If you’re reading this, then you probably love wearing gold jewelry, and I don’t blame you! Gold jewelry is classy, timeless, easy to wear, and looks good on every skin tone! That’s why I wear it, and that’s why we sell it here at The Chasm Co.
What is a karat?
Gold is a soft metal, it must be mixed with other metals in order to be strong and durable for jewelry. This mixture of metal is know as gold alloy. A karat is the measurement to determine the purity of gold within this alloy. A single karat is approximately 1/24 of pure gold. The gold alloy is measured in 24 parts, with 24k gold being the purest.
The number of karats is how many parts of pure gold are in the alloy. So 18k gold is 18 parts gold out of 24, or 18/24. 14k gold is 14/24, and 10k gold is 10/24. Again, 24k gold is the purest and will in turn be the most expensive!
The other metals mixed into the gold alloy are not meant to lessen the purity of gold, but to strengthen it and make it harder. These gold alloys are used to create gold plated, gold filled, and solid gold jewelry!
The 4 types:
There are four types of finishes for gold jewelry. It is very important to know the differences between each type as you build your personal collection of gold jewelry! The four types are gold plated, gold vermeil, gold filled, and solid gold.
Gold plated jewelry speaks for itself! It is a gold plating over a base metal. The base metal is usually steel, copper, aluminum, or nickel. Since gold plated jewelry has the least amount of gold, this is one of the most affordable options. Gold plated quality varies, depending on the thickness of the plating. Cheaper options are usually one or two microns thick, and better quality plating will be thicker.
Gold plated jewelry is guaranteed to fade and tarnish with wear, however there are jewelry repair shops that can re-plate your tarnished pieces! Overall, gold-plated is a decent affordable option, but is not made to last a lifetime.
Gold vermeil is pronounced differently than a lot of people say it! The proper pronunciation is ver-may. Gold vermeil is actually a higher quality version of gold plated. To be considered gold vermeil, it must have a pure sterling silver as the base metal, with a very thick gold plating over it! The layer must be 2.5 microns thick to be considered vermeil, and the minimum purity of the gold must be 10k gold.
This is a higher quality option, but it still fades and tarnishes with wear. Cleaning your gold vermeil occasionally will help keep it clean and tarnish free!
MY FAVORITE. Gold filled jewelry is projected to last anywhere from 10-30 years! When you invest in gold filled, you invest in a sustainable, high quality piece of jewelry. And it is usually still very affordable! The process of making gold filled jewelry is more intense than the two above. It still involves a base metal, but a sheet of gold is put over the base metal and then put under extremely high pressure. The pressure causes the metals to become permanently bonded together! Gold filled jewelry is about 8-10 times thicker than gold plated, and is made to last.
This is still not solid gold so it is possible for it to tarnish. Although tarnishing is incredibly unlikely and rare for gold filled pieces, it can happen when the jewelry is consistently exposed to strong chemicals, such as fumes in a nail salon.
Solid gold is the highest quality option, but is also the most expensive. “Solid” isn’t technically true, since gold is actually very soft on its own as written above about karats! The number of karats are determined by the amount of gold mixed in. The purest gold is 24k, and going down from that, the gold gets less pure. The amount of gold in the piece will determine the price! Easy enough, right?
Solid gold will not tarnish or fade, because the gold is in the metal itself. We know it is unrealistic for many people to purchase solid gold jewelry all the time, which is okay! That’s why we prefer gold filled the most for everyday, trendy pieces. Solid gold is a great option for luxury pieces that you want to pass down to future generations as a family heirloom!
In the end, it is always up to you to decide which gold finish is best to add to your personal collection. We recommend and sell gold filled the most because it is sustainable, durable, high quality, AND affordable. If you ever have any questions about your gold jewelry, please ask!