A Guide To Gold Jewellery Terminology - Solid Gold, Gold Filled, Gold Vermeil & Gold Plated Jewellery

With so many types of gold jewellery available online and in store, it can be very confusing trying to understand the different types of gold and it’s terminology.

At House of Alchemy, we believe in transparency, education and empowering customers to make conscious choices when shopping for jewellery that’s right for you.

Below we’ll explain the differences between 4 main types of gold jewellery which are:

  • Solid Gold Jewellery
  • Gold Vermeil Jewellery
  • Gold Filled Jewellery
  • Gold Plated Jewellery

What is Solid Gold jewellery?

Solid gold is the highest quality of gold jewellery available to purchase. Solid gold jewellery uses gold throughout the whole piece of the jewellery and as a result, it wont tarnish or fade with wear and is a piece that will last forever. This means this is a good option for everyday wear but is very expensive and unaffordable to most people as it uses the most gold when crafting the jewellery piece.

Gold jewellery is measured by Karats (or Carats), often denoted as ‘K’ at the end of a number. Karats measure gold jewellery out of 24 parts - think of it as ‘number of gold parts out of 24’. Gold is mixed (aka ‘alloyed’) with other metals to change it’s colour as well as strengthening the metal itself as pure gold (24 karat gold) is very soft and malleable and not suitable for everyday wear.

Here’s how we illustrate the most popular forms of Karat Gold:

24K Gold - 24/24 parts gold - 100% pure gold

24k gold is 100% pure gold but is very soft, therefore scratches easily and is very yellow in colour.

18k Gold - 18/24 parts gold - 75% pure gold

Very popular alloy of gold which gives a beautiful ‘golden’ colour which still has a high gold content but is strong as well.

14k Gold - 14/24 parts gold - 58% pure gold

10k Gold - 10/24 parts gold - 42% pure gold

Solid Gold Overview:

  • Highest quality gold jewellery available
  • Can be soft and potentially dent easily
  • Very expensive (the higher the Karat ‘K’ - the more gold, the more expensive)
  • Will last forever if cared for properly
  • Hypoallergenic

What is gold filled jewellery

Gold-filled jewellery is composed of a solid layer of gold (usually 14k) mechanically bonded to a base of a different metal, usually brass. So on the outside you’ll be seeing 14k gold which is covering a brass core. The process involves applying a high amount of heat and pressure to the gold and brass to bond them together.

14k Gold will have the same appearance as 14k pure gold as the exterior will be exactly the same. Gold filled jewellery is great for everyday wear, won't tarnish and is also hypoallergenic. Because the core of the piece is not solid gold, it makes the jewellery piece a lot more affordable.

There are some design restrictions when working with gold filled pieces, complicated designs must be moulded and cast which is not suitable for gold filled designs. Some of our more simple designs are created out of gold filled jewellery such as our custom zodiac earrings or monogram sleepers.

Gold Filled Overview:

  • Layer of gold mechanically bonded to a different metal at the core.
  • Hypoallergenic, suitable for sensitive skin
  • Suitable for everyday wear
  • Won't rub off, or change colour

What is Gold Vermeil Jewellery?

(Pronounced Ver-May)

To be called "vermeil", jewellery must have sterling silver (aka 925 silver) as the base metal which is the highest quality of silver jewellery there is and is what brands like Tiffany & Co will use for their silver jewellery, accompanied with gold plating on top of the silver. The gold must be at least 10K and the plating must measure at least 2.5 microns thick. It doesn’t tarnish, and is also hypoallergenic.

Our gold vermeil designs are 18k gold and 3 microns thick over 925 sterling silver, with an added layer of e-coating, rhodium plating or palladium plating to strengthen and increase the longevity of the piece. This way we are able to get our gold jewellery to look the same as 18k solid gold jewellery as well as ensure that it’s long-wearing quality jewellery. Vermeil also allows us to execute our jewellery designs without restrictions and is much more affordable than solid gold.

You can wear gold vermeil jewellery everyday with no issues. Vermeil is our solution of balancing design, long-lasting wear and affordability.

Gold Vermeil Overview:

  • Layer of gold over sterling silver core.
  • Hypoallergenic, suitable for sensitive skin
  • Suitable for everyday wear
  • Affordable and has the same appearance as gold jewellery.

What is Gold Plated/Flash Plated Jewellery?

Gold plated jewellery uses a base metal and adheres an extremely thin layer of gold (<0.175-0.5 microns) applied through electroplating.

The thin layer of gold often wears away very quickly, exposing the base metal underneath which is often a cheap material like brass, copper or nickel, so when the gold wears off, people with nickel sensitivities may start to have allergic reactions to the jewellery. 

Gold plated jewellery is not suitable for everyday wear as the gold will fade very fast. We also stay away from creating gold plated jewellery as it is not lasting and not sustainable for the planet.

Gold plating is a very cheap way of creating jewellery as it barely uses any real gold (just to cover the exterior) and many fast fashion brands will use this method. Gold plated jewellery is also prone to tarnishing when exposed to water, sweat, etc and will corrode away potentially turning your skin green when reacting to it.

Gold Plated Overview:

  • Thin plating of gold over a cheap metal like brass, copper or nickel
  • Not suitable for everyday wear
  • Cheap and used for fashion or statement jewellery

Gold Termininology Summary

We love gold vermeil and gold filled because they're both affordable, yet high quality enough for everyday wear. 

If you're looking for jewellery that you want to enjoy for years, you should look for gold vermeil or solid gold, or gold filled pieces.

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, gold plated jewelry can start to look bad after even after a few weeks.

Here at House of Alchemy, we’re committed to handcrafting pieces in small batches, with high quality metals that is perfect for everyday wear, so you’ll see 18k gold vermeil (sterling silver with 18k gold that is 3 microns thick) and 14k gold filled pieces in our store. 

If you have any other questions about our jewellery, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

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