Perhaps one of the most important things to know when you are designing your own jewelry is the difference between precious and plated metals. In this article we’ll be focusing on gold, and pointing out the differences, pro’s and con’s of gold filled, vermeil and gold plated metals.
Gold Filled: by definition, gold filled is a piece of jewelry or other base metal item (chain, finding, bead, etc) with a sheet of gold applied to its surface using heat and pressure. The plating of gold on a gold filled item is typically 10K, 12K, or 14K and is at least 50 times thicker than regular gold plating. Gold filled items can last years without wearing through to the base metal and are, in most cases, more expensive than vermeil and gold plated items
Vermeil: pronounced “ver-MAY”, vermeil is the process of applying a plating of gold 2.5 microns thick over sterling silver. The plating can be done in many different karats of gold, ranging from 10 karat to 32 karat, but is typically 18 karat to 22 karat. The gold plating on vermeil items can wear off, in some cases, more quickly than on gold filled items. However, since the base metal is sterling silver, the piece is 100% precious metal.
Gold Plated: items that are gold plated have a single layer of gold over a base metal, usually brass or copper. Since the layer of gold is so thin, it can wear or tarnish much more quickly that gold filled and vermeil items. Gold plated items are typically much less expensive than gold filled or vermeil, and is a great alternative when designing costume jewelry, or pieces that will not be worn daily.