Gold jewelry is the standard-bearer for luxury and class. But, you don’t have to be bougie to own gold pieces.
Newbies and experienced jewelry wearers sometimes feel like figuring out what type of gold jewelry to get can be a chore. What karat amount should I get? What the heck is electroplating? Will gold match my skin tone? Will it last forever?
So, to rip off the veil of uncertainty, we decided to help you out by creating a complete guide to gold jewelry types so you can feel confident purchasing your next standout piece.
Types of Gold Jewelry:
- 24K Gold (Pure Gold)
- 14K Gold (Solid Gold)
- 18K Gold (Solid Gold)
- Gold Vermeil
- Gold Filled
- Gold Plated
Before you buy gold jewelry, look for a Quality Mark which will reveal—you guessed it—the quality of the piece. And, if the amount of gold in a jewelry piece is important to you, you’ll want to figure out the karats present in the ring, necklace, or other pieces that you buy.
Simply put: 24-karat gold is basically pure gold. Anything below that can reveal how much gold is in a piece. For example, if you have a 10k gold ring, you can divide 10 by 24 to find out the percentage of gold that’s in the ring (in this case it’s 41.7%). Pretty easy, right?
What is Solid Gold?
Solid gold is kind of a misnomer. And, in reality, you don’t actually want 100% “pure” gold.
Also known as 24-karat gold, pure gold is always in demand. But, you’ll discover that pure gold is not used in jewelry very often since it’s too soft to hold its shape over time. And, it’s too yellow-y, so it doesn’t really match up well with most skin tones.
So, then, how do they make gold jewelry from pure gold?
“Solid” gold really means you’re getting an alloy. An alloy is a combination of two or more metals that makes the final piece stronger and helps maintain the life of the piece. Anything below 24K gold will work for jewelry.
The lower the karats, the easier it will be to wear and maintain your special piece.
The great thing about solid gold jewelry is that you'll never have to worry about your pieces tarnishing, so you can shower, swim, and sweat in your solid gold jewelry and they will always stay the same.
18K Solid Gold
Looking to impress your mom or sweetie a little more? Then, consider gold jewelry that has 18 karats. While it’s still an alloy, it has a high level of gold (75%), meaning it is worth more, even as it ages.
18-karat gold is designed to last a lifetime. So, if you own a ring or necklace of this caliber, you should definitely show it off during special occasions. Then, you can humble-brag to your colleagues about how fancy you are--we all do it once in a while, don’t worry, we won’t tell.
Most owners of 18k gold like to save these pieces to show off on special occasions like fancy cocktail parties and weddings.
14K Solid Gold
The most common jewelry alloy, 14K gold, is the best of both worlds: you’ll get your fill of gold (58.3%) without sacrificing the ability to wear it from the office to your next big event. When you look closely, you’ll usually find a “14K” stamped into rings as a quality mark.
If you’re looking for a true middle-of-the-road between price and durability, look no further. 14-karat gold jewelry won’t tarnish, and you won’t break the bank getting staple pieces for you or your special someone.
It’s also easy to take care of. You can combine lemon juice and baking soda to put the sparkle and shine back into your 14kt gold jewelry.
If you’ve never heard the term “vermeil” before, you may not realize how it’s actually pronounced. No, it’s not “ver-meal”. It’s “ver-may”! You can thank the French for that spelling.
Gold vermeil is the top-of-the-line when it comes to gold plating. So if you want longevity and class at an affordable price, consider gold vermeil jewelry.
Sterling silver is used as the base metal for all gold vermeil jewelry. Your sterling silver base will be 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals. So, it will be sturdy and last a lifetime. And, while vermeil pieces will last a very long time, eventually, the plating will fade and you’ll be left with sterling silver.
To create vermeil, gold is electroplated onto the sterling silver.
Here’s how gold is electroplated:
- A piece of jewelry is made from a base metal like steel, brass, or silver
- The jewelry-maker puts the base metal in a solution with a clump of pure gold
- An electric current is run through the solution
- Gold breaks off and is plated onto the surface of the base metal
How cool is that!? This process is the standard way to apply gold to jewelry. We aren’t all queens with a war chest. That’s why the plating technique remains popular.
By regulation, gold vermeil is electroplated using gold that is 2.5 mircon or higher.
Since vermeil is nickel-free and using sterling silver as the base metal, it is hypoallergenic!
If the base is a different metal like copper or brass, then it is probs gold-filled or gold-plated and not vermeil.
Quality Mark: ?
Percentage: 5% of total weight
No. It’s not a piece of jewelry that’s filled with gold. Instead, gold-filled jewelry is really just a thick layer of gold that is mechanically bonded to a base metal like copper or brass.
Most gold-filled pieces use 14kt gold for plating. This means you can have the durability of 14kt gold while paying less upfront.
If you have a sensitivity to gold, gold-filled pieces are a great option to consider. They’re easier on the skin than a karat-gold piece of jewelry.
Gold-plated jewelry is ideal if you are looking for amazing pieces on a smaller budget. Some people may worry about the quality of gold plating, but that depends on your jeweler and how you take care of it.
You’ll get the specialness of gold, and it will last you for years if you take care of it. Theoretically with proper care and heavy gold-plating, you’re looking at 5-10 years of enjoyment before you may need to replate your piece. However, flash gold plated pieces (thin layer of gold plating) will wear off quickly.
Gold-plated rings, watches, and necklaces are ideal for everyday use and can be worn casually or fancily. For your everyday pieces, consider gold-plating.
All that Glitters is Gold
No matter if you’re making stacks on stacks, or you simply want an affordable staple in your jewelry box, gold is accessible and worth the investment.
For people with allergies to metal, be sure to figure out the base metal that is used for the piece of jewelry. It’s believed that around 10% of people are allergic to nickel.
When it comes to basic maintenance, be sure to take off your gold jewelry before you get into the pool or spa. Chlorine wreaks havoc on gold and should be avoided at all costs. And, most gold pieces can be gently wiped with a dry cloth after wearing to ensure you remove oils, dirt, and your fav lotion from affecting your jewelry.
We suggest storing your unworn gold pieces in an airtight container for maximum protection.
Before you click “Order,” don’t forget that you can customize your jewelry. You can add anything from initials to zodiac signs to special dates that you and your boo want to memorialize.
The most interesting story is your own, so show off your story with some gold bling!