What's the difference between gold-plated, gold vermeil and gold-filled jewelry? Which gold toned jewelry should you invest in? Our guide will teach you how to shop smart and make sure you're ALWAYS getting good value for your money!
What Is Flash Plated Jewelry?
Flash plated jewelry is a cheap and low-quality type of gold-toned jewelry manufactured by adhering a super-thin layer of gold over the base metal through the process of electroplating. Even though flash plated pieces are manufactured using the same process as gold vermeil jewelry, you can imagine they were done, well, in a flash! Meaning the base metal—usually brass, copper, or even nickel—was submerged in an electrically charged solution just long enough for a few gold ions to bond to it.
Flash plated is the least expensive type of gold jewelry on the market because the outer layer of gold is so thin—<0.175 microns. (That’s around 600 times thinner than an average strand of hair). You can expect instant color fade, and that flash plated jewelry will last only a few wears.
Destined for single-use events, flash plated pieces are found at fast fashion outlets, costume stores and bulk jewelry kiosks. Watch out for base metals (such as nickel) that can cause allergies for those with sensitive skin as soon as the gold fades.
Bottom line: Flash plated jewelry is not a good investment and won’t last long enough to form part of your collection. It might save the day in a pinch or let you try out a new style without having to commit but if you are looking for high quality long lasting jewelry, we would absolutely NOT recommend purchasing flash plated jewelry!
What Is Gold Plated Jewelry?
Gold plated jewelry is an inexpensive type of gold jewelry that uses the electroplating process to cover the base metal with a layer of gold. It’s the same technology used in flash plating: an electric current creates positive and negative ions, causing the gold atoms to bond to the atoms of the base metal. The difference is in the quality.
Copper and brass are the most commonly used base metals for gold plated pieces. As they are not precious metals, gold plated jewelry is not designed to last. It’s important to note that some higher quality jewelry may use sterling silver as the base metal.
To be considered gold plated, a minimum of 0.5 microns of gold should be adhered to the surface of the base metal and usually one would expect that only 0.5 microns of gold plating have been used. On average, you can plan to keep your gold plated pieces for a year or so, depending on usage. You can usually find gold plated pieces at mid-tier department store brands and many independent brands.
Bottom line: Gold plated jewelry is loosely regulated and generally not considered a long lasting option. It can be a starting point if you’re just starting to build your collection and you have budget constraints. Double-check the base metal for skin sensitivity (always look for nickel-free!) and the thickness of the gold plating for longevity. Be aware that these pieces don’t hold much value or last very long.
What Is Gold-filled Jewelry?
Gold filled jewelry is a mid-range type of gold jewelry that is actually covered in a layer of gold. In this case, the gold is adhered to the base metal mechanically by soldering or welding. This process has been around for a while—long before electroplating was developed—and the manufacturing costs are higher, which is partly why you’ll see higher prices on gold filled products, even if the base metal is only brass or copper.
Gold filled jewelry is more strictly regulated than gold plated jewelry, though it doesn’t set quite the same standard as gold vermeil.
Let’s spell out the requirements: The gold has to be at least 10k. And the amount of gold must make up at least 5% of the weight of the entire piece. That means the thickness of the gold layer depends on how heavy the base metal is, which will vary, though the plating is generally quite thick. There is no requirement as to the base metal.
Bottom line: Gold-filled is an interesting choice for jewelry enthusiasts. The 10k minimum is a great start, and if the outer layer is thick, the piece can last you for years—even with regular use. Still, the thickness varies with the weight, and the other 95% of the piece doesn’t hold much value. Also, consider that the older, more expensive manufacturing process means the price charged may or may not be worth the actual value of the piece. Gold-filled jewelry is usually quite expensive for its value, and you may be better off buying solid gold for a similar price point. The gold layer will eventually wear off and the only way to re-plate it is to use electroplating (i.e. turning it into a gold-plated product).
You’ll want to do your research when it comes to selecting gold filled pieces.
What Is Gold Vermeil Jewelry?
Gold vermeil is a high-quality type of gold jewelry that uses sterling silver at its core and has a thick layer of gold plating. It’s a regulated term, and in the US, the gold must be at least 10k and the plating layer is at least 2.5 microns thick. Check out our complete guide to gold vermeil jewelry here!
Gold vermeil jewelry is made by coating a base of sterling silver with a thick layer of gold through the process of electroplating. The layer of gold in gold vermeil jewelry is 5 times thicker than gold plated jewelry and at least 20 - 25 times thicker than flash plated. And since the base metal is always sterling silver – a precious metal in itself that is commonly used in fine jewelry – gold vermeil jewelry is inherently valuable and can last year and years.
*Quick side note: in Canada, gold vermeil only needs 1 micron of gold to qualify.
You’ll find gold vermeil jewelry offered by high-end clothing and fine jewelry brands that have a commitment to quality. High quality gold vermeil made from reputable manufacturers is often hypoallergenic—meaning even if the thick layer of gold eventually fades, the silver base is safe and gentle for your skin. Not to mention, you can easily re-plate a beloved daily-wear piece after years of use, which is worth it when your jewelry is made from valuable silver. (On the other hand, cheap base metals like brass can corrode with time and wear!)
Bottom line: Gold vermeil is valuable and long-lasting, more accessibly priced than solid gold, and a worthy investment for your long-term jewelry collection! We think gold vermeil is the best option for customers who do not want to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on solid gold jewelry. If you are looking to invest in long-lasting gold-toned jewelry without breaking the bank, we definitely recommend checking out gold vermeil options!
What Is Solid Gold Jewelry?
Solid gold jewelry is made of gold through and through. It’s literally worth its weight in gold. There is no base metal in solid gold jewelry. That said, most solid gold jewelry is not pure gold. Pure gold, which is 99.9% gold atoms and nothing else, is often referred to as 24k gold. Jewelers prefer to use gold alloyed with other metals because pure gold is so soft and malleable that it can be easily bent and scratched.
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. It’s worth noting, the higher the karatage does not necessarily mean better! 10k, 14k and 18k are the most commonly used karatages in modern fine jewelry because of their softer color tones and ideal hardness. In comparison, 24k gold (pure gold) has an orange tone and is very soft to the point where you cannot safely set gemstones or diamonds in it. That being said, 24k gold jewelry is still quite a popular choice in some regions, especially as investment and heirloom pieces.
Solid gold jewelry is hypoallergenic, precious, and never fades. It can be purchased from dedicated, high-quality luxury brands and independent fine jewelers.
Bottom line: Solid gold is the true gold standard for gold jewelry—a luxurious, valuable choice that never fades and can become a family heirloom.
What Is the Best Type of Gold Jewelry to Buy?
Solid gold jewelry is the best type of gold jewelry to buy. It is the most long-lasting material used in jewelry, and solid gold holds its value overtime, making it the best investment for the long term. Gold vermeil is the next best type of gold toned jewelry to buy for someone on a budget, as it is very long lasting due to its high quality base metal and thick gold plating, while also being cost efficient. (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 gold plated or flash plated jewelry because it's cheaper, but it won't last long.
Here at Linjer, we're committed to delivering excellent product quality with excellent value for money. That's why we sell only true gold vermeil (sterling silver with 22k gold plating that is 2.5 to 3 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!