In today's market things are always changing. Trends are changing, new and popular brands keep popping up and the financial markets dictate what we can and cannot afford. A capitalist market will always sway purchasers to buy now and buy again later. That's just the way it is.
But if you truly value your hard-earned money, and you love to adorn yourself with the latest trends and classic styles of jewelry, it is worth investing a little more upfront.
Investing to make sure your pieces last longer than two weeks of continual wear. In order to do so, you must be familiar with the different materials and manufacturing processes that are available in the jewelry world.
When it comes to jewelry materials, there is a variety to choose from and know about.
Here are a few:
- Base Metals: Most commonly brass, stainless steel, bronze, copper, and nickel.
- Plated Metals: A base metal finely covered with precious metal; usually this is gold and rhodium.
- Demi-fine and Filled metals: a base metal mechanically or chemically covered in precious metal, usually gold or silver. These are vermeil and gold/silver-filled pieces.
- Precious Metals: Silver, Sterling Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Palladium
When many people think about what is "quality jewelry" what usually comes to mind is fine jewelry which is comprised of solid precious metals, and they consider everything else to be costume jewelry.
Yet, this isn't true.
There is another category, as mentioned before, of demi-fine pieces. Demi-fine jewelry can cost considerably less, but are just as beautiful and often built to last just as long.
What is Demi-Fine Jewelry?
Demi fine jewelry is what is categorized as gold vermeil and gold filled pieces. It is a base metal that is then bonded with a precious metal.
For gold vermeil, the base is sterling silver and then a thick layer of gold is applied on top. To meet US standards, the gold overlain on top of the silver must be at least 2.5 microns thick, and at least 10k or higher.
For gold-filled, the base is usually brass (though it could be any other base metal) bonded by heat with a very thick coating of 12k or 14k gold. Gold-filled jewelry supplies are legally required to be 5% or 1/20 gold by weight (in comparison, gold plating is usually significantly less than 1% of the total weight of an object).
This thickness makes the gold overlay quite durable. Vermeil pieces can last years if taken care of, and gold-filled items can last a lifetime since their gold coating is so thick.
Which is better?
A cheap plated piece from that global fashion chain, that will last you less than a year of continual wear, or a gold-filled piece that will last a lifetime?
My answer is definitely gold-filled.
A few additional things to note:
Gold vermeil and gold-filled items are, by nature, much more expensive than a gold-plated pieces. The cost of supplies is sometimes 2 - 3x that of a gold-plated supply. This is really important to know when purchasing supplies and finished jewelry. You should expect to pay upwards of $50.00 for a basic and dainty piece of gold vermeil or gold-filled jewelry. Anything less could mean one of a few things: the materials aren't true gold vermeil/filled; the designer is not accurately pricing their products according to the market.
There are limitations on the designs that can be created with gold-filled items, as this material cannot be cast and shaped into any form. Gold-filled materials are often simple (such as chains, wires, and findings) and used in conjunction with other materials (gemstones, for example) and techniques to create elaborate pieces. Gold Vermeil pieces offer more variety because sterling silver can be cast and shaped and then the gold can be added on top.