The Difference between Gold-Plated and Gold-Filled

Not all of us have the luxury of owning full gold jewelry, but we're all lucky that there are a variety of options out there to help us achieve the look and feel of gold without spending a ton of money. There is gold-plated, gold-filled and gold-vermeil. Understanding the differences between each is critical to understanding the quality of the pieces you are wearing, how long they will last and how to properly take care of them. 

What is gold-plated?

Gold-plated items are very common and are a great option for those who like the look of gold, can't afford the price, and aren't looking to wear the piece as an everyday item. Gold-plated items often only have a 1/2 micron worth of gold, about 20 millionths of an inch, over a base metal and have been electroplated to secure the gold in place. The amount of solid gold on gold plated items is minimal and can often rub, flake, and fade away quickly if not properly cared for.

What is gold-vermeil?

The word vermeil comes from the french word for silver. In order for a jewelry piece to be considered gold-vermeil it must be made of sterling silver or fine silver; the gold plating must be of at least 10 karats; and the thickness of the gold coat should consist of a minimum of 2.5 microns/0.0025 millimeters. The gold is bonded to the silver jewelry using an electrolysis process. 

As the piece's base metal is silver, and silver tarnishes, a gold-vermeil piece will also eventually tarnish. However, this tarnish and discolouring is easily taken care of with proper cleaning and maintaining, which will ensure your piece lasts a long time. 

What is gold-filled?

Gold filled jewelry has a solid layer of gold that has been pressure bonded onto a base of quality jewelers brass. Gold filled is legally required to be at least 5% gold (1/20 of the total weight), which is significantly more (easily 100x more) than gold plated items. 

Gold filled is durable and will never rub or flake off. If gold filled ever develops a tarnish, it is usually a surface tarnish which can be cleaned or polished off. It has a thick layer of solid 14k gold that offers a wonderful, quality piece without paying the solid 14k gold price.

Much of the information in this article was happily sourced from:

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