When you’re shopping for gold jewelry, it’s easy to get confused between different metals and plating techniques. While gold plated jewelry and gold vermeil jewelry look the same on the outside, there are clear differences between the two that will have a huge impact on how long the products will last. This is very important to consider before choosing what to add to your jewelry collection so you don’t waste money.
Read on to learn the basic breakdown between the different types of gold jewelry, specifically gold vermeil and gold plated pieces!
There are multiple types of gold jewelry: solid gold, gold-plated, flash-plated, gold-filled, and gold vermeil. All gold jewelry (aside from solid gold), typically uses different types of metal bases; these can range from copper, brass, nickel, sterling silver, etc. Depending on the base metal, the karat weight and the thickness of the gold layer, the price tags can vary greatly.
Quick fact: Karatage refers to how much gold content there is – 24k is 99.9% gold content, 18k is 75% gold content, 14k is 58.3% and 10k is 41.7%. A higher karatage does not necessarily equate to better - pure gold is a very soft and malleable metal so it’s not ideally suited for everyday jewelry. That’s why gold is often mixed with other materials to strengthen gold. 14k and 18k tend to be the most common karatages used in jewelry.
Understanding the differences between the various types of gold jewelry will teach you how to shop smart and make sure you’re getting a bang for your buck!
Qualities of Gold-plated Jewelry
Gold-plated jewelry is the catch-all term for a process in which a layer of gold is bonded to a base metal through an ionic bonding process. For jewelry to be considered gold-plated, the gold layer must be at least 0.5 microns thick (a micron is one millionth of a meter, for context).
Gold-plated jewelry often uses cheap metals, like copper and brass, as the base metal, although sometimes sterling silver is also used. The oxidation process in copper and brass commonly leads to skin discolouration (turning your fingers green). Due to the thin layer of gold and (generally) less valuable core material, gold-plated jewelry is generally sold at a lower price than their gold vermeil counterparts.
Summary of Characteristics of Gold-Plated Jewelry
- Cheaper than gold vermeil as it has only a very thin layer of gold
- More design possibilities for costume jewelry since it is inexpensive to make
- Often uses copper, brass or sterling silver as the base metal
- Will generally not last more than a few weeks or months
- Can cause allergic reactions once the gold surface rubs off
- If the base metal is copper or brass, the oxidation process commonly discolour your skin (e.g. green fingers)
- If the base metal is copper or brass, cannot be worn under water
What is Gold Vermeil Jewelry?
Vermeil (pronounced vehr-may), is a high quality version of gold plating that uses sterling silver (aka 925 silver) as the base metal. By legal regulations, the gold must be at least 10K with a thickness of 2.5 microns thick.
*Do note that in Canada, the government only requires a layer of gold that is 1.0 micron thick to be considered “gold vermeil” so be aware!
Gold vermeil has a thick layer of plating of around 5 times more than most gold plating making it much more long lasting! With the added thickness, gold vermeil is far more durable than gold-plated jewelry, giving the perfect balance between cost and quality. Sterling silver is also generally more hypoallergenic than alloy metal bases such as zinc and nickel. For those who don’t want to splurge on solid gold, vermeil makes for the next best alternative!
Summary of Characteristics of Gold Vermeil Jewelry
- More affordable than solid gold but still a luxurious option
- Unlikely to cause allergies and skin irritations due to the sterling silver metal base and low nickel content
- Generally will last for years (depending on your use)
- Tends to look more like solid gold
- Better investment than standard gold-plated jewelry
- Won’t discolour your skin
Want to know more? Our guide to buying gold jewelry will tell you everything you need to know about the types of gold jewelry on the market, and how to pick out sustainable, high-quality jewelry at an affordable price!
The Bottom Line
When it comes to buying gold-tone jewelry, gold vermeil is the best option you can get short of buying solid gold. Of course, gold-plated always makes a great option for those who want experiment with trendier styles on a budget. Just don't expect a long lifespan!
Linjer’s gold vermeil products use 14K gold color and plating that is 2.5-3.0 microns thick. We also pride ourselves on keeping our markups low, with all styles priced 25-50% less than traditional jewelry brands (woohoo). Here at Linjer, we sell beautiful and high quality jewelry that won’t break your wallet—I mean really, what more can you ask for?!
Looking for a new unique piece to add to your jewelry box? We've got you covered—check out our gold vermeil collection to shop our dainty necklaces, statement rings, and more!