With pure gold prices on the rise, many shoppers are turning to less expensive alternatives whilst still wanting the look and feel of real gold. Precious metals and gems are valued based on current market pricing which is based on supply versus demand.
There are several processes used to provide the appearance of real gold jewellery, but only Gold Filled offers durability that is even close to solid gold. Gold vermeil and gold plating are quickly becoming less popular in jewellery as gold-filled starts to become more mainstream and readily available. Traditionally, gold filled jewellery was only offered by high-end jewellers but now, with the insurgence of home businesses and workshops since Covid began there are quite a few businesses offering gold-filled products.
So, what is the difference between Gold Filled, Gold Vermeil and Gold Plated?
What Is Gold Filled Jewellery?
A process that originated in the United States, gold filled it is quickly gaining worldwide popularity.
A sheet of solid gold is pressure-bonded to both sides of a base metal such as jeweller’s brass. This becomes a a very high-quality material extremely resistant to wear and tear. Using pressure and heat, the gold is fused to the brass giving the final appearance of solid gold.
Despite its name, gold fill is not filling anything with gold, it is simply bonding it to the surface to give each piece the look and feel of real gold. The process to create Gold Fill is complex, and finding real gold-filled jewellery is more difficult than plated jewellery.
Legally, a gold-filled piece must contain at least 5% gold.
What Is Gold Plating?
Gold plating is a popular alternative to pure gold. Gold plated jewellery is relatively easy and inexpensive to produce and gives an authentic appearance, albeit temporarily.
Gold plated pieces are created through a process called electroplating, where an inexpensive base metal is first thoroughly cleaned, then dipped into a nickel solution to be electroplated, followed by copper or sometimes silver, then finally plated with a thin coating of gold.
It is estimated at least 20% of the world’s population is allergic to nickel, with reactions ranging from itching and rashes, to dry skin resembling burns and blisters, either at the site where the nickel plated jewellery is worn or elsewhere on the body.
Gold plating thickness is measured in microns, with 1 micron being the thinnest acceptable thickness, and 2 microns being the standard thickness for a piece that would last a few months with constant daily wear. Gold plating is 20 times thinner than gold fill.
What is Gold Vermeil?
Gold Vermeil is also an electroplated product, where liquified gold (usually 2-3 microns thick) is electroplated to a Solid Sterling Silver base.
Though popular, Precious Hearts do not use plated products at all. When a customer is purchasing a Gold or Rose Gold piece they want the gold appearance, not Sterling Silver. When plating inevitably wears off, a relatively short time after purchasing, it reveals the Sterling Silver underneath and the customer is left with a piece they have paid a higher price for but not in the colour they originally purchased, and more than likely do not wear.
Instead, Precious Hearts offer Gold Fill so our customers receive more of the precious metal they have paid for- pure gold.
Can You Tell The Difference Between Gold Fill And Plated?
At first glance, it can be almost impossible to tell whether a brand new piece is plated, gold-filled or solid gold. The determining factor is the durability.
If you have a Solid Gold piece that seems to be tarnishing, chances are you have actually been sold a gold-filled or gold-plated piece.
Some jewellers can conduct acid testing to help determine whether a product is gold plated, filled or solid gold, however this involves a small section of the piece being deliberately damaged by the acid during the testing process. One drop of acid is applied to the piece; if the acid immediately dissolves, it is plated. If it is filled, the acid does not dissolve at all.
Other jewellers can test through an electronic device which reveals the thickness of the gold. Gold plating will very quickly reveal an inferior gold surface.
Which Is Better: Gold Filled Or Gold Plated?
Both plated and filled options are a great way to add new pieces to your jewellery collection, however plated pieces are inevitably going to be less durable and require more maintenance and care.
For plated pieces, it is important to avoid contact with chemicals such as chlorine, sea water and perfumes, as well as some oils which are quite acidic, like citrus and essential oils. Using a mild soap can help remove environmental pollutants from the surface, which will extend the life of your favourite plated accessories.
However, for sentimental and memorial items intended to be worn daily for an extended amount of time (at least one year), Precious Hearts recommends purchasing Gold Fill or Solid Gold over Gold Vermeil or Gold Plated jewellery.