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The difference between gold plated, gold vermeil, gold filled and solid gold jewelry

Posted by Alexis Nido-Russo on

If you’ve ever wondered what the difference between gold vermeil, gold-plated, gold-filled, or solid gold jewelry is, you’re not alone. Similar to a Jackson Pollock painting, these methods seem complicated at first, but like most things, begin in the simplest form - with a blank canvas.

The difference between gold plated, gold vermeil and gold filled jewelry

Since our customers are routinely asking about the difference between the various gold plating methods, we thought we’d break it down for you here.

Gold Plated Jewelry

Gold-plated jewelry is the process by which a base metal is dipped into a bath of electroplating solution along with a lump of solid gold creating a layer of gold over the base metal. This is typically done using steel, brass, or sterling silver as the base metal. After it is dipped in the bath of electroplating, an electric current is then applied and a thin layer of gold is deposited onto the metal which bonds them together. The major difference between gold plated jewelry and gold vermeil jewelry is that gold plated tends to refer to a process that uses a thinner layer of gold than vermeil. Industry standard for gold vermeil is a minimum of 2 microns thickness of gold; gold plated jewelry is identified by anything less than this. Because of the lower micron thickness of gold, gold plated jewelry tends to be slightly less expensive than gold vermeil and have a somewhat shorter shelf life. 

gold vermeil jewelry from Chicago jewelry designer La Kaiser

Gold Vermeil Jewelry

Gold vermeil is the highest standard when it comes to gold plating jewelry. It is in the same family as gold-plated jewelry because it uses a similar process where the base metal is dipped into a bath of electroplating solution. The difference is that it is dipped for a longer period of time creating a thicker layer of gold plating. The base metal, which is typically sterling silver, needs to have at least 2 microns of gold-plating thickness in order to classify as gold vermeil. Jewelry that is listed as being plated with gold vermeil should hold it’s plating for years if the wearer takes proper care of the piece.

Gold Filled Jewelry

Gold-filled jewelry, on the other hand, is composed with a number of layers wherein a gold alloy is permanently bonded to a brass or sterling silver core with both heat and pressure. The biggest difference between gold filled & gold vermeil is that gold filled jewelry will never lose it’s golden hue since the gold is permanently bonded with the base metal. Because of the permanent nature of gold filled jewelry, this category tends to be slightly more expensive than plated or vermeil jewelry but should not be confused with solid gold jewelry.

Solid Gold Jewelry

Solid Gold Jewelry 

Visually, it will be difficult to tell the difference between gold plated, gold vermeil and gold fill jewelry. Solid gold jewelry will have a much lighter gold color than gold plated, vermeil and filled jewelry as solid gold tends to have a lower concentration of gold which causes a lighter hue.

If you’re trying to determine whether plated, vermeil, fill or solid gold are right for you, consider whether or not you’re looking for a fine jewelry piece that will last a lifetime or a piece of semi-fine jewelry that is a bit more fashion forward and easier on the wallet. Solid gold jewelry will be more expensive but will last forever; gold fill, gold vermeil and gold plated jewelry will be more affordable but won’t have the same wherewithal.

Have additional questions about the difference between gold plated jewelry, gold vermeil jewelry, gold filled jewelry and solid gold jewelry, leave a comment below.