wear down over time. The shower also tends to put your jewelry in contact with soap, shampoo, & conditioner. These products may cause buildup on the surface of your jewelry and could contain agents that are too harsh.
What about washing hands, swimming, or rain? Can gold filled jewelry get wet? GF isn’t overly sensitive to water in general, but both swimming and handwashing carry many of the same dangers as showering with gold jewelry on. If you forget to take your jewelry off once or twice, it isn’t a huge deal—just try not to make a habit of it. Dry the piece off completely as soon as possible.
Here’s an example fo a really cool looking gold filled ring that would be difficult to fully dry after washing your hands without the use of a hand dryer or hairdryer.
Will Gold Filled Jewelry Tarnish
Tarnish is a form of corrosion that causes portions of jewelry to turn green or black. Fortunately, gold filled jewelry is extremely unlikely to tarnish—it would take a very unusual set of circumstances. Direct exposure to harsh chemicals or heavy Sulfide fumes, for example, might cause some surface blackening. That’s not something that very many people will experience.
How to Keep Gold Filled Jewelry From Tarnishing
Remove your jewelry before using chemical agents. You might also want to leave your gold filled jewelry behind the next time you head to a Nail Salon. They’re known to have some pretty serious fumes. The sulfides that can lead to surface blackening have encountered at salons as well.
Be sure to follow the jewelry cleaning instructions that I’ll outline below. You’ll want to avoid harsher chemical-based products that could damage your gold.
Will Gold Filled Jewelry Fade?
The beautiful gold coloring of gold filled jewelry will not fade as time passes. In this regard, it looks and acts exactly like solid gold.
How to Clean Gold Filled Jewelry
Cleaning will help to protect and prolong the life of your jewelry—as long as it’s done properly. Improper cleaning can have the opposite kind of impact. This jewelry isn’t as delicate as pieces with standard gold plating, but it’s still important to clean very carefully. Scratches detract from the look and life of the item, so we want to avoid creating scratches as we clean our GF Jewelry.
It’s best to use a clean soft cloth, a microfiber cloth, or a simple cotton ball to gently wipe the gold as needed. In many cases, no liquid is even needed for a quick cleaning. If you want to use liquid, warm water and a few drops of mild dish soap, like Dawn, is all you need. No need to scrub or apply much pressure. To start, dip your cloth or cotton ball into the soapy water and then carefully wipe the jewelry down. Use lone up and down motions rather than a circular or oval pattern with your wiping.
When you’re done with washing, dip your cloth in clean water and again wipe the surface of the jewelry to rinse. Finish by dabbing with a soft towel until dry, you can also use a hairdryer on a ‘cool’ setting to dry hard-to-reach areas of your jewelry.
Can Gold Filled Jewelry be Replated?
It can be plated with gold—but the gold that was mechanically applied (bonded) previously can’t be removed and replaced. If a significant jewelry repair is made that requires some cutting or scarring of the ring’s surface, gold plating can restore the uniform appearance of the surface. Remember, that with electroplating, more time in the tank leads to a thicker coating. You can let your jeweler know how thick you want the coating to be, and they’ll let you know what your desired thickness will cost.
How Should Gold-Filled Jewelry be Stored?
When you’re not wearing your jewelry, there are some important precautions that you can take to help protect it. First off, keeping it in a jewelry box is a good idea. Jewelry boxes help you not to misplace the item—forgetting where you left it. They also have a soft lining that helps prevent scratching.
You need to be careful with storing multiple pieces of jewelry in the same space. You should ensure they’re separated from each other so they don’t touch. A diamond or sapphire, for example, from a neighboring ring could easily scratch gold if it came in direct contact with it.
For added protection, you can wrap jewelry items in layers of toilet paper, or place them in their own Ziploc bag. This can create an extra buffer between various pieces of jewelry before you store them.
Gold filled jewelry offers a wonderful opportunity for people to get gold on a tight budget. It offers most of the benefits of solid gold for a small fraction of the cost. Some people would never dream of buying anything but solid gold—and that’s alright! But I’ve heard from people that have owned gold filled jewelry for 15+ years that tell me it STILL looks like new and has the appearance of solid gold. They love their gold filled jewelry, and continue to buy more! It’s an avenue worth exploring for your next piece of gold jewelry!
What is Gold Vermeil? The Ultimate Guide!
What Is the Difference Between Gold Vermeil & Gold Plating?
What Does 925 Mean on Gold Jewelry? Where & Why it’s Added
by Dave Greene | Dec 28, 2019 | Metals
If you’re into frugal jewelry, you NEED to know about Gold Vermeil! It allows you to get the look and feel of gold, for roughly the same cost of Sterling Silver!
What is Gold Vermeil? It’s a form of gold plated jewelry that layers at least 2.5 microns of gold (with a purity of 10k or better), on top of a Sterling Silver base metal. In the United States, the term is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. If these basic requirements aren’t met, the term can’t legally be used.
Sound good so far? Then buckle up, because we’ve only scratched the surface! I have a lot more to share! In the paragraphs that follow, I’ll provide more information on what Gold Vermeil is, how it’s made, how to care for it, what it’s worth, and LOTS more.
How is Gold Vermeil Made?
A Sterling Silver ring base is suspended in a tank of electroplating solution. A piece of gold that’s at least 10k is also placed in the solution. An electrical current is then fed into the tank. That current causes the gold to separate and adhere to the Sterling Silver. This process builds up a coating that soon encompasses the base metal completely.
The final thickness of the coating on the ring is influenced by the amount of time that the base metal is left in the tank.
How Thick is Gold Vermeil?
By definition, Gold Vermeil (which is pronounced ver-MAY) has to have a gold thickness of at least 2.5 microns. For the sake of comparison, standard gold plating often has a thickness of .5 to 1 micron, but it can be thicker or thinner. It’s not uncommon to find gold plating that only covers the surface enough to provide a VERY temporary gold appearance.
Even on delicate pieces like this simple and elegant Gold Vermeil ring, it’s nice to know that it has that thicker gold coating that a Vermeil piece is required to provide.
The Benefits of Gold Vermeil
Gold is expensive! At this moment, gold costs a little more than $1,500 per ounce! Sterling Silver is MUCH cheaper. Right now, it costs about $17 per ounce. I took my wedding ring off and weighed it a moment ago. I literally had no idea what it weighed—so I was curious.
Turns out, it’s exactly a quarter of an ounce. Based on that, if my ring were made of solid gold (which it isn’t), it would cost $375 for just the raw gold alone. When you tack on the cost of the metal alloys that are mixed in, manufacturing, middlemen, retailer markup, etc, the cost could grow to something much higher.
If my ring were made only of Sterling Silver, the metal cost would be around $4.25. Again, there are a whole host of manufacturing costs that would need to be factored before arriving at a true retail cost. The point here is that there is a HUGE difference in the cost of Gold and Silver.
Inexpensive Sterling Silver makes up the inner portion of Gold Vermeil jewelry—the part that no one sees anyway. It saves you the cost of using gold to fill the space. Because the vast majority of the weight of Gold Vermeil is made up of Sterling Silver, you’re able to save serious money over the cost of solid gold.
For the sake of example. Let’s assume that a gold coating of 2.5 microns represents 3% of the rings final weight. That would mean that 97% of the ring would be made of Sterling Silver ($4.12), with 3% would be made of gold ($11.25). This is a very basic illustration, but hopefully, you get the point.
Instead of paying hundreds of dollars for a solid gold ring, I’m able to get my metal cost down to roughly $15 by using a less expensive metal in the ring’s center! Keep in mind, that you STILL end up with something that looks identical to the more expensive ring.
The real benefit of Gold Vermeil, is that it allows you to have the look of the gold that you love, for cost of the Silver you can afford. You can wear very expensive-looking jewelry without blowing your budget.
Gold Vermeil engagement rings, wedding rings, and wedding bands allow couples to lower their overall wedding costs. They can then redirect the money that’s saved on rings toward other wedding-related expenses (something there seems to be no end to).
Some couples love their Gold Vermeil jewelry and expect to keep it for a lifetime, while others plan to upgrade in a few years once they’re a little more established.
Can Gold Vermeil be Resized?
Jewelers can resize Gold Vermeil rings, making them smaller or larger if needed. After resizing, the ring will need to be replated to give the surface a uniform appearance.
Is Gold Vermeil Durable?
Just how long does gold vermeil last? The answer to that question depends on three main factors:
- The purity of the gold used. Lower purity gold (like 10k) is harder and more durable than higher purity gold (like 24k).
- The thickness of the gold layer. The minimum allowable thickness is 2.5 microns, but there isn’t a defined maximum thickness. There could be a layer of 3 microns, or more, on some Gold Vermeil items.
- How the jewelry is worn. Jewelry that’s worn every day will take more concentrated abuse than jewelry that’s only worn occasionally. How careful you are to remove it before activities that could potentially cause damage is another important aspect.
I frequently get durability questions like, “How does gold vermeil wear?” and “Does Gold Vermeil wear off?” Questions like these are related to a number of other more specific durability questions that I’ll address below.
Can Gold Vermeil Get Wet?
The issue of water goes well beyond swimming. Can you wear gold vermeil in the shower? Can you wash your hands or wash dishes with Gold Vermeil on? In reality, it’s best to remove your jewelry before coming in contact with water whenever possible. There are two primary reasons for that.
- Water is known as ‘The Universal Solvent’. Over the course of time, it wore away stone and created the Grand Canyon for example. Water can also wear away the gold layer on your jewelry with time and repeated exposure.
- Water carries dissolved minerals, known as ‘hard water’. As jewelry gets wet and then dries off, hard water deposits can form on the surface of the jewelry. Those deposits can be corrosive, but they can also mute or discolor the appearance of the gold.
During the swim season, I often get the question, ‘Can you wear gold vermeil in water’? Swimming has risks above and beyond the two already outlined above. Salt Water and Chlorine are two additional hazards that swimming can introduce. Both of these can be destructive to gold. Keep your gold as dry as possible to maximize its life and beauty. Getting it wet once or twice probably won’t be catastrophic, but repeated exposure could start to take a toll.
Will Gold Vermeil Tarnish?
Tarnish is a darkening, or discoloration, on the surface of your jewelry caused by oxidation. Copper is the second-highest ingredient in Sterling Silver. Copper tarnishes as it’s exposed to moisture. It’s this Copper component of the Gold Vermeil base metal that’s capable of tarnishing.
Gold Vermeil tarnish isn’t something that will materialize right away. It also isn’t something that’s inevitable—but it is possible, over time, as the gold layer wears down and your jewelry is exposed to moisture.
Does Gold Vermeil Turn Green? Tarnish can appear green, but it typically forms in patches—not a uniform discoloration. If tarnish eventually appears, it can easily be removed with a good cleaning.
How to Keep Gold Vermeil from Tarnishing
The best way to prevent the appearance of tarnish is to keep your jewelry dry. Remove it before exercising (sweating), washing your hands, showering, etc. If your jewelry does get wet at some point—remove it and dry it as soon as possible. You should also remove Gold Vermeil rings before applying lotions or hand sanitizer.
When you’re not wearing your Gold Vermeil jewelry, store it in a Ziploc bag (or some other airtight container.
Will Gold Vermeil Turn My Finger Green?
The same Copper component of Sterling Silver that can tarnish over time can also leave a green or black mark on your finger. Many people associate those finger stains with ‘fake’ or low-quality jewelry. It isn’t always an accurate association. Even ‘pure’ rose gold rings can leave these marks, because it also has significant Copper in the metal mixture.
Not everyone experiences these marks when they wear jewelry that contains Copper. Much of it has to do with the skin chemistry of the wearer. Things like hormone levels, ph balance, and how much you sweat can all have an impact. The lotions and medications being used can also influence whether marks appear as you wear your jewelry.
My wife and teenage daughter each had the same plated ring. It had copper as its base metal. My wife wore the ring for over a month without marks appearing on her fingers. My daughter saw stains on her finger the first day that she wore the ring. I inspected the plating, and it was all intact. Again, different people will have different experiences in this area based on the factors mentioned above.
If needed, you can add a coating of clear fingernail polish to the inside a ring to create a barrier that should prevent finger stains. Reapply the fingernail polish as needed. There are similar polymers, created for sealing jewelry, that can also be applied. They do the same thing as fingernail polish but can last longer between applications
Does Gold Vermeil Fade
The color of Gold Vermeil can fade slightly over time, as atoms of the two metals present in the jewelry defuse into each other. Standard gold plated jewelry pieces often have a layer of Nickel between the base metal and gold coating, to act as a barrier between the two. According to the Federal Trade Commission’s jewelry guidelines, Gold Vermeil can’t contain that Nickel coating.
It’s important to remember that gold plating (including Gold Vermeil) will need to be replated eventually. How long it takes before you get to the point where replating is needed, depends on the durability factors outlined above.
When you take it in for replating, you can specify how thick you want the application to be. You might pay the jeweler to apply a 5 to 10-micron layer of gold, extending it’s life before replating is needed again.
Does Gold Vermeil Change Color?
The only factors that could generally influence the color of your Gold Vermeil jewelry, are the possibility of eventual tarnish or fading (both of which are described above). Again, you may never experience any tarnish, but if you do, it can be removed with a good cleaning.
Does Gold Vermeil Rust?
Rust is a form of corrosion that can be extremely destructive. Fortunately, Gold Vermeil will not rust. It’s still a good idea, however, to keep your jewelry dry for the reasons outlined above.
Is Gold Vermeil Good For Sensitive Ears?
Gold Vermeil earrings often aren’t an ideal choice for those with sensitive ears, because Gold Vermeil isn’t Hypoallergenic. Any gold that’s less pure than 24k gold has other metal alloys mixed in to increase harness and influence the look of the gold. Unfortunately, 24k gold often isn’t hard enough to work well for body jewelry. Sterling Silver (the base metal for Gold Vermeil) also has metal alloys mixed in. It contains Copper (and sometimes small amounts of other metal additives).
The question often comes up, ‘Does Gold Vermeil contain Nickel?’ It’s an understandable question since sensitivity to Nickel is so common.
“Nickel is thought to be one of the most prevalent contact allergens. Researchers estimate that about 5–10% of the population in the industrialized world is allergic to nickel on contact, and that figure reaches 10–20% in young women, who are more likely to be exposed to the metal in jewellery — particularly earrings and other piercings — that contain the metal.” -Alla Katsnelson
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires companies that use the term Gold Vermeil for their products to meet certain minimal standards. Among those, is a requirement NOT to add any metals, like Nickel, on top of the Sterling Silver base without disclosing it to buyers.
This means that if no Nickel disclosure if provided, the jewelry shouldn’t contain Nickel. Here’s the issue though, the FTC can’t catch rogue retailers immediately. They also can’t prosecute immediately. Because of that, it’s still a buyer-beware environment.
Those with sensitive ears, won’t want to risk reaction to unknown metal additives, so earrings made from hypoallergenic metals might be the best idea. Surgical Stainless Steel and Titanium are two common choices.
What is Rose Gold Vermeil?
Rose Gold is a mixture of yellow gold and Copper that leads to gold with a beautiful pinkish appearance. Rose gold can be tricky to get repaired, because the color can vary so much from item-to-item.
Again, the Rose Gold color depends on the amount Copper that was added to the gold mixture. Less copper results in a pale pink hue, while more copper creates a much redder copper-like coloring. Jewelers have difficulty matching the precise color of the item they’re repairing—but they can recoat the ring in a completely new layer of rose gold.
Be aware that not all jewelers will want to resize or repair rose gold jewelry because they don’t have the supplies they need on hand. If one jeweler says they can’t help, you’ll need to check with others. Some jewelers are well equipped and work with a large amount of rose gold jewelry—you’ll be able to find someone to do the work for you.
If you live in a small rural community, and can’t find a local jeweler to work on your rose gold ring, you might consider mailing it to an out-of-state jeweler. There are several repair services that do work for people across the country (and around the world).
This gorgeous Rose Gold Vermiel Morganite ring is an affordable head-turner!
What is White Gold Vermeil?
This variety is made as White gold is layered on top of a Sterling Silver base. In reality, ‘White Gold’ is not actually white on its own. The gold layer has to be plated with Rhodium to provide the traditional coloring that you’re accustomed to. In a sense, White Gold Vermeil is a twice-plated piece of jewelry (the base metal is plated with white gold—the white gold is then plated with Rhodium).
The thickness of the gold layer is defined and regulated in the United States, but the thickness of the Rhodium coating is not. The challenge with White Gold Vermeil, is that the Rhodium coating is fairly thin and can sometimes wear through quickly. You’ll need to have a jeweler reapply the Rhodium plating for you periodically.
How to Clean Gold Vermeil Jewelry
You have to be very gentle as you clean your Gold Vermeil. If you press too hard or use the wrong products to clean with, you can rub through the gold that coats the surface. Never use brushes, silver polishing cloths, or chemical cleaners. You also DON’T want to use an Ultrasonic cleaner for this delicate job. They’re wonderful for many other types of jewelry, but Gold Vermeil isn’t compatible.
The simplest cleaning technique, is rubbing gently with a soft 100% cotton or microfiber cloth. Use a long up and down rubbing pattern, rather than circular motions as you clean.
If you feel that you need something more in order to clean your jewelry, add a few drops of mild dish soap (like Dawn) to a small bowl of warm water. Rather than submerging your Gold Vermeil in the water, dip your soft cotton cloth in the soapy water and then use the damp cloth to wipe the piece lightly When you’re done with cleaning, dip another section of the cloth in some clean water to rinse the jewelry with as you again wipe it down.
When you’re done rinsing, you’ll want to dry the item well. For jewelry items that have a lot of hard to reach parts, you may want to dry the item well with the cool setting of a hair drier.
Gold Plated vs Vermeil Which is Better?
Gold Vermeil is typically the better bet … but not always. Gold Vermeil generally has a much thicker layer of gold than standard gold plating delivers. Because of this difference (and because the base metal of Gold Vermeil is ALWAYS Sterling Silver), it’s typically more durable than standard gold plating. I say ‘typically,’ because there are situations where non-Vermeil gold plating might be the more durable option.
- When the standard gold plating is much thicker than the layer on an otherwise similar piece of Gold Vermeil (assuming the gold purity is equal on both).
- When standard gold plating offers a lower gold purity than another similar Gold Vermeil piece. Lower gold purity (like 10k or 14k is going to be harder than pieces with higher gold purity like 18k or 24k).
Because it’s difficult for a consumer to gauge the thickness of the gold coating on their jewelry, it’s easy to be misled. Gold Vermeil, at least, provides SOME assurance that the coating is no thinner than 2.5 microns (to be in legal compliance in the United States).
Rolled Gold vs Vermeil
Rolled Gold jewelry is also known as Gold-Filled jewelry. Rolled Gold and Gold Filled are both terms that also have specific manufacturing requirements that are enforced by the FTC. Rolled gold jewelry has to have a gold coating that totals at least 5% of the total weight of the item. That generally leads to a much thicker coating that you’ll find on most Gold Vermeil.
Rolled Gold has a gold layer that has been mechanically bonded to its base metal through a heat and pressure treatment process. That essentially makes the two metals one solid piece, adding durability.
Gold Vermeil is typically more durable than standard gold plating. Rolled Gold is generally going to be the most durable gold option outside of solid gold. It offers the ability to save significant money, while also getting jewelry items that can last for many years.
Gold Vermeil can be a great choice for those needing a frugal jewelry option. Gold Vermeil can be a great choice for those than need a frugal jewelry option. If you love the look of solid gold, but have budget constraints, Gold Vermeil might be for you! Understanding the advantages and limitations of Gold Vermeil will help you to make smart buying decisions. It will also help you to care for your Gold Vermeil jewelry, so you can get as much life and enjoyment out of those pieces as possible.
What Is the Difference Between Gold Vermeil & Gold Plating?
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by Dave Greene | Dec 26, 2019 | Metals
Confusing isn’t it? When you look at a gold plated item beside a Gold Vermeil item side-by-side, they look identical. So, how different can they be? The two are actually quite different. I’ll lay it all out below.—
What Is the Difference Between Vermeil and Gold Plating? Gold Vermeil uses Sterling Silver as a base metal, with at least 2.5 microns of gold encasing it on all sides. Standard Gold plating can have a variety of cheaper metals at its core, like Copper, Brass, or Nickel. Standard Plating also has a much thinner gold coating (starting at just .175 microns).
You now understand some of the basic differences between Gold Vermeil (pronounced ver-MAY) and standard gold plating, but there’s a lot more that you should know. I’ll share other important details about both jewelry options in the paragraphs that follow.
Both Gold Vermeil and gold plated jewelry offer an affordable alternative to solid gold jewelry. You can find gold vermeil earrings, bracelets, rings, pendants, necklaces, cufflinks, and more. All the same types of jewelry are available in standard gold plating too.
Quick Fact: All Olympic Gold Medals awareded since 1912 have actually been gold plated Sterling Silver?
Before diving into all the ways that these two gold jewelry options are different, let’s look at how they’re similar.
3 Key Similarities Between Gold Vermeil and Gold Plating
Gold Vermeil and standard gold plating have the following in common …
Both Have the Look and Feel of Gold
Gold covers the surface of both your standard gold plated jewelry and Gold Vermeil. The purity of the gold used is also at least 10 karat (10k). The gold on the surface could be yellow gold, white gold, or rose gold. This process isn’t new—gold plating has also been known, historically, as ‘Silver-gilt’ or ‘Gilded Silver’.
Both Are Commonly Created Through an Electroplating Process
Electroplated jewelry is created by suspending a base metal in a bath of electroplating solution. A piece of Solid gold is also placed in the same tank and solution. An electric current is sent through the solution in the tank, causing a transfer process to start. The gold is attracted to the base metal, creating a coating. The thickness of that coating depends on the amount of gold added to the tank, and how long the base metal remains submerged.
Plated jewelry is sometimes referred to as ‘dipped’ jewelry because of the way the electroplating process works. Gold-electroplating provides great flexibility. It can be used to create the thinnest gold coatings of all the various plating processes. Electroplating is also capable of creating thick coatings that can endure decades of active use.
The base metal used for standard gold plating is coated in Nickel before it’s introduced to the solution. The Nickel is like a coat of primer that helps separate the base metal from the gold. Without it, atoms from the base metal would be more likely to diffuse into the gold layer over time. That diffusion can cause normal gold coloring to fade with time.
Unlike standard gold plating, Gold Vermeil’s base metal isn’t coated with Nickel before placing it in the electroplating solution. Gold Vermeil is also left submerged in the tank for a much longer period of time, which leads to a thicker coating (at least 2.5 microns).
Both Have a Metal Other Than Gold Under Their Surface
As the name implies, solid gold jewelry has the same consistent metal mixture throughout the item. If you cut a piece of solid gold jewelry in half and then examined the insides, you’d see a consistent color throughout.
If a piece of standard gold plated jewelry (or Gold Vermeil) was cut in half, you’d notice that the gold is a relatively thin surface layer. The majority fo the ring material is an entirely different color.
4 Key Differences Between Gold Vermeil and Gold Plating
Gold Vermeil vs gold plated jewelry—the two do have similarities, but they also have several important differences. I’ll address key distinctions below.
The Thickness of Their Gold Coating
Standard gold plating is thin. In the United States, gold plating is supposed to be a coating of at least .175 microns, but that’s a very thin coating. The only thing you can really be sure of with standard gold plating is that it’s going to have enough gold applied to give it the appearance of being made of gold.
The durability of general gold plating varies wildly because it’s so dependent on the type and the thickness of the gold coating. The thinnest gold layers may wear through within just days, or weeks, of normal use.
In the U.S., Gold Vermeil needs to have a coating of at least 2.5 microns (0.0025 millimeters) of gold in order to legally be marketed as that kind of product. That’s true even if the jewelry qualifies in all other ways.
The FTC (The Federal Trade Commission) is the consumer protection agency that enforces compliance with these quality standards in the United States. Other nations will have different minimum standards…and a different enforcing body for these (or similar) terms.
Canadian Gold Vermeil, for example, is only required to be 1 micron thick. That’s a distinction you need to be aware of as you consider buying jewelry that’s labeled as Gold Vermeil from different sources.
The Base Metal Used
Standard gold plating can be done over a wide variety of metals. Common base metals for plated jewelry include Copper, Brass, Steel, Nickel or Sterling Silver.
Gold Vermeil ALWAYS uses Sterling Silver as it’s base metal. If you have 2.5 microns of gold coating some other type of metal, it CAN’T legally be referred to as Gold Vermeil—it MUST be Sterling Silver.Sterling Silver is less likely than many other metals to cause skin reactions for sensitive wearers. Because of this, many people with sensitive skin prefer it as a base metal for their plated jewelry. Nickel is a metal that can cause skin reactions for some. Again, the base metal for plated jewelry is often coated in Nickel before being covered in gold. The gold plating that encases the Nickel is thin and can often be worn through quickly.
The Final Cost of the Item
Because Gold Vermeil often uses more gold in the manufacturing process, it may cost more. The difference in the value of the base metal used also has a small impact on the final cost of the jewelry. Again, Sterling Silver costs more than the metals that are most often used for standard gold plating.
While Gold Vermeil sometimes cost more, for the reasons mentioned above—but doesn’t ALWAYS cost more. The price increase for a Sterling Silver base metal and a much thicker gold coating can be little to nothing in some cases. When a price difference does exist, it may be worth the splurge if you can afford it.
The Hallmarks Used to Identify Each Jewelry Type
Before explaining the hallmarks used to identify various forms of gold plating, I’ll quickly explain the stamps that are used to indicate gold purity.
Purity imprints include a number like 10, 14, 18, or 24, immediately followed by the letter ‘k,’ (for ‘karat’). Karat is a measurement of gold purity. Pure gold is 24 karat (24k).
Gold is a soft metal that isn’t very durable on its own, so other metals are often added to increase the ultimate hardness of jewelry. Other common grades of gold are 22k, 18k, 14k, and 10k. The lower the karat number, the less pure the gold is. Because 10k gold has a higher percentage of other metals mixed in to increase hardness, it’s much more durable than 18k gold for example. By the same token, 18k gold is much harder and more durable than 24k gold.
Symbols like the following are often used to identify gold plated jewelry:
- GP (Gold Plated)
- GEP (Gold-Electroplated)
- RGP (Rolled Gold Plate)
- HGE (Heavy Gold-Electroplated)
- HGP (Heavy Gold Plate)
To be considered ‘Gold plated’ (GP), jewelry needs to be coated with AT LEAST a .5 micron layer of gold that’s 10k or purer.
The Electroplating process can produce jewelry that uses a GEP or the HGE stamp—depending on the thickness of the gold coating. A jewelry item would need to have at least a 2.5-micron coating, applied through the electroplating process, to qualify as ‘HGE’.
Gold plating that’s done through a method other than electroplating, could be stamped with RGP or HGP (depending, again, on the thickness of the gold coating that was applied).
A separate stamp indicating gold purity may also be added to the plating imprint. The finished hallmark might say something like, “10k GEP,” for example. The full stamp then tells us that the jewelry was electroplated with 10k gold. Instead of using abbreviations, it’s possible for an imprint to also say something like, “10 Karat Gold Electroplate.”
Hallmarks can also communicate information about the thickness of the gold layer that was applied in some cases. For example, you might see an imprint like ‘1 micron 10k G.P.’ on occasion. There may also be a mark, like ‘925’ indicating that the base metal is Sterling Silver in some cases.
Gold Vermeil often doesn’t bear any stamp indicating the kind of plating process that was used to manufacture it. What you often will see though, is a hallmark for Sterling Silver. The numbers 925 are the most common stamp to identify the presence of that particular metal in the center of Gold Vermeil jewelry. The 925 stamp references the fact that Sterling Silver is 92.5% pure silver with the remaining 7.5% made up of other metal alloys.
What makes it really stand out, is when ‘925’ is stamped on something like a yellow gold surface. The hallmark alerts you to the fact that Sterling Silver is hidden beneath the surface. This beautiful Wedding Band is a great example of Gold Vermeil Jewelry, and the hallmarks it utilizes.
Is Gold Vermeil or Gold Plating More Durable?
Just how long does gold plated jewelry last? That depends on 4 major variables:
- The thickness of the gold coating.
- The type of gold that was applied.
- The material used as the base metal.
- How the jewelry is worn.
I’ll explain the implications of each of these variables below.
The Thickness of the Gold Coating
Gold plating can range from an ultra-thin layer (often referred to as flash gold plating or gold wash) that can rub off within hours, to a thick coating that can easily last for decades. Thicker is, obviously, better.
I saw the following ring offered by a discount retailer the other day. As you can see, it’s advertised as ‘flash plated,’ with 14k gold. The ring was only about $15, but I’d be surprised if it lasted a week before the gold layer had been worn through with normal use.
The Type of Gold That Was Applied
Again, lower purity gold (gold with a lower number preceding the ‘K’) has a higher ratio of other metal alloys mixed in. Those metal additives increase the hardness of the gold mixture substantially. That means that 10k gold will be the MOST durable option available, with 14k being the next best alternative.
The Material Used as the Base Metal
Some metals are softer than others. Pure Silver is significantly softer than Sterling Silver, for example. Pure Silver is also softer than Copper and Brass. Copper and Brass are both softer than Nickel or Steel.
The softer the base metal, the more easily it can become bent and misshapen. My wife has a thin Sterling Silver ring that this happened to several years ago. As she wore it in the course of everyday activities, the bottom of the ring bent in. A bent ring isn’t comfortable, but a ring that bends too easily can also present some danger for your fingers as well.
How the Jewelry is Worn
Jewelry that’s worn all day, everyday, takes more concentrated abuse than jewelry that is only worn occasionally. Pieces that are worn in direct contact with your skin also tend to show wear faster. That means that a necklace worn on top of your shirt is likely to hold up better than one worn beneath it, for example.
Your jewelry is also likely to last longer when you remove it before showering, swimming, exercising, etc.
There are other durability questions that I hear a lot related to gold plating and Gold Vermeil. I’ll quickly address three of the most common.
Will Gold Vermeil Tarnish?
It’s very possible for tarnish to eventually appear because Gold Vermeil always has Sterling Silver at its core. As the gold layer thins over time, that base metal may oxidize to some extent, leading to tarnish your jewelry. The good news, is that this isn’t a permanent condition. If tarnish does appear one day, it can easily be removed with a good cleaning.
To be clear, tarnish on the surface of your Gold Vermeil won’t always happen—and can be remedied if it does. My wife has had some uncoated Sterling Silver jewelry for many years that has never tarnished at all.
Does Gold Vermeil Wear Off?
Gold plating, of any kind, will wear through at some point. How soon, depends on some of the durability factors that I outlined above.
When the plating on your Gold Vermeil eventually wears through, you won’t need to throw the jewelry away. Jewelers can ‘dip’ the same item again, to recoat it through the same electroplating process that was originally used to create it. The process is relatively inexpensive.
Will Gold Vermeil Turn My Finger Green?
Here are some quick facts that play a role in the answer.
- Sterling Silver is at the core of Gold Vermeil rings.
- Sterling Silver contains roughly 7.5% Copper.
- Copper oxidizes when exposed to moisture.
As Copper oxidizes, it CAN leave a green or black mark on your finger. In reality, everyone’s skin can respond a little differently to metals like Copper.
My wife and teenage daughter wore the very same ring several months ago at different times. It was a Copper ring with Rhodium plating. The ring left no mark on my wife’s hand—but stained my daughter’s fingers the very first day that she wore it. Why the difference?
These differences are related to things like:
- How much a particular individual’s hands sweat.
- The creams and lotions being used at the time.
- Differences in hormone levels.
- The PH of your body chemistry.
As you can see, whether a given piece of Gold Vermeil jewelry leaves marks as it’s worn, depends a great deal on the specific person that’s wearing it.
If this ever becomes an issue, there are a couple of potential remedies that you can try. The simplest option is coating the side of your jewelry that contacts your skin with clear fingernail polish. That coating will need to be reapplied as it wears off. If you want a longer-lasting option, there are some polymers made specifically for jewelry that can last for several months before needing to be reapplied.
Is Gold Vermeil Better than Gold Plated?
Gold Vermeil has some real advantages, but Is it worth paying a higher price to get the benefits of Gold Vermeil? Generally speaking, I think it is. In reality, though, the answer is more complicated than that.
A 2.5-micron coating of 24k gold over Sterling Silver would quality for Gold Vermeil, but it wouldn’t hold up as well as a 2.5-micron layer of 10k gold over Brass (Heavy Gold Electroplate), for example. I point that out because it’s hard to make the blanket statement that Gold Vermeil is ALWAYS the better option.
Having said that, there is one BIG advantage that Gold Vermeil has over standard gold plating. That advantage is PREDICTABILITY! There are several things that I have an assurance of when I buy Gold Vermeil.
- The base metal is Sterling Silver.
- The gold coating is at least 2.5 microns thick.
Other, more standard, gold plating could be thin or thick—it’s difficult to know for sure. The base metal could be Copper or Nickel—that isn’t always disclosed. It’s because of predictability that I feel Gold Vermeil is more desirable, overall, and probably worth paying a little extra for if needed.
Is Gold Plated Jewelry Worth Anything?
Used jewelry with gold plating generally isn’t worth much—but that’s ok. You almost ALWAYS have to sell used jewelry for less than you bought it for. That’s true of nearly ALL types of jewelry. The reason is simple, buyers are hunting for a bargain. If they wanted to pay retail, they’d go to a store.
Instead of selling to another individual user, you could also sell to a refinery or metal recycling company—but they’ll pay only for the melt value of the gold that’s on your jewelry. Items with thin plating will be worth almost nothing. It would likely take a pound of it to get $20-$40. If you have a piece of jewelry with a particularly thick coating you’ll likely fair much better.
Here’s the bottom line though. Jewelry is not an investment—it’s a consumable! The greatest value that most jewelry will gain is sentimental value.
Both standard gold plating and Gold Vermeil can provide an excellent opportunity to own beautiful, and expensive-looking, jewelry for far less than similar solid gold alternatives would cost. When the gold layer is thick enough, and the type of gold used is
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