Biggest Differences between Solid Gold, Gold filled and Gold Plated Jewelry
Biggest Differences between Solid Gold, Gold Filled, Gold Plated, Vermeil and Rhodium Plated Jewelry
"All that glitters is not gold” -English Proverb
Ever heard the old adage that a man’s best friend is his dog, and a woman’s best friend are her diamonds? Well, today I’m introducing you to Gold - your new best friend. For generations, gold has been the trademark of beauty and elegance for both men and woman alike. It is a symbol of status and a representation of your taste in fashion. However, what if I told you that not all gold is the same?
In today’s jewelry industry, we now have terminology such as solid gold, gold filled, and gold plated items. So what’s the difference between them all? Well, in short: solid gold jewelry is the highest quality, thus it’s the most expensive. Gold filled jewelry is a cheaper, yet still a valuable alternative to solid gold. And finally, gold plated jewelry is usually the cheapest and most accessibly since it aesthetically looks like quality gold. The remainder of this post dives into the specific differences between solid gold, gold filled, and gold plated jewelry. And for you men out there that have trouble buying gifts, pay attention because this info could be a relationship saver!
Is there a Real Difference between Solid Gold, Gold Filled, Gold Plated, Vermeil, and Rhodium Plated Jewelry?
Yes! When it comes to purchasing a piece of fine jewelry, you’ve got to understand the difference between Solid Gold, Gold Filled, Gold Plated, Vermeil and Rhodium Plated jewelry items. In addition, it’s important to know the difference between 10K, 14K, 18K, and 24K gold. These karat (K) numbers represent the exact percentage of real gold in each jewelry piece. Be sure to check for the karat number on the inside or back side of the gold jewelry piece you intend to buy. You want to get what you pay for.
What is Solid Gold Jewelry?
Solid Gold Jewelry is a piece of jewelry made entirely of gold -- inside and out. It’s the most expensive and durable among the other types of fine gold jewelry. Solid gold items can be either 10K, 14K, 18K, or 24K. Karats (K) are percentages of actual gold in the jewelry piece. Fine jewelry from European manufacturers use a different numbering system than karats. Instead of 10K, 14k, 18K and 24K, European jewelry has numbers like 417, 585, 750 and 999 for pure gold. These numbers are referred to as the “fineness”, and they represent the percentages of gold content in the alloy—just like karats.
What is Gold Filled Jewelry?
Gold Filled Jewelry consists of 2-3 layers of solid gold (bonded or pressed) with other metals a brass, silver, or other base metal. These layers of solid gold can have different karatage (10K, 14K, 18K and 24K). Gold filled jewelry is a typically a better alternative to gold plated jewelry. It won’t tarnish and it’s much more durable than gold plated jewelry. However, after about 20-30 years, you can begin to see some slight fading of the color.
What is Gold Plated Jewelry?
Gold Plated Jewelry is the least expensive alternative when it comes to jewelry. However, by paying less you are also sacrificing quality of the jewelry piece. Gold plated jewelry is made from a process called electroplating. It’s a process that uses an electric current to reduce dissolved metal cat-ions so that they form a thin coherent metal coating. This process normally uses brass, copper, nickel or silver as a base.Then, a super thin layer of either 14K, 18K or 24K gold is applied with electrolytes on that base. Ultimately, it doesn't even really matter what the karat of that gold plating is. It's so thin (less that 1% of the total weight of the item) that it can be easily scratched off from the base. Essentially, it doesn't have a real gold value.
Gold Plated Jewelry vs. Solid gold Jewelry:
Compared to solid gold, gold plated jewelry wears off easier. It can also tarnish within 1 year of wearing and it’s definitely not waterproof. To keep it from fading for a longer time it should be taken off during shower or swimming in the pool. It's also a good idea not to sleep with your jewelry on. While sleeping, your gold plated jewelry can rub against the skin and wear. Gold plated jewelry is usually used as costume jewelry since it doesn’t have too much value. Remember, a gold filled and gold plated necklace can look the exact same at first. Time will tell…if the color fades then you know it was probably plated. You can get jewelry re-plated, but you might as well buy something of quality so you don’t have to take on that expense. The best practice though is to take good care of your jewelry in general. Please refer to our jewelry care recommendations to learn about proper fine jewelry maintenance.
What is Vermeil?
There is another type of gold plating that is called Vermeil. Vermeil is an item that is made of sterling silver and plated with a thin layer of gold. The gold karatage that the silver piece is plated with shouldn't be less that 10K, in order for that piece to be considered as Vermeil. Also to meet the US vermeil jewelry standards the thickness of gold on the piece should be at least 2.5 microns.
Vermeil vs Gold Plated Jewelry:
Since Vermeil is a combination of two precious metals, which is sterling silver as a base and Layer of Gold on top of it, it's considered to have higher category than Gold Plated Jewelry, as in Gold plated jewelry that base can be either copper or brass. Also, Vermeil Jewelry has a thicker layer of gold, than Gold Plated jewelry. Opposed to Vermeil, the layer of Gold in Gold Plated Jewelry can be of any thickness, and normally much thinner than in Vermeil.
Vermeil vs Gold Filled Jewelry:
Here one needs to decide what she prefers best, the jewelry that will look like silver jewelry, after the plating wears off, which is in this case vermeil, as it has a silver base, or a piece that will have the gold layer last much longer, which is Gold Filled Jewelry, as in Gold Filled one, the layer of gold is much thicker than the minimum required thickness in Vermeil. With thickness, Gold Vermeil stands somewhere in between Gold Plated Jewelry and Gold Filled one.
When buying this type of jewelry, be it Vermeil or Gold Filled, one should take into account the karat weight, the thickness of the gold layer and the type of base metal.
What is Rhodium Plated Jewelry?
Rhodium Plated Jewelry is Fine Jewelry, which is plated with Rhodium but still has Solid Gold inside. It's very popular in fine jewelry. Generally Rhodium Plating is highly used over White Gold to make it look shinier and whiter, as White Gold itself still has that yellowish hue in it, due to consistency of gold percentage in it, which naturally has yellow color, and that's the reason, why white gold can't have absolute white color without Rhodium Plating over it. Rhodium plating can also be used over Yellow Gold, giving that jewelry piece two color effect, and making it look more interesting and diverse. Here you can see examples of Rhodium Plated Jewelry.
What to Buy?
This decision is usually a battle between budget, desire, and what your significant other allows! Several factors should be taken into consideration when deciding between solid gold, gold filled, gold plated, vermeil and Rhodium Plated jewelry. Solid gold, or Rhodium Plated Gold, despite their higher price tags, are great as romantic gifts for a truly special someone. It also makes for a great investment since solid gold retains its value. Gold filled and Vermeil although not as valuable as solid gold, are still great options for gift giving—either for yourself, or others! Lastly, let’s not discredit gold plated jewelry as it has its purpose. It allows you to dress up with all the hottest jewelry trends without stretching the budget too far. Luckily, we no longer have to have a million bucks to look and feel like a million bucks.
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