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Gold Plated vs Solid Gold: Here's the Difference

Jewelry shopping can be intimidating. That’s why we started Ask HOLDEN, our blog where we answer your FAQs, break down scary industry lingo, and guide you in finding the perfect piece of jewelry.

While shopping for gold jewelry, you may have heard the terms “plated” or “vermeil” while conducting your research. HOLDEN rings are made exclusively from solid gold, but we think it’s important to understand the difference so you know why we chose to work only with solid gold.

If you’re looking for the “too long, didn’t read” pros and cons, the pros of vermeil, plated, and filled is that they’re less expensive. The con is that these types of jewelry won’t last as long. While all of these contain real gold, the amount of gold varies drastically - read on to learn more!

Gold Plated vs Solid Gold: Here’s the Difference

Gold plated vs solid gold vs gold vermeil vs gold fill

Gold Plated

Of all the gold options, gold plated is the least expensive (and the lowest quality). An inexpensive base metal such as brass is dipped in melted gold. Typically this is a very thin layer of gold - usually less than 1% of the total ring composition.

A gold plated piece may look the same as solid gold initially, but with time, it will wear and tarnish. Since the base metal is inexpensive, this choice can not only look worse with time but can also irritate your skin.

Gold Vermeil

Gold vermeil jewelry (pronounced ver-may) is similar in composition to gold plated (a base metal is dipped in a thin layer of gold), but the metal underneath the layer of gold is always sterling silver. This means that your ring is made up of entirely precious metals and will be less likely to irritate your finger as the ring wears. Over time, gold vermeil will still wear down to expose the sterling silver underneath.

In order to be certified, gold plated jewelry must be 0.5 microns thick. If you haven’t thought about microns since 11th grade chem (fair!), a micron is about .00004 inches thick, which means your gold plated and vermeil jewelry is about 1% gold. While your piece may look gold, it’s very very lightly plated.

Gold Filled

For this type of jewelry, a thicker layer of gold sits atop the base metal. Gold fill jewelry is created through a process called pressure bonding and contains, by law, at least 5% solid gold (the gold content for gold fill is measured in weight instead of thickness). It’s a confusing term, considering the fact that gold filled isn’t in fact filled with gold (it’s really the opposite).

A gold filled piece of jewelry will be more expensive and durable than its plated counterparts, but it’s still less expensive than solid gold. Gold filling is a technique that is relatively out of fashion, as it’s time consuming and not significantly higher quality than gold plating. With time, a gold filled piece of jewelry may still wear down and expose the base metal underneath.

Solid Gold

Solid gold, which is what we use at HOLDEN, is completely gold with no plating or base metal of any kind. This is the most reliable type of gold jewelry, as there is no risk of exposing another metal with wear and tear - you can trust that your jewelry will wear beautifully over time, exposing only gold as it does so. This is the most premium option but by far the most durable.

It’s important to note that solid gold jewelry doesn’t mean the jewelry is made of pure gold - gold is a soft material, so jewelry that is 24k gold is too soft to stand up to daily wear and tear. The most standard choice for a wedding ring is 14k solid gold. 14k gold is made up of 14 parts gold and 10 parts alloy metals - other metals such as copper, silver, and zinc, that help increase the sturdiness of the piece of jewelry.

As far as color goes, the percentage of copper in rose gold alloys is higher than that of its yellow gold counterparts to give the ring its rosy color. A higher karat rose gold ring will be less pink than a lower karat ring, since it contains less copper!

Takeaways

Gold plating is used to make gold financially accessible to more people, and we fully support this mission. That being said, we think it’s important to understand exactly what these techniques entail, so that you know what you’ll be purchasing (and how long it will last).

Because wedding and engagement rings are pieces you’ll wear every day, we think it’s worth investing in a piece that will last forever. If you’re buying a piece you don’t anticipate wearing every day or that won’t be part of your go-to jewelry for the rest of your life (think: a trendy bauble or bold necklace), these less expensive options could work, since the piece will get less wear.

Here at HOLDEN, our solid gold and platinum rings are designed to last for a lifetime. If your ring size changes and you need your ring adjusted, we’re able to resize most of our rings free of charge (plus free shipping, of course!).

Want to read more? Check out some other recent blog posts:

The Ultimate Wedding Band Buying Guide

10k vs 14k and 14k vs 18k Gold: Here's the Difference

Decoded: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

Questions? Shoot us an email at help@hiholden.com or give us a ring at 917.719.3634.