What's the difference between gold-plated jewelry, gold vermeil and gold-filled jewelry? How do you make sure your gold-tone jewelry keeps its colour for more than a week? Our guide will teach you how to shop smart and make sure you're ALWAYS getting good value for your money.
There are many techniques for producing gold and gold-toned jewelry. Some contain more gold and keep their bright, full-bodied finish a lot longer than others, which is why it’s so important to know the difference.
In this article, we'll help you decode these common jewelry terms so you can shop smart.
- Flash Plated Jewelry
- Gold Plated Jewelry
- Gold-filled Jewelry
- Gold Vermeil Jewelry (and why you need to be careful with Canadian brands!!)
- Solid Gold Jewelry (including what the 'k' means!)
Flash Plated Jewelry
Summary: Low quality jewelry not designed to last. Buyer beware! ⚠️
What it is: Jewelry with an extremely thin layer of gold (<0.175 microns) that is applied through electroplating. The base material is usually a cheap material like brass. This is the lowest quality of plating available. The layer of gold will wear away quickly, leaving the piece looking dirty or tarnished after only a few wears.
Where you can find it: Fast fashion jewelry and costume jewelry are generally flash plated. If a gold-tone jewelry piece is not labelled with any indication of how it's been plated, you can generally assume it’s been flash plated.
Value for money: Flash plated jewelry is very cheap but it won’t last more than a few wears. Not a good investment.
Other: A word of advice for people with nickel sensitivities: Often, flash plating uses nickel as its base, so when the gold layer wears off, you might start itching!
Gold Plated Jewelry
Summary: Better than flash plating, but expect a short lifespan. ❌
What it is: Gold plating is the catch-all term for a process in which a layer of gold is bonded to a base metal by dipping the metal into a special chemical solution and zapping it with an electric current, attracting and adhering gold ions to the metal. To be considered gold plated, the gold layer should measure at least 0.5 microns (a micron is one millionth of a meter, for context). The thicker the gold layer, the longer it maintains its finish. In practice, though, many jewelry companies are usually plating only with 0.5 microns.
Where you can find it: Cheaper department store brands and many independent brands sell gold plated jewelry.
Value for money: The price of gold plated pieces can vary. Make sure to ask how thick the plating is. Remember, the thicker the plating, the longer the gold layer will last!
Summary: Made with an old-fashioned technique that's usually more expensive than it's worth. ❌
What it is: Gold-filled sounds like it would be the next best thing to solid gold—your jewelry is full of gold, right?!—but it’s actually a misnomer, as it mean that a thin sheet of gold is mechanically bonded to the outside of a core material (usually copper). Whereas gold plating is measured in thickness, gold-filled jewelry is measured in weight; the gold layer must contribute at least 5% to the item’s total weight. This is an old-fashioned technique from the early 1900s that is no longer used by modern manufacturers because it is time-intensive and expensive to produce while yielding a product that is not superior to gold-plated jewelry. Like gold-plated jewelry, the gold layer will eventually wear away and the only way to replate it is to use electroplating (i.e. turning it into a gold-plated product).
Where to find it: Not very popular nowadays but possible to find.
Value for money: Gold-filled jewelry is generally a bit more expensive than gold-plated jewelry with similar base materials because it’s not as economical to manufacture.
Gold Vermeil Jewelry
Summary: A high quality version of gold plating that is a great balance of long-lasting wear and affordability. ✅
Warning: does not necessarily apply to Canadian brands, which can market lower-quality gold-plated items as "gold vermeil".
What it is: Also known as “heavy gold plating,” gold vermeil employs the same process as gold plating. To be called "vermeil", the item must have sterling silver (aka 925 silver) as the base metal, the gold must be at least 10K and the plating must measure a certain thickness. National consumer protection agencies regulate the label. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission requires a layer of gold that is at least 2.5 microns thick. In Canada, the Competition Bureau allows items with only 1.0 micron plating thickness to be called "gold vermeil". Beware of buying "gold vermeil" from companies based in Canada, as the requirements are much lower for using this term, and you are probably getting a product that is much lower quality (60% less gold) than you expect.
Where to find it: Higher-end brands. (We also sell it here on our webshop!)
Value for money: Gold vermeil is more expensive than flash plated and gold plated jewelry because it uses sterling silver as the core material and uses a lot more gold (unless it's Canadian "gold vermeil"). However, for those who don’t have the budget for solid gold, vermeil is fantastic balance of long-lasting wear and affordability.
At Linjer, our gold vermeil products use 14k gold and plating that is 2.5-3.0 microns thick. (Note that Linjer’s gold vermeil jewelry is cheaper than or comparably priced to most other brands’ lower-quality gold plated jewelry!)
Solid Gold Jewelry
Summary: The crème de la crème of gold-tone jewelry, but it can be probihitively expensive. ✅
What it is: Gold items where the inside is not hollow. The karatage (represented with a "k") will tell you the proportion of gold to other metals. The other metals are mixed in to make the piece harder and more durable.
- 24k gold is pure gold but it’s too soft and susceptible to scratches, so it's not practical for everyday use. It’s also very orange in colour
- 18k gold is 18 parts of gold to 6 parts other metal (i.e. 75% gold)
- 14k gold is 14 parts of gold to 10 parts other metal (i.e. 58.3% gold)
Where to find it: High end and luxury brands. (We also sell it here at Linjer! Check out our Solid Gold collection.)
Value for money: Solid gold is the priciest gold-tone jewelry you can buy, and the higher the karatage (proportion of gold), the more expensive it will be. Since it's gold all the way through, you won't have to worry about the gold colour rubbing away, but you will have to be ready to spend more on it, especially if the pieces are really large and use a lot of material.
Linjer's solid gold products are generally 14k; we like the beautiful, sumptuous colour that isn't too orange. It's hardy enough for daily wear, and starts at a friendlier price point.
If you're buying jewelry that you want to enjoy for years, you should look for gold vermeil or solid gold. (But be sure to ask a Canadian brand about the plating thickness if they are marketing something as gold vermeil.)
It may be tempting to buy flash plated or gold plated jewelry because it's cheaper, but it won't last long. In our experience, flash plated jewelry can start to look bad after even one week.
Here at Linjer, we're commited to delivering excellent product quality with excellent value for money. That's why we sell only true gold vermeil (sterling silver with 14k gold that is 2.5 microns thick) and solid 14k gold. You'll see that we sell our gold vermeil pieces for a cheaper or similar price to what most other brands sell lower-quality flash plated or gold plated pieces for. We want to make it a no-brainer for you to choose better quality. Better for you, better for the environment! 🍃
You can trust that you’re investing in pieces that, with just a little care, will last years and years. If you have other questions about our jewelry, how it’s made, or how to keep it shining, drop our customer care team a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!