Gold gold gold… will never go completely out of style and oh so shiny… but all that glimmers isn’t real gold as they say so let’s look at what the different types of Gold are.
So first things first what are the names for the different types I am referring to:
– Flash Plated Jewellery
– Gold Plated Jewellery
– Gold Vermeil Jewellery
– Gold-filled Jewellery
– Solid Gold Jewellery
– White Gold Jewellery
– Rose Gold Jewellery
The first 4 in the list all refers to a surface treatment where a gold layer is bonded to a metal base. The last 3 are different variations of solid gold and we will look at the purity level as well.
FLASH PLATED JEWELLERY
In short gold flash plate is a super thin layer of gold on top of a metal base added through a gold chemical solution bath.
Flash plating doesn’t need to be done with a real gold layer (9-14 CT layer) and is very common in fast fashion jewellery or costume jewellery. These pieces are generally not labelled with how it’s been plated or what the base metal is made off.
What you should know: This is low quality plating, the layer of gold will wear away quickly, and it’s a high maintenance items nor intended for regular use.
You need to avoid getting it wet, any chemicals and make up products can ruin it and it can contain nickel. ⚠️ Make sure you are given the information of how the jewellery is plated.
Different plating operators still use a layer of nickel between the base metal and the gold. Why? Well to make the gold come out brighter, it’s a cheap material and it’s makes the gold attach better. The alternative will be a palladium seal coating which is a more expensive (precious) metal but ultimately better for your skin when the gold wears off.
Is it worth it: Not really, in general the core metal is brass but with fast fashion jewellery it can be any kind of zinc mixture or pewter base. Pieces that are flash plated needs regular replating to look nice and for the cost you are better off investing in better quality pieces to start with. ALso you want to make sure it doesn’t contain nickel as it may cause nasty skin reactions.
GOLD PLATED JEWELLERY
Gold plated jewellery is a bit better than flash plated jewellery but it still have a short lifespan and will need to be replated regularly and carefully looked after. It can come in rose gold plating too but it’s not as common as yellow.
The process how gold is added is the same: a gold layer is added to a base metal by dipping the metal into a special chemical solution. While in the gold bath it’s shot with an electric current, so the gold attaches, and longer it is in the bath the thicker the layer basically.
What you should know: Gold plating is measured in Microns = one millionth of a meter. In gold plated items the gold layer should measure at least 0.5 microns but the thicker the gold layer, the better and longer lasting. The price of gold plated pieces can vary depending on the brand and make sure there is information about the nickel and the thickness of Gold.
Is it worth it? well it depends on the thicknesses of the plating I would say. But in the long run you need to be extra careful with these pieces as well and you will need to re-plate them to keep them shiny and golden so it can get costly and become a hassle. However some manufacturer make sure to have a see through protective coating over the gold for it it last longer which is a way they’ve tried to solve the issue of it wearing of to quickly.
GOLD VERMEIL JEWELLERY
This type of gold treatment basically stands for a “regulated standard” of gold plated silver jewellery. The right to use the term dictate that the base have to be Sterling silver and it have to be done at at thicker plating of at least 2.5 micron, and use a minimum of 10 carat gold.
What you should know: You get a precious metal piece (silver) with heavy gold plating when you buy Vermeil. It should be at least 2.5 micron and it’s an affordable option to solid gold.
If something is marked Vermeil but not explained you should check so it upholds the 3 rules as there are no testing or special marking for this kind of plating. It is just a promise the company makes by using the term. Some companies will use even heavier coating then 2.5 micron and in general pride themselves in that fact so it will be clearly stated which is good news for you.
Is it worth it? It is better than regular gold plated jewellery and it will last you years if you care for it well. It is however often sold at a higher price point then gold plated base metal but you get what you pay for. The plating will comes off eventually and often unevenly with all plated pieces so re-plating is required.
It can also be recycled as it is made out of silver so definitely look into doing that if you give up on the maintenance or get bored with it.
GOLD FILLED JEWELLERY
So what is then gold filled jewellery made of? well it’s bonded/ added in a different way and have some benefits but it is harder to find pieces made this way, as it is a older production method.
To make gold filled metal, a gold layer often 14ct is pressure bonded to the surface of another metal commonly brass. This makes is thicker than gold plated jewellery and the gold tend to last longer and wear through slower.
What you should know: Gold-filled sounds like it would be filled with gold but this is not the case here, it is a thin gold sheet pressure bonded to another metal. It is not measured in thickness but instead in weight. The layer must contribute at least 5% to the item’s total weight which is somewhat confusing when other items measured differently.
It is harder to find items that have been gold filled and as a maker myself I generally only see finished chain that have been gold filled, and no companies offer to treat designer pieces to gold filled. This is probably as it’s costly and time consuming so not Optimal for all sorts of jewellery.
Is it worth it? Well it is better than flash plating and sometimes normal gold plating in terms of lasting longer. You need care for it similar to gold plated jewellery and the prices can vary for pieces with gold filled parts. Personally I would say it depends, if you are investing in brass jewellery from small independent designers, like our jewellery. Chain in gold filled is a good alternative to flash plated or solid gold if you are on a budget, as it will not tarnish as quickly as solid brass chains. But a vermeil chain will be more valuable as it can be re-plated where as gold filled can not be repaired.
SOLID GOLD JEWELLERY
Also Solid gold is not the same as pure gold necessarily, the purity level is measured in parts of 24 so hence pure gold is 24ct (24K in US). To be classified as precious metal it needs to be a minimum of 9ct in the UK / 10ct in America which is 1/3rd of the mixture pure gold and 2/3rds other metals like silver and copper.
Pure golden has a very yellow almost orange tinged colour and is called 24cts, is not optimal for jewellery as it is “soft” and can get scratched and dented easily. The most common alloys (mixes) are 18ct, 14ct and 10 or 9ct depending on country but the higher the karat number, the purer the gold.
The lower the carat the lighter the yellow in colour and personally I love the look of 9/10 or 14ct, it’s also slightly cheaper than 18ct. A Lot of people get surprised to know that there is no 24 carat White gold but you can get 18ct, 14ct and 9/10ct in rose, White or different shades of yellow gold.
What you should know: What solid gold refers to is the fact that the whole pieces is made of gold and it’s not just a surface treatment. It is an investment as price points are higher and the higher the carat(purity) the higher the price. It is durable and the colour will not come off and the value will be retained.
ROSE GOLD JEWELLERY
So to get White or Rose gold you have to mix it with other metals and they most commonly come in 18 carat or 14 carat. 18ct gold is made out off 75% gold to other metals in the piece and will be marked with 750 inside whereas 14ct is 58.3% gold and is marked 583.
In rose gold they tend to use a slightly higher amount of copper than silver or palladium inside to give it that gorgeous red or pinkish hue.
WHITE GOLD JEWELLERY
White gold is never really White when it is made, it tends to have a slight beige or grey tone and then it gets plated to shine brighter and whiter. This is done with Rhodium which is a strong (but too brittle to use solid) metal coating, the slight downside is that it needs to be re-plated every now and then to stay White and shiny specially rings tend to wear off and need a re-plate.
Important note on White gold is that vintage White gold often contains nickel inside the mix even if it’s a small amount it can still react with your skin. Modern White gold pieces are no longer made with nickel obviously as its connected to allergy and skin reactions.
There are a lot of beautiful jewellery designs out there and I’m not the one to tell you what jewellery you want to invest in, although I would say that fast fashion jewellery is extremely bad for both the environment and the workers and that we should definitely prompt change by voting wisely with our money.
I think it’s important to know what the “different types of gold” are, if there are hidden costs and high maintenance required to keep your pieces looking good and making you feel good.
I would say make sure you read descriptions and possibly ask if you are unsure to make sure there are no nickel layers. Check care instructions for maintenance and how to best care, store and treat your items so you can enjoy them for as long as possible and recycle where you can.
If you only ever wear gold and on a daily basis it’s worth saving up and investing in solid gold pieces even if this will take a bit longer to achieve or be committed to a good care routine for your jewellery.
Why not grab our smart printable buyers guide for JEWELLERY…