Plated, Vermeil, and Solid Gold Jewelry 101

Did you know that there are actually two types of plated jewelry? One is referred to simply as plated jewelry, while another type specifically for gold is called vermeil. Today, we’ll go over the differences between plated jewelry, gold vermeil jewelry, and solid gold jewelry so that you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for during your next purchase from BISOULOVELY.

Plated jewelry is made of a base metal like steel, brass, or a zinc alloy that is submerged and electroplated until it is covered in a thin layer of another metal like gold, silver, or rhodium. The layer is only about 0.5 microns thick: enough to give a lustrous shine to the jewelry, but still thin enough that it will rub off easily without the proper care and maintenance. Additionally, plated jewelry will still tarnish, even if it’s gold plated - the base layer of metal will eventually begin to mix with the gold layer on top, which causes the tarnishing.

While gold vermeil is a type of plating, it is specifically:

  • made with a base of 92.5% sterling silver and
  • done with at least 10k gold and 2.5 microns thick.

Gold vermeil jewelry must meet these two requirements in order to legally be called vermeil, so you’ll always know that a piece labeled vermeil is the real deal! To be completely sure, you can check for the 925 stamp on the ring. This stamp is usually located somewhere on the inside of the ring band. 

Keep in mind that gold vermeil will still tarnish because of the sterling silver base layer. However, the thicker gold layer should still be more resilient than regular gold plated jewelry, though the karat of the gold layer will also play a part in how long the jewelry lasts.

So why go with plated or vermeil jewelry if the plating will just rub off?

Plated or vermeil jewelry is a beautiful and affordable option to add some gold to your accessory collection. And since the jewelry is plated with real gold, up to pure 24 karat gold, it appears just like solid gold jewelry but is actually still quite durable. Pure 24k gold is too soft and malleable to be used on its own.

But if pure gold is too soft, then what is solid gold jewelry?

“Solid gold” jewelry is gold alloyed with a stronger metal to increase its strength and then formed into jewelry. The karat measurement for gold represents what fraction of gold makes up the alloy. If 24k gold is pure gold, that means the mixture is 24 parts gold with no other metals. 14k gold, which is what we use at BISOULOVELY, means the mixture is 14 parts gold to 10 parts of another metal. The metal that is mixed with the gold can also change its color. For instance, gold is alloyed with copper to produce rose gold! 

It follows that even though solid gold isn’t just pure gold, it is the most expensive option. However, it is also the most durable. Since the gold is mixed with another metal and isn’t simply layered, it won’t rub or flake off. Solid gold jewelry won’t tarnish nearly as fast as plated or vermeil jewelry either, though it is still subject to light tarnishing because of the alloy. If you’re able to make the investment, we absolutely recommend it so that you’ll have a piece (or a few pieces!) of gold jewelry that will last you a lifetime!