If you’re looking for a more cost effective alternative to solid gold whilst still getting the gorgeous warm colour that gold is famous for then there are a number of different options which give a beautiful finish at a fraction of the price.
Gold plated, gold filled and gold vermeil are terms that we often see used to describe jewellery. If you don’t know what they mean, it might seem that they are interchangeable, but actually there are a number of key differences between them. This short guide to will help you to better understand what each term refers to so that you’re clear about what you’re buying and can make an informed decision about the right option for you.
Gold plated jewellery
Gold plating is when a base material is electroplated with a thin layer of gold. I use 23.7ct hard gold plating for a lot of my pieces and find that it’s a really affordable and good quality option which still gives that beautiful buttery yellow colour that we all love gold for. The earrings in the photo at the top of the page are made from hard gold plated silver.
With gold plated jewellery, the metal being plated is most often brass, copper or silver (I use Ecosilver, a 100% recycled alternative to Sterling silver, as the base for mine) and the thicker the plating the more durable and hard wearing it is. Although the coating can wear off over time you can extend the life of your gold plated jewellery by taking care when wearing it and storing it. Do check out my recent blog post How do I clean my gold & silver jewellery? for some handy tips on how to best look after your gold plated pieces.
Gold vermeil jewellery
Vermeil (pronounced ver-may) and also sometimes called silver-gilt, is a thick layer of gold over a base of silver. To be called vermeil, the coating has to be at least 2.5 microns thick which makes it longer lasting than a thinner layer of gold plating. For this reason I use vermeil for my ring collection (see photo above) which requires extra durability because of the greater wear and tear on rings over most other pieces of jewellery.
Gold filled jewellery
Gold filled, which is also known as rolled gold, refers to a process whereby a base metal (usually brass) is clad with a layer of gold. The gold is mechanically bonded onto the surface of the brass and is legally required to be at least 5% or 1/20 of the overall weight of the piece.
Gold filled generally comes as 12ct or 14ct and so is often also labelled as 12/20 or 14/20, referring to amount or karatage of gold in the layer that coats the surface of the jewellery. The creole earrings pictured above are 14ct gold filled. Because the coating is thicker, it is more durable than gold plating, but also more expensive and as with plated products it can come as yellow or rose gold. Most gold filled products are currently produced in the US.
I hope you’ve found those brief explanations useful. I believe that all of these different options have their merits, depending on your budget and the type of jewellery that you’re looking for, but it always pays to be informed when you’re jewellery shopping! If you have any questions about whether gold plated, gold filled or gold vermeil is right for you then do please drop me a line or come and connect with my over on Instagram.
Elin Horgan is a designer & maker of beautifully simple handmade jewellery, crafted from sustainable materials in her Bristol studio.