If you've ever wondered what the difference between gold plated, gold vermeil, 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 - a blank canvas. Since our customers are routinely asking about the difference between these various 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 over the base metal. This is typically done using steel, brass, or sterling silver as the base. 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 the former tends to refer to a process that uses a thinner layer of gold. Industry standards for gold vermeil is a minimum of two microns thickness of gold; gold plated jewelry is identified by anything less than this. Due to the lower micron thickness of gold, gold plated jewelry tends to be slightly less expensive than gold vermeil, and have a somewhat shorter lifespan.
Gold Vermeil Jewelry
Gold vermeil jewelry is the highest standard when it comes to gold plated jewelry. It is in the same family as gold plated jewelry because it uses a similar process in which 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 two microns of gold plating thickness in order to classify as gold vermeil. Jewelry that is listed as being plated with gold vermeil should hold its plating for years if the wearer takes proper care of that piece.
Gold Filled Jewelry
Gold filled jewelry is composed with a number of layers wherein a gold alloy is permanently bonded to a brass or sterling silver core, utilizing both heat and pressure. The biggest difference between gold filled and fold vermeil is that gold filled jewelry will never lose its golden hue, since the gold is permanently bonded with the base metal. Due to the more 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
Visually, it's difficult to tell the difference between gold plated, gold vermeil, and gold filled 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 determined whether plated, vermeil, filled, 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 your wallet.
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