Learn more about different types of gold jewelry in our latest guide.
Solid gold jewelry (colloquially referred to as ‘real gold’) is the most valuable form of jewelry you can buy.
You’ll often see solid gold jewelry denoted as a number followed by ‘k’ or ‘ct’. For example, 9k gold or 9ct gold. This is referring to the ‘purity’ of gold, which is expressed as carats (‘ct’) or karats (‘k’).
The purest form of gold you can get is 24k gold which is 100% pure gold. 24k gold is very yellow in color and soft in texture. Pure gold is often mixed (aka ‘alloyed’) with other metals to make it more durable because it’s too soft to use practically. These alloys are what we refer to as ‘solid gold’ in jewelry.
The higher the proportion of pure gold to other metals, the higher the number of karats the gold is. The most popular types of solid gold used are 9k, 14k and 18k.
Do you have a gold chain and want to find out if it’s real? Check out this guide.
Gold-filled jewelry can be produced at a fraction of the cost of solid gold, and is made by bonding a layer of gold to a base metal, giving it an outer appearance of gold. This process of bonding involves a high amount of heat and pressure, resulting in a gold-filled piece that is typically more durable than a gold-plated piece. However, it does not last as long as solid gold. Gold-filled jewelry is more suited to fast fashion and has a limited life span.
Over time, the outer layer of filled jewelry wears away, exposing the base metal underneath. Repairing and restoring color to gold-filled jewelry is often difficult and involves ‘plating’ rather than the original process of ‘bonding’.
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Gold Plated / Gold Vermeil
Gold-plated jewelry consists of a very thin layer of gold being electrically charged onto a base metal or sterling silver.
If gold is plated over sterling silver it is known as “Vermeil” (pronounced ver-may). You’ll often see gold-plated jewelry expressed as several karats as well. For example, a bracelet’s stamp reads ‘14k Gold Plated‘. For this piece, the number of karats (14k) refers to the very thin layer of gold plated over a base metal or sterling silver.
Especially when purchasing it is important to be sure of whether you are purchasing solid or plated. There is a large discrepancy in value and there have been instances where some retailers may omit the word ‘plated’ when describing their jewelry which can be very misleading.
Gold-plated jewelry is the cheapest and lowest quality of the three metal types. They have an average lifespan of up to a year (with minimal exposure to moisture) and require regular re-plating to maintain their gold appearance.
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