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Gold Filled vs Plated vs Solid Gold Jewelry

Gold filled, plated, and solid have differences which affect its durability, quality, and more. Understanding these key differences is essential when choosing the right type of metal for your next piece and how to style. Our guide takes you through how each metal compares.

Table of Contents:

  • What is Gold Filled Jewelry?
  • How Does Gold Filled Differ from Other Gold Jewelry?
  • How Does Gold Filled Compare to Solid Gold?
  • How Gold Filled Differs from Gold Plated
  • Solid Gold Compared with Gold Plated
  • Comparing Solid Gold with Gold Vermeil
  • Solid Gold Jewelry from Monica Vinader
  • How to Clean Solid Gold Jewelry

What is Gold Filled Jewelry?

Gold filled refers to a method of making gold items such as jewelry and decorations. Gold filled jewelry isn't actually 'filled with gold' - it is made using a sheet of gold covering a base metal. Sheets of gold alloy are bonded around this base metal, which could be copper, brass or similar. This technique leaves the edges of the jewelry with the base metal exposed underneath. Depending on the metal used, this area could cause irritation for people with allergies to certain metals.

For a piece of jewelry to be classed as gold filled 1/20 of its weight needs to be made from real gold. How much gold makes up the alloy determines the quality of the piece. The different amounts of gold which make up the metal alloys are called karats. Gold is made up of 24 parts. Therefore, 18 karat gold is made up of 75% gold, 25% alloys (18 parts gold out of 24).

How Does Gold Filled Differ from Other Gold Jewelry?

Gold filled jewelry differs from other types of gold jewelry in a few main ways. Depending on what type of jewelry you are comparing it to, these differences vary. The main differences are:

  • Base metal - Gold filled jewelry is made up of a lower-end, non-gold base metal, such as copper or brass or similar. When comparing gold filled with gold vermeil you will see vermeil has a base metal of sterling silver. Whilst solid gold has no base metal, only gold.
  • Thickness of gold - The thickness of gold varies depending on the jewelry type. Gold filled has an external layer of gold, as does gold vermeil, and gold plated, with gold filled having the thickest layer of the three. Solid gold is the thickest, being made of only gold alloy.
  • Quality - Quality of jewelry will always depend on where it is sourced from and how the item is made. Being thicker than vermeil and plated, gold filled will be of a higher quality, depending again on the karat of the gold used. Solid gold is usually of higher quality, being made only of gold alloy.
  • Value - This again depends on the quality, and karat of the item. Having a thicker layer of gold may mean gold filled is of higher value than vermeil or plated. Where solid gold, if of a higher karat, may be more valuable than filled.
  • Tarnish resistance - Gold filled jewelry may last longer than other types, because it is made with a thick layer of gold. This thick layer is fairly durable, but may still tarnish with heavy scratching or harsh substances, and reveal the base metal below. Still, gold filled creates fairly durable pieces, and with proper care could last a long while.
  • Is it real gold? - Gold filled jewelry is still considered real gold, because the gold which surrounds the base metal is a gold alloy. However, it is not made entirely of 100% real gold, because it contains a base metal.

How Does Gold Filled Compare to Solid Gold?

Gold filled jewelry differs from solid gold jewelry in key ways, from manufacturing method to durability. The main distinctions between gold filled vs solid gold are:

  • Quality - Solid gold contains more gold alloy than gold filled, and so naturally these pieces will be more durable, and have a higher value. Properly labeled solid gold jewelry is always real gold. Quality does also depend on where you source your gold filled jewelry. Having an upheld quality materials promise is important for jewelry makers to be relied upon.
  • Longevity - Due to the thickness of the gold used in gold filled jewelry, it is still fairly hard-wearing and durable. The thicker this layer of gold, the longer they will last. Solid gold is naturally more durable because it is made entirely from one material, so these pieces are more likely to last you a lifetime.
  • Thickness of gold - The gold in solid gold runs all the way through the jewelry item, whereas gold filled has an external layer of gold bonded to a base metal. Therefore, the gold is naturally thicker in a solid gold accessory than a gold filled one.
  • Base metal - Solid gold has no base metal, the piece is gold throughout. Whilst gold filled contains a base metal of brass, copper, or something similar. The key difference being, solid gold has no base metal, gold filled does.

How Gold Filled Differs from Gold Plated

When comparing gold filled with gold plated, the two results are fairly similar. They both result in sunny hues over a base metal that isn't sterling silver. However, the technique to apply the gold to this other metal is where the two types differ. The main differences are:

  • Application technique - The way to apply the top metal to gold filled ​​jewelry is using a mechanical process involving heat. Whereas gold plated accessories are covered with a thin layer of gold through a chemical process.
  • Tarnish resistance - Where gold filled has a thick layer of gold on the outside, gold plated have a much thinner layer. This means, with gold plated, the gold is more easily tarnished and the base metal is more easily exposed with wear. This means you may have to adorn your gold plated jewelry less often than gold filled, to help increase its longevity.
  • Base metal - Both gold filled and gold plated jewelry uses a base metal that is not sterling silver. This is usually a cheaper metal such as copper, brass, or similar. This can help to create more widely affordable pieces, because the materials are of less value.
  • Thickness of gold - In gold filled, the amount of gold around the base metal usually makes up around 5% of its weight. The gold in gold plated can account for as little as 0.05% of a jewelry item.

With these gold pieces, you don't have to stick to just one color. Mixing gold and silver jewelry is a stunning way to create a unique style moment.

Solid Gold Compared with Gold Plated

Where solid gold is made up of only the gold alloy, gold plated jewelry is different. While the exterior of the jewelry may look similar, the overall quality is very different. The key differences are:

  • Longevity - When it comes how long you can wear your type of gold jewelry for, it does depend on whether it is solid gold or plated. Due to the fact solid gold is less easily tarnished, you'll naturally be able to wear it more frequently without it tarnishing. Whilst you may want to keep your gold plated jewelry in a jewelry box and bring it out for special occasions.
  • Tarnish resistance - Solid gold has the same metal throughout, therefore it is more resistant to tarnishing than gold plated, which often easily tarnishes if it is scratched or gets frequently wet. This is where the base metal comes to the surface and its natural color is visible.
  • Value - Solid gold has a higher value than gold plated because it has a higher percentage of gold. Solid gold is only made of gold alloy, whereas gold plated has only a small coating of gold. Therefore, solid gold jewelry is often more valuable than gold plated.
  • Quality - The overall quality of solid gold jewelry does depend on how it was made, however it is usually of a higher quality than plated, because it is made from only one metal. For gold plated, there does have to be a minimum amount of gold in order for a jewelry item to be considered 'gold plated'.

Comparing Solid Gold with Gold Vermeil

Where solid gold is made of only the gold alloy, gold vermeil differs slightly. The technique known as vermeil originated in the 19th century, where gold was applied to sterling silver. To make 18ct gold vermeil jewelry, a gold layer above 2.5 microns is applied to sterling silver. There are distinctions between solid gold and gold vermeil. These key differences are:

  • Gold thickness - Solid gold has a higher percentage of gold than vermeil, because it is made entirely of gold alloy. Though vermeil has a minimum thickness of gold, it does not contain gold throughout.
  • Tarnish resistance - Solid gold can become tarnished. If worn around cleaning products and other potentially harsh substances, your solid gold may become dull. The higher the karat of gold, the less it will tarnish. Gold vermeil is more likely to tarnish than solid gold, because the base layer of sterling silver can become visible over time. It's important to keep your jewelry clean, and avoid wearing it when using harsh chemicals.
  • Value - Due to the fact solid gold is made of one material throughout it contains a higher percentage of gold and is therefore of a higher value than gold vermeil. This value does depend on the karat of gold used in each type of jewelry.
  • Longevity - Due to the fact that solid jewelry is less likely to tarnish, it means you can wear it more often and expect it to last longer too. However, with proper care and frequent cleaning, you should also be able to use your gold vermeil pieces for a long time.

Gold Vermeil vs Gold Plated

Gold plated and gold vermeil have subtle differences. They could appear very similar on the surface, but knowing the difference means you can make the best decisions when choosing your type of gold jewelry.

  • Base metal - Both types of gold have a base which isn't gold. Gold vermeil has a base made of sterling silver, whereas gold plated could use a base of a different metal. This could be copper, or brass.
  • Gold thickness - The main difference between plated and vermeil, is how much gold is applied to the base metal. Vermeil must have a layer of gold at a minimum of 2.5 microns. Plated only needs a layer of 0.5 microns. Gold vermeil is a minimum of 5 times thicker.
  • Durability - The thicker the layer of gold on your jewelry, the more durable it is. Vermeil usually has a thicker layer of gold than plated, which means it will be more durable when it comes to scratches or tarnishing through wear and tear.

For all these reasons, gold vermeil jewelry is of a higher quality than gold plated.

Solid Gold Jewelry from Monica Vinader

Find gold jewelry in every style to adorn for every occasion. Yellow gold has a sunny warm hue, which shines in every outfit. Select to showcase your gold with gold and silver earrings. Or around your neck in a stylish gold necklace.

Solid white gold is known for its subtle cool tones which are reminiscent of silver. The stunning jewelry will take you from day to night effortlessly. With fabulous options no matter your style, you'll be the center of style inspiration. Line your wrists with gold bracelets to find striking combinations. Whilst gold rings can perfect an outfit, glinting from your hand. No matter your taste, you simply cannot go wrong when it comes to adorning gold jewelry, whether solid gold, plated, or filled.

Solid rose gold is sure to enhance your romantic side. Perfect for a romantic dinner, rose gold jewelry will give you the touch of glamour you're after. Ideal to accompany an evening of cocktails or dancing, you'll be the envy of your peers.

How to Clean Gold Jewelry

When it comes to caring for your gold filled, plated or solid gold jewelry, cleaning it can keep it looking fabulous for longer. Cleaning gold jewelry is easy to do from the comfort of your own home. For pieces worn on a daily basis, you'll want to clean them fairly frequently. This is more often than those that are stored safely in a box and only brought out for special occasions.

  • Step 1 - Use a dry, clean polishing cloth.
  • Step 2 - gently rub your gold jewelry with the cloth in one direction. If you have engraved jewelry, pay more attention to the etches, as they'll collect dirt more easily.
  • Step 3 - If these steps don't remove all the grime, take a gentle soap on a wet cloth and rub again carefully.

Find Sustainable Jewelry with Monica Vinader

At Monica Vinader, we combine contemporary jewelry with sustainability. Using recycled metals and ethical stones, we create helix earrings and men's jewelry for endless style inspiration that considers the planet.

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