Gold vs. Gold Filled

It's a question I'm frequently asked by clients who value jewelry. Let's explore the differences between gold, gold filled and gold plated jewelry.

Pure gold is too soft for everyday wear, so it is alloyed with a mixture of metals like silver, copper, nickel, and zinc to give it strength and durability. Karatage, denoted by a number followed by "k" indicates purity, or how much of the metal in a piece of jewelry is gold. Karatage is expressed in 24ths, making 24k gold, 100% gold. Fine jewelry is usually 14 k, 18 k or 24 k gold.

 A simple band available in either 14 k gold or 14 k gold fill. Click here for details.

Gold-filled is constructed in two or three layers. The core metal is jewelers’ brass. A gold alloy is then bonded to one or both surfaces of the brass core with heat and pressure. Unlike plated (aka electroplated or "dipped") metals, Gold-filled is legally required to contain 5% or 1/20 gold by weight. This 5% is then described by the karatage of the gold alloy. Our Gold-filled items are 14kt gold-filled. 14k Gold-filled products are identified as 14/20 Gold-filled; alternatively, 14kt Gold-Filled is also acceptable.

From our Coils Collection, 14 k gold-fill bracelet with oxidized sterling accents. Click here to see the entire collection.

Gold plating is a miniscule layer of solid gold applied to a brass base. The plating does not compose any measurable proportion of the products total weight. It is estimated to be 0.05% or less of the metal product. Gold plating will generally wear off rather quickly and expose the brass base product. It does not stand up to heat, water or wear over time.
Generally speaking, gold filled is better quality and will have a much longer lasting color than plated jewelry.

Gold vermeil, or just vermeil, refers to items made of silver that are plated with a thin layer of gold.

In the U.S., to be considered vermeil, a piece has to sterling silver, coated with gold that is at least 10 k gold and at least 2.5 microns thick. The most notable difference between vermeil and gold plate is the core of the piece. Gold plated items can be of any metal, vermeil must be silver. Vermeil is usually pricier than gold plate due to the core.

Our Roman Coins collection features 14 k gold vermeil. Perfect for the history lover! See details here.