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’. E.g., 9k gold or 9ct gold. This refers 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. As it’s too soft to practically use in jewelry, pure gold is often mixed (aka ‘alloyed’) with other metals to make it more durable. These gold 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 for jewelry are 9k, 14k and 18k.
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It is a fraction of the cost of Solid Gold and is made by bonding a layer of gold to a base metal to give it the appearance of gold.
The process involves a high amount of heat and pressure, and the resultant gold-filled piece is typically more durable than a gold-plated piece but does not last as long as Solid Gold. Gold filled jewelry is more suited to fast fashion jewelry that has a limited life span.
Over time, the gold layer of Gold-Filled jewelry wears away, exposing the base metal underneath. Repairing and restoring the gold color on gold filled jewelry is difficult and would often involve ‘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, this is also known as “Vermeil” (pronounced ver-may).
You’ll often see Gold Plated jewelry expressed as several karats as well. E.g., ‘14k Gold Plated‘. In this example, the number of karats (14k) refers to the very thin layer of gold that is plated over a base metal or sterling silver.
When purchasing jewelry, it is important to be sure of whether you are purchasing solid gold or plated gold. 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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