The difference between gold vermeil and gold plated jewelry is a bit like a friend who's always there for you versus one who only shows up once in a while.
The former is your best friend, and the latter is well-meaning but not quite as reliable. Both are beautiful, but one is more dependable.
So what exactly is gold vermeil compared to gold plated jewelry? And what the heck is gold filled jewelry?!
Let's take a look at each one to see how they compare.
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What Is Gold Vermeil?
It isn't vermeil if the silver piece is coated with only 2.0 microns of gold. If the thickness of gold is 2.5 microns of gold, but that gold is only 8 karats, it's not vermeil.
You've probably seen gold jewelry with 10K, 14K, and 18K stamps. The numbers (or the "karats") refer to the weight of the gold. The higher the number, the more gold your jewelry has.
The higher the weight (or karat) of gold, the more expensive it will be (because there's more gold, duh). It also helps the jewelry last longer!
What is Gold Plating?
Gold plated jewelry is a popular option for those who want to wear gold but don't want to spend a lot of money.
Gold plating is the process of applying a thin layer of gold (at least .5 microns) over another metal like copper or brass.
As you can see, gold plating has a significantly thinner layer of gold than gold vermeil jewelry. Unlike gold vermeil, gold plating also doesn't require the plated gold to be of a specific karat.
This, combined with the fact that the base of gold-plated jewelry is copper or brass and not sterling silver, makes gold-plated cheaper than gold vermeil.
What is Gold Filled?
Your jewelry is considered gold-filled if the gold is sealed with heat rather than electroplating. Gold filled jewelry typically has a copper base and contains at least 5% gold.
This is honestly an old-school method that jewelers don't use much these days.
Your best bet is to get gold alloy jewelry.
What is Gold Alloy?
So, we also measure the purity of gold in carats. 24K is the purest form of gold with no other metals.
However, gold is a delicate mineral. It's soft, which makes it easily susceptible to damage. Because of this, many jewelers (like us!) don't use pure gold. We use gold alloy.
Gold alloy mixes lower karats or "caratages" with other metals. For example, 18-carat gold has 75% gold and 25% other metals, often copper or silver.
The minimum caratage for an item to be called gold varies by country. In the US, 10 carat is the legal minimum accepted standard of gold caratage, 14 carat being the most popular. (Source: Gold.org)
Gold Vermeil vs Gold Plated vs Gold Filled: Which is Better?
The only difference between gold vermeil and gold plated jewelry is the base is stronger on gold vermeil. It uses sterling silver pieces as opposed to copper.
While sterling silver jewelry can tarnish, copper jewelry is what turns your skin green. Poorly filled or plated gold jewelry can sometimes have that effect over time.
Essentially, gold vermeil is better than gold plated or gold filled jewelry. It lasts longer, which is why it costs more.
However, if you're going to spend money on gold jewelry anyway, you might as way spring for the best stuff: gold alloy.
How Long Does Gold Jewelry Last?
The more gold your jewelry has, the more resistant it will be to scratches, tarnishing, or turning you into She-Hulk.
If you want your gold jewelry to last, you want to look for gold vermeil or gold alloy.
Gold vermeil jewelry combines a minimum of 10 karat gold with sterling silver. This means you get a high-quality metal that will not tarnish or change color over time.
The benefit of this process is that when people see the jewelry, they don't know what they are looking at, but they know it looks good! You can get a beautiful piece of jewelry made with an affordable price tag!
The disadvantage of this process is that if you scratch your ring or bracelet against something hard enough, you may see some of the base metal peeking through.
Ultimately, you should get full pieces of gold instead of silver covered with gold if you want your jewelry to last a lifetime.
Is your jewelry gold alloy, vermeil, plated, or gold-filled?
If there's any doubt about an item's authenticity, check for stamps or markings that indicate what metal it's made from. This is required by law.
- GP – gold plated
- GEP – gold electroplated
- RGP – rolled gold plate
- HGE (or HGP) – heavy gold electroplate
If it doesn't contain any of these, it's gold alloy. For example, Caye jewelry says 18K because it's a gold alloy.