Yellow gold engagement ring
Yellow gold engagement ring

Gold Glossary: Gold-Plated, Vermeil and Solid Gold

Angelica Frey | July 15, 2023

Curious about the difference between gold-plated, gold-filled, gold vermeil and solid gold? We've got all the information you need. There are many ways to utilize the luster and appearance of gold at several price points. Unlike solid gold, gold-plated, gold-filled and gold vermeil jewelry have shorter lifespans, as the plating will eventually wear off.

Designs featuring VRAI created diamonds are made with recycled solid gold. One of our core values as a company is quality—we want to make sure that there is longevity in your VRAI pieces so you can enjoy them for years to come. Since we’re serious about our materials, we want our customers to also understand the differences between plated, filled, vermeil and solid gold.

What Does Gold Plated Mean?

Gold plated jewelry indicates a type of gold-toned jewelry consisting of covering a base metal, typically brass or copper, with a thin plating of gold. The process is known as “electroplating,” and through an electric current, the atoms of gold bond to the atoms of the base metal. In order for jewelry to be labeled as gold plated, the plating should be of at least 0.5 microns. New, gold plated pieces may possess the same appearance as solid-gold ones, but rubbing, washing, rinsing causes the gold plating to fade. It can also stain the wearer’s skin, clothes, and other jewels. Gold-plating is not regulated, so quality may vary.

Gold plated jewelry does not have the longest life-span. Typically, it’s used for trendy, seasonal pieces that are not meant to be passed down as heirlooms through generations. If you want to experiment with a new style, testing the waters with gold-plated pieces is a cost-effective way to see if a particular piece works for you and your overall style.

Description gold plated
Description gold plated

What Does Gold Filled Mean?

Gold filled jewelry has an actual layer of gold covering a base metal. The filling is achieved mechanically through a process of soldering or welding. By law, gold filled jewelry must contain 5% gold by weight to be categorized as filled, which means the gold coating is generally much thicker than that of plated jewelry. Because of regulation, the gold of gold-filled jewelry bears a karat stamp, but that it only refers to the gold layer and not to the whole piece. Gold filled jewelry lasts longer than gold plated jewelry, but it is prone to tarnishing as well.

High-end designer and costume jewelry can be labeled as gold-filled. Gold filled jewelry allows for more elaborate and opulent pieces while keeping the costs relatively lower.

Description of filled gold, chart
Description of filled gold, chart

What Is Gold Vermeil?

Gold vermeil is a highly regulated term that uses sterling silver as the base metal. Compared to other types of gold plating, Vermeil is considered hypoallergenic, which means unlikely to cause an allergy, and more high-quality. Vermeil is also used in fine jewelry, especially among DTC brands. While more durable than gold plated and gold filled jewelry, gold vermeil is also prone to scuffs and scratches. Eventually, that can cause the plating to wear off.

For both everyday and entry-level jewelry, gold vermeil allows you to combine quality with a more budget-friendly price point. The same style of jewelry (say, a pair of medium hoops) in gold vermeil costs 1/5 the price of its 14k gold counterpart. Sure, the quality of solid gold jewelry is drastically superior, but if you have to choose among gold plate options, vermeil is the best quality.

Description of vermeil gold, chart
Description of vermeil gold, chart

What Is Solid Gold?

Solid gold indicates jewelry that is entirely made of gold, both the inside and the outside. Gold is a soft and malleable metal widely used in jewelry. In its purest form, it has a distinctively orange-yellow hue. Gold is naturally shiny, lustrous, and doesn’t tarnish, characteristics that make it the ideal metal for fine jewelry and engagement rings meant to withstand the test of time. In addition, it’s both malleable (it can be beaten into tiny sheets) and ductile (it can be stretched into thin wires), which makes it ideal for pendants and earrings.

100% gold is, however, very soft and not suitable for jewelry. In order for gold to become harder, it needs to be compounded with other metals, which creates alloys. The degree of purity is on a scale of 1 to 24 and is expressed in “karats”. In North America, 14k (585/1000) and 18k (750/1000) are the most commonly used types of gold for fine and bridal jewelry. VRAI uses 14k gold and 18k gold for its gold jewelry.

Description of solid gold, chart
Description of solid gold, chart

14k Gold: VRAI’s Fine Jewelry

14k gold is an alloy consisting of 58.5% of gold and the rest of other metals, depending on the color of gold. 14k is the most popular alloy for fine jewelry in the United States and combines durability and affordability. Appearance-wise, it’s not easily distinguishable from 18k gold.

VRAI’s gold jewelry line comes in 14 gold. 14k gold offers a good combination of luster, durability, and malleability. Appearance-wise, you can’t easily distinguish 14k from 18k gold jewelry unless you have a series of swatches of different gold alloys readily available. It should be noted that VRAI’s 14k gold jewelry does not come with a lifetime care package. In the engagement-ring and bridal jewelry line, rose gold options also come in 14k gold, because it allows for the best rendition of the rose color.

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18k Gold: VRAI’s Bridal Jewelry

18k gold is the purest form of gold with an extensive usage in fine jewelry. It consists of 75% gold and of 25% of other metals, with the specifics changing depending on the color of gold. 18k gold is known for the richness and depth of its color and for its luster.

VRAI’s engagement rings and wedding rings come in 18k gold. Bridal and engagement rings are made with 18k white and yellow gold and platinum. Be aware that, in VRAI’s engagement and bridal jewelry, rose gold comes in 14k gold. The reason is that this alloy is the one that allows the rose hue to fully shine through: a 18k alloy would look more of like a soft-coral color.

Choose Your Gold

Between gold-filled, gold-plated, and gold vermeil, there are many ways to recreate the bright cast of gold metal, but the lifespan of those products is limited. Overall, it’s more advisable to invest in solid gold jewelry for fine jewelry you plan on wearing for a long time.

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