Our love for gold jewellery is no passing phase, and with increased obsession comes a greater need to know what exactly you’re buying. Have you noticed that some gold jewellery is referred to as ‘filled’ or ‘plated’, and that these words have a direct correlation to the cost? Or, have you boguht something that you thought was gold, only to find that it tarnishes really quickly? That’s because there’s actually a whole spectrum of ‘gold’ in the jewellery world, so it’s important to school up before you add another piece to your collection.
Below, we break down the key differences between solid gold, gold filled, gold vermeil and gold plated — because yes, there are some major ones.
As the name suggests, solid gold jewellery is made entirely of gold, with the involvement of any base metals.
24 carats is the highest purity of gold, meaning it comes with a fairly hefty price tag. 14k solid gold means 14 parts gold and 10 parts alloys, while 18k solid gold means 18 parts gold and 6 parts alloys . The lower the carat, the less expensive the cost, because the product is using less gold.
This style comes with the heftiest price tag because it’s the best quality of gold jewellery that you can get. It’s hypoallergenic and suitable for most, if not all skin types.
Solid gold is also great for everyday wear if you’re looking for pieces that are built to last, as they won’t tarnish when you’re doing those little things like washing your hands or wearing lotions/perfumes.
Thin Croissant Dôme Ring, $500 from Mejuri
Nazar Necklace, $749 from Temple Of The Sun
Michael Hill Graduated Belcher Toggle Bar Bracelet in 10kt Yellow Gold, $999 from THE ICONIC
Victoria Solid Gold Baguette Diamond Necklace, $869 from S-kin studio
Elro Ring 14K Gold, $330 from Alana Maria
Gold filled jewellery involves mechanical bonding a solid layer of gold to a bass, like jewellers brass. The carats are usually 12-14, meaning it’s a relatively high quality and designed to last a long time. That being said, you’d be wise to check the thickness of the gold layer before purchasing as it can vary between brands.
Typically, gold filled jewellery has around 100 times more gold than plated jewellery and shares many of the same qualities as solid gold at a fraction of the price. And, given that the gold is bonded to the base, it’s a lot harder for it to rub off.
This style is also great for people who are allergic to metals as it’s hypoallergenic. With proper care practices in place, this type of gold jewellery can last you years.
Francine Necklace 18K Gold Filled, $169 from Reliquia Jewellery
Sandra Basic Hoops 14K Gold Filled, $60 from s-kin studio
Harlow Bracelet, $129 from Alana Maria
Gold vermeil is an increasingly popular type of gold jewellery which involves placing a thick, gold plating on top of sterling silver. Each countries require a different micron level of gold, so it’s worth checking out how high this is before investing if you’re hoping for the piece to last longer — 2.5 microns is a reasonably high amount.
Given that the gold plating is quite thick, it’ll last longer than gold plating and can often go for several years with frequent use before signs of tarnishing appear.
Charlotte Bold Hoops, $148 from Mejuri
Vera Wave Ring, $95 from Saint Valentine
My Sweet Tourmaline Choker, $159 from by charlotte
Last but certainly not least, is a gold plated option. This type of jewellery usually involves placing a light layer of gold (0.05% or less) on top of a metal base, usually brass or copper.
Given how thin the layer of gold is, it’s not uncommon for the colour to rub off, meaning it’s prone to tarnishing, especially when exposed to liquids or chemicals like lotions and perfumes.
This isn’t to say gold plated isn’t worth your money, it just means it’s probably best not to wear these pieces everyday as they’ll discolour faster than the others. It’s still a great option for people looking for stylish jewellery that can be worn on nights out, or if you’re looking to test out a new style or trend without committing to a more expensive piece.
Meadowlark Fob Choker, $795 from THE ICONIC
River Hoops, $159 from Avant Studio