What’s in a metal? Solid Gold vs. Gold Plated vs. Vermeil vs. Gold Filled
The complete guide to Gold Jewellery is here at Bowerbird Jewels. But what's in a metal? What does it mean if a piece is made of solid gold vs. gold plated; what is vermeil and how do I know if a piece is gold filled or not?
The shine of gold, that truly luxe feeling... there's something so special about Gold jewellery! Bowerbird Jewels create stunning gold jewellery pieces, made from a range of different manufacturing processes designed to meet both your wearability needs and sit at a range of different budgets. But what's in a metal? What does it mean if a piece is made of solid gold vs. gold plated; what is Vermeil and how do I know if a piece is gold-filled or not?
The complete guide to Gold Jewellery is here at Bowerbird Jewels.
Solid gold jewellery is exactly as the name suggests; the entire piece of jewellery is made up of solid karat gold. It’s a beautiful, durable option, but it can certainly come with a price tag. If you are looking for everyday wear or demi-fine jewellery, then solid gold may not be the best option if you don’t want to make a purchase that could seriously break the budget.
Karat gold refers to the mix or recipe of gold. 24kt gold is pure gold and very soft, so by mixing in other metals or alloys, you will lower the gold content and increase the durability, wearability, or hardness of the gold. For example, 14kt gold is sometimes referred to as 585 (you will find this hallmark stamped on the jewellery piece somewhere). It means that 58.5% of the composition is pure 24kt gold and the remainder is a mix of other metals, generally silver, copper etc. It’s worth noting that the combination of metals and the amounts used can change the final gold colour and its properties. For instance, Rose Gold has a high proportion of copper which gives the metal it’s signature beautiful pink colour. If you want to know more about alloys, check out our blog post on “A quick one minute guide to jewellery hallmarks”.
Gold filled jewellery is a more affordable option than solid gold jewellery, which is super fortunate if you like to layer on your shiny pieces! Gold filled is not the same as solid gold even though it can totally look like the real deal. All gold-filled jewellery at Bowerbird Jewels is 14kt and meets the minimum 5% composition standards. Gold filled jewellery is good for all skin types and hypoallergenic and finally a good option if you don’t want to take your jewellery off all the time.
Gold filled jewellery uses a gold overlay (a thin sheet of karat gold) bonded by using heat and pressure to a low-end metal inner core, usually brass. True gold-filled jewellery is measured in weight and has 5% of its weight in pure gold. Over time, the gold layer will eventually wear away and the best option for repair is gold plating as it's usually too expensive or impossible to apply a new gold bond over the item.
Gold filled jewellery does have its limitations. Only items that are made from sheet, wire and tube can be gold filled – gold filled jewellery cannot be cast as the metals would melt and mix together. That means more elaborate or ornate items need to be gold plated. Finally, any surface treatments like diamond cutting or engraving can’t be done as it would cut through the gold layer exposing the brass core and causing it to tarnish.
Gold plating is where a layer of gold is layered over a base metal like brass, copper or silver. The base metal jewellery piece is placed in a chemical solution containing the gold and an electric current causes the gold to adhere to the base metal in a thin layer. Cool right?!
Depending on how long the item is left in the plating bath determines how thick the plating layer will be. There are different terms for gold plating, depending on the base metal and how thick the plating is.
Gold plated items can be infinitely re-plated, meaning you’re able to keep your sparkly pieces bright and shiny forever. However, depending on the core metal type it may not be financially viable. If you are not sure how thick your gold-plated items are, it's recommended that you take them off before showering or exposing them to chemicals like perfumes and moisturisers. This will help ensure they stay bright and shiny for longer.
Items that are flash plated are generally brass or copper. The items are quickly immersed in the electroplating bath where a quick surface layer of gold is added and the items change to a gold colour. Cheaper pieces and costume jewellery is flash plated as it is cheaper to produce (and purchase!) but the plating will quickly rub off. Ever had a black or green back of the neck? That’s where the gold plating has worn off your costume jewellery, and the brass is reacting with your skin oils to create that gross black or green residue.
Vermeil (pronounced Ver-may)
Vermeil is an ideal option for those who want to balance value and quality. Vermeil jewellery is essentially gold-plated jewellery, but a higher quality version of gold-plated jewellery which means no tarnish on your skin!
Choosing Vermeil pieces allows you to build a beautiful, unique and varied jewellery collection in precious metals without the hefty price tag of solid gold jewellery.
There are some key differences that make it a suitable jewellery option. The base metal is sterling silver, and the gold plating layer is significantly thicker. The gold layer must be at least 2.5 microns to be called Vermeil. All our Vermeil jewellery at Bowerbird Jewels has a 3-micron gold layer, which helps ensure that everything we deliver is of high quality.
All Vermeil jewellery made by Bowerbird Jewels also has an additional E Coat ceramic coating placed on top of the gold to prevent any further tarnishing and make sure that your jewels will last longer. Vermeil jewellery is good for all skin types and hypoallergenic and a fantastic option if you’re one of those people who forget to take your rings off when you do the dishes or leave your daily wear on when you take a shower!
So what’s in a metal? Really, it’s about the kind of pieces you want to wear. If you want to wear your jewellery daily, and you want it to last the test of time, choose options like Vermeil, Gold Filled or Solid Gold. If you don’t want to break the budget, Gold Plated and Vermeil options give you the opportunity to build a beautiful, varied jewellery collection without having to re-mortgage your home.
Ultimately, jewellery should be fun and it should reflect you as a person. So choose pieces that resonate with you and work with your lifestyle! Shop the Bowerbird Jewels range of gold jewellery on the website now!