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Gold Plated vs Solid Gold: Here's the Difference

Ring Advice

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." Our gold jewelry is made exclusively from solid gold, but it’s important to understand the differences between these types of jewelry so you can make the best choice for you.

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 (and are less eco-conscious as a result). While all contain real gold, the amount of gold varies drastically—read on to learn more!

Solid Gold vs Gold Filled vs Plated Gold vs Gold Vermeil Graphic

Gold Plated

Of all the gold options, gold plated is the least expensive and the lowest quality. To make plated gold, 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 (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 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 chemistry (fair!), a micron is about .00004 inches thick, which means your gold plated and vermeil jewelry is about 1% gold. 

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 confusing, 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's 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 has 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.

Solid gold is also the most premium and durable option by far. This makes it a much more sustainable choice than gold filled, gold plated, or gold vermeil jewelry.

It’s important to note that solid gold jewelry isn't made of pure gold. Gold is a soft material, so jewelry that is 24k gold is considered by many to be too soft to stand up to daily wear and tear.

The most common choice for a wedding ring is 14k solid gold. 14k gold is made up of 14 parts gold and 10 parts alloy metals (such as copper, silver, and zinc), which help increase the sturdiness of the piece of jewelry.

As far as color goes, the percentage of copper in rose gold alloy is higher than it is in yellow gold alloy in order 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 goal. That being said, it’s important to understand exactly what these techniques entail so 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 something that will last forever. If you’re buying a piece you don’t anticipate wearing every day (think: a trendy bauble or statement 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 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!).

Questions? Give us a shout at help@hiholden.com or a ring (pun intended) at 646.722.6817.