How to Buy Gold Jewelry - Gold Plate vs Gold Vermeil

We get it. Buying jewelry can get confusing with the wide range of prices, and you do not want to spread hundreds of dollars on a piece that will tarnish quickly or worse, turn your finger green. We’re here to help.

We believe that your jewelry is a vessel to hold meaning and memories dear to you. Hence, we design timeless, classic pieces which can be keepsakes to last you through the years, while keeping prices attainable. 

That’s why we use only precious metals – silver and gold – as our materials. Here, we walk you through the different grades of gold so you would know how to determine quality when making any purchase.  

GOLD PLATED

What it is: Gold plating is the term for when a layer of gold is bonded to a base metal by electrolysis, whereby the base metal is dipped into a chemical bath and attaching the gold ions to the metal. The thicker the gold plating, the longer it maintains its shine and will not tarnish.

The base metal used is usually a budget-friendly material like copper or brass and gold content is usually less than 1%. 

Value for money: Gold plated is a budget-friendly option, but definitely won't last long.

Some gold plated pieces may also contain nickel, which is the usual culprit for sensitive skin reactions, or turn your skin green due to copper or brass being used. The prices of gold plated jewelry vary greatly depending on the thickness of gold – Costume or fast fashion jewelry are usually just flash plated in gold.

GOLD VERMEIL

What it is: Gold Vermeil (ver-may) is when sterling silver is plated with a thick layer of gold. In order for jewelry to be called ‘vermeil’, gold used must be minimum 10k and with a plated thickness of 2.5 microns. This makes gold vermeil classified as demi-fine jewelry, since only precious metals are being used.

This also ensures that gold vermeil is a great option for those with sensitive skin, as it does not make use of a cheaper base metal such as nickel, brass or copper.

Value for money: Gold vermeil is more expensive than flash plated and gold plated jewelry because it uses sterling silver as the core material and uses a lot more gold. This makes it a great option for those who don’t have the budget for solid gold, as vermeil is a good balance of long-lasting wear and affordability.

Tip: You can identify gold vermeil by looking out for the 925 stamp on each piece, with 925 referring to the Sterling Silver base metal used.

We use 14k gold vermeil, 2.5 microns plated thickness on sterling silver. See our pieces here.

Will my gold vermeil tarnish?

The answer is that all metals will eventually tarnish, especially if steps are not taken to care for them. To learn more about taking care of your jewelry, check out our Materials & Care page.

Do karats matter and what do they really mean?

First, the karats refer to the amount of gold content – Pure 24k gold is too soft to be used for jewelry hence, it needs to be mixed with an alloy. Here’s a table on the amount of gold content at each karat level, with the balance being alloys.

Karat

Gold Content

22k

92%

18k

75%

14k

58%

10k

41%

9k

37.5%

Hence, karats matter since a higher karat equates to greater cost per unit weight, due to higher gold content.

However, it is a delicate balance between durability and tarnishing depending on the karat. Higher karats do not tarnish easily, but they are also softer and more prone to dents and scratches. We use 14k gold in our jewelry as we find that it is the lowest karat which will not generally tarnish. 

We hope this guide is helpful when purchasing your next jewelry!