14k, 18k, Gold-Filled, Gold Vermeil, Gold-Plated–Understanding the Different Types of Gold
When I first started getting into jewelry, I was completely overwhelmed by all the different variations of gold. Suffering from skin allergies from a young age, I knew there were definitely certain alloys that didn’t agree with my skin, but I had no idea how that related to gold, which has always been my preferred metal. I am a jewelry addict, so it was my personal mission to be able to make sense of it all and understand exactly what is safe for my skin and what is not. Hopefully this breakdown of the most popular types of gold helps you make an informed decision the next time you decide to treat yourself to some bling.
14k, 18k, gold-filled, gold vermeil, gold-plated—what does it all mean?
You will often see gold jewelry that ranges from 10k-24k. The “k” stands for karat, which represents gold purity. The purest kind of gold available is 24k, meaning it is 100% gold. Each gold purity has its own advantages and disadvantages. The higher the karat, the more valuable it is. On the other hand, the higher the karat, the softer the gold, which is why 24k is rarely used for jewelry. While 10k is the most durable because it is combined with other alloys, it contains the least amount of gold and is therefore worth less than 14k or 18k. The most commonly used purities in jewelry are 14k and 18k because of their resilience to wear and tear and ability to be worn every day. If the price doesn’t scare you away, 14k and 18k can be great options for jewelry when you really want to splurge.
Gold-filled is a USA industry standard which refers to the process of gold being mechanically bonded to its base metal. To be classified as gold-filled, the item is legally required to contain at least 5% of pure gold by weight. It’s created using extreme heat that bonds multiple layers of gold over brass. Oftentimes, gold-filled items can be identified by a stamp that might read its karat weight followed by GF. Other common markings are RGP which stands for “rolled gold-plate” meaning it was creating using the same process as gold-filled, but contains a thinner layer of gold. Gold-filled is considered a dated process in the jewelry industry and isn’t worth anything in small quantities, despite its higher price tag.
Gold vermeil refers to heavy gold plating over sterling silver. To be considered gold vermeil, the item must contain at least 2.5 microns of gold. Because of its composition of gold and silver, gold vermeil can retain a little value, but usually not much. It is frequently used in fashion jewelry and can be a good option for someone with skin allergies who don’t want to invest in solid gold and doesn’t mind paying a higher price tag for something that won’t keep its value.
Gold-plated jewelry is the perfect option for when you want beautiful jewelry that won’t break the bank. Gold-plated jewelry contains a thin layer of gold over a base metal. Brass is generally the most frequently used base metal in fashion jewelry. Although gold-plated over brass is considered hypoallergenic, almost all of our pieces are either gold-plated over 925 sterling silver or gold-plated over nickel-free stainless steel because of our own allergies. I personally don’t react well to brass, which is why we try our best to stay away from using it. We find that nickel-free stainless steel with 18k gold plating is a great option when you want gorgeous fashion jewelry that won’t trigger an allergic reaction and will be easy on your wallet.
Extending the life of your gold-plated pieces
The biggest concern most people have with their gold-plated jewelry is how to make it last as long as possible. Gold plated jewelry contains a thin layer of gold but can last a significant amount of time if taken care of properly. To ensure you’re taking care of your gold-plated jewelry the right way, try to follow a few guidelines.
Here are some tips:
- Always take off your jewelry before showering, swimming, or engaging in any activities that cause you to sweat.
- Wait till all lotions, perfumes, and makeup have set in and dried before putting your jewelry on.
- Never workout while wearing your jewelry because it could cause serious damage to the metals.
- Store your jewelry in something soft where it will not come in contact with anything else. We at Myra Ave deliver our pieces in a soft, microfiber cloth bag that is perfect for storage.
- How to clean gold plated jewelry: If you must clean your jewelry, do so gently with a soft cloth. Our microfiber cloth bag also doubles as a perfect soft cloth for cleaning as well.
Following these tips ensures that your favorite gold-plated pieces can have a long, happy life. If something does begin to tarnish, don’t fret. Most local jewelers can re-plate your pieces for a nominal price (around $10-$15).
Co-founder of Myra Ave