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Four Different Types of Gold Jewelry

Annabelle / February 14, 2019

Gold jewelry is a timeless addition to any wardrobe- the color of gold has been considered attractive since antiquity. Nowadays, there are many ways to obtain the golden aesthetic without going over budget- by buying different types of gold jewelry. But what exactly are you getting? We’re here to give you the rundown about the four types of gold jewelry commonly found in today’s market.

Four Different Types of Gold Jewelry

There are four primary techniques used to give jewelry a gold color: gold plating, gold vermeil, gold-filled, and solid gold casting.

1. Gold Plated Jewelry

The most common and affordable technique, gold plating encompasses a wide variety of jewelry. This ranges from low-quality costume jewelry to higher-end “bridge” jewelry. Gold plating is the process of coating a base metal with a layer of gold via a electroplating solution. The base metal is usually something cheap, such as copper, nickel, aluminum, or even a mixture of various metals.

When jewelers and manufacturers create gold plated jewelry, the thickness of the plating determines the jewelry’s price point. The unit used to measure gold plating thickness is called a micron, or 0.001 of a millimeter. Most costume jewelry is plated with 1 micron or less, which means that the plating will quickly wear off over time. Higher-end designer or branded jewelry may be plated with 2 to 3 microns of gold, ensuring a longer-lasting color. 

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A silver ring with gold plated sections.

2. Gold Vermeil Jewelry

Gold vermeil is a special type of gold plated jewelry. In order for an item to be called gold vermeil, the base metal must be sterling silver, and the micron thickness must be a minimum of 2.5 microns. This type of gold-colored jewelry is preferred by artisans who want to create durable jewelry without using expensive gold. Because of its lower production cost, gold vermeil has become increasingly popular with consumers, since it’s good quality jewelry at a more affordable price point.

However, as with all gold-colored jewelry, gold vermeil is still susceptible to wear. In addition, the gold layer can become discolored after a while. Frequent care, such as cleaning the jewelry with a gentle cloth to remove oils and dirt, will preserve the plating.

types-of-gold-jewelry-gold-vermeil

Gold vermeil is usually stamped with 925 for sterling silver, and then a karat number to indicate gold content.

3. Gold Filled Jewelry

Unlike gold plated and gold vermeil jewelry, gold filled jewelry is not simply covered with a thin layer of gold. Gold filled jewelry is actually created with a thick sheet of gold that is permanently bonded to a base metal. In addition, gold filled jewelry must be at least 5% of the item’s total weight, making it 5-10 thicker and more durable than gold plating. Gold-filled jewelry can last from 10 years to even 30 years, and items such as necklaces and earrings have been known to retain their gold color for more than a century!

While this technique is very common with antique and vintage jewelry, its pricier production cost is less appealing to designers compared to simple gold plating and gold vermeil. This makes it less available on the market, but it’s still a great choice for people who want long-lasting jewelry with the appearance of gold.

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This vintage gold filled chain looks solid, but actually contains a non-gold base.

4. Solid Gold Casting Jewelry

“Solid gold” is actually an incorrect name for most gold jewelry. Customers usually think that solid gold means pure gold. In truth, pure gold is considered by most manufacturers to be too soft and expensive for jewelry creation. The “solid” gold you buy on the market is actually an alloy (a mixture of metals) that contains gold and other metals that provide structure and durability. The higher the gold content in that alloy, the more expensive the gold jewelry.

But how do you figure out the gold content? Gold is measured by karat, or 24 parts. That’s why you’ll see gold jewelry marked as 10k, 14k, or 18k; these numbers actually mean 10/24, 14/24, and 18/24. In percentages, those numbers tell you the amount of gold within that piece of jewelry.

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Keep this handy-dandy chart in mind if you’re gold jewelry shopping!

Now you might be wondering; “Well, why should I buy lower karat gold if I can get more gold in higher karat jewelry?” A good question; the higher the karat, the higher the price, and the softer the metal. If you’re someone who has an active lifestyle, you might want to reconsider buying an 22k yellow gold ring since it’ll bend and scratch much more easily. On the other hand, a 10k yellow gold ring is equally attractive, and is much more durable.

This type of jewelry contains gold in the metal itself, which means the color of the ring will never go away unlike gold plated jewelry.

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An Artcarved ring that clearly indicates it’s made from 14k yellow gold.

When it comes to buying jewelry, it pays off to be well-informed. What type of gold jewelry do you prefer; the affordability of gold plated jewelry, or a long-lasting investment in solid gold cast jewelry? Let us know in the comments below!

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