The Difference Between Gold Plated, Vermeil, and Solid Gold Jewelry & Which You Should Buy

You’ve probably heard the terms gold plated, fashion jewelry, vermeil, and solid gold, but what’s actually the difference, and which of them should you be buying?  We’re demystifying the differences between all of these kinds of jewelry and breaking down the benefits of each.

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What is Gold Plated Jewelry?

Gold plated jewelry, also referred to as fashion jewelry or costume jewelry, is made by adding a layer of gold on top of a base metal.  The most common base metal in gold plated jewelry is brass, but other base metals include copper, bronze, and zinc.  Plated jewelry also most commonly uses simulated or synthetic stones (like cubic zirconia or simulated opals) as opposed to natural gemstones, lowering the cost.  Since gold plated jewelry doesn’t use precious metal as a base and has less gold content, it’s a much more affordable option.

The Benefits of Gold Plated Jewelry:

  • More affordable and accessible
  • Ideal for trendy pieces that you won’t wear forever
  • Especially good for low contact pieces like statement earrings

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What is Vermeil Jewelry?

Vermeil jewelry, also referred to as semi fine jewelry, is still plated but uses sterling silver as its base metal.  Sterling silver is a precious metal and is more expensive than brass, but it’s also a bit more durable and less likely to cause any skin allergies (i.e. less likely to turn your finger green).  For a piece to be considered vermeil, it must also have at least 2.5 microns of gold plating, meaning the plating is thicker than regular plated jewelry and will wear off less quickly.  That being said, any plating will wear over time, so the same jewelry care should be used with both plated and vermeil jewelry.  Semi fine jewelry also tends to be made with natural gemstones, adding to the price tag.  In short, vermeil is more expensive but more durable.

The Benefits of Vermeil Jewelry

  • Less likely to irritate sensitive skin
  • Fades less quickly with proper care
  • Is often made with natural gemstones
  • Ideal for higher contact pieces like rings

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What is Solid Gold Jewelry?

Solid gold jewelry, also referred to as fine jewelry or heirloom quality jewelry, is not plated but is made of solid gold throughout.  The gold content differs depending on the karat and is mixed with other alloy metals (learn more about gold karats here).  Solid gold jewelry does not tarnish and requires less care than plated and vermeil jewelry, but it also has a significantly higher price tag since gold is one of the most expensive metals on earth.  Since solid gold doesn’t turn or tarnish, it’s the longest lasting option.

The Benefits of Solid Gold Jewelry

  • Long lasting
  • Requires less care
  • Can be worn everyday without tarnishing

Which Should You Buy?

To sum it all up, plated jewelry is great because it’s more affordable and therefore more accessible. We love it for super trendy pieces that you don’t necessarily plan to keep wearing for the next 20 years, and it’s a great option for styles like earrings that aren’t getting a ton of contact with your skin, water, etc. Vermeil jewelry is great for when you don’t want to invest in a solid gold piece but want something a bit more luxe with natural gemstones and premium materials. Since the plating is thicker, it’s also a great option for rings which have more contact with regular wear. Solid gold is great for pieces you want to wear every single day and don’t have to take off when you shower, sleep, wash your hand, etc. It’s also ideal for pieces you plan to keep forever.

Now that you’re an expert in jewelry materials, browse our collection of bestselling plated, vermeil, and solid gold jewels to find the piece that’s best for you.