Gold has historically been one of the most popular (and most expensive) precious metals on the planet.
Pure gold is incredibly durable. It's the most non-reactive of all metals: it won't react with oxygen or most chemicals, meaning it won't tarnish, rust or perish. This makes it perfect for use in jewelry and high-status objects which are intended to retain their value and finish indefinitely.
It's also very pure in the form in which it's found naturally, unlike many other metals which can be difficult to extract from their ores.
Plus, it's also a truly beautiful metal, displaying a broad spectrum of colors depending on how it is alloyed with other metals. The purest gold at (24 carat gold) is a luminous, rich and warm color, unmatched by any other metals.
But what about the different types of the gold? What does it mean when a piece of jewelry is described as gold vermeil or gold filled? How are those different to solid gold or gold plated jewelry? What is rose gold or white gold?
SOLID GOLD JEWELRY
Pure solid gold isn’t often used in jewelry making because it’s very soft. Instead the gold is alloyed with other metals to make it harder and better wearing. The higher the carat, the higher the gold content in the metal, with 24ct gold having the highest purity and 9ct having the lowest.
Most gold jewelry that you'll see is made in yellow gold, but there are other colors available, all of which are alloyed with different metals to change the color.
Solid rose gold is real gold, but in this case the pure gold is alloyed mostly with copper and some silver. The more copper included, the redder the coloring of the metal.
There is no such thing as pure rose gold: it is always an alloyed metal. The higher the carat number (or karat) of the rose gold, the purer gold is included in the alloy.
Solid white gold is also an alloyed metal. It's made of pure gold and other metals such zinc or nickel, which give it a whiter coloring. There is also no such thing as pure white gold as it is also always an alloy.
GOLD VERMEIL JEWELRY
Gold vermeil jewelry is made of either pure or sterling silver which is heavily plated with gold. You might also see it referred to as silver gilt or gilded silver. Gold vermeil is a great alternative to solid gold. Most jewelers are able to create this finish much more easily than gold filled.
The gold plating though will wear over time, particularly in exposed areas or in pieces that get a lot of wear and tear (particularly rings, chains and bangles), but in the case of gold vermeil the plating is almost always heavier than standard gold plated metal, meaning it will wear better and the finish will last longer, especially with proper care.
GOLD FILLED JEWELRY
Gold filled metal is made by applying a layer of gold over a base metal core, which is then rolled under very high pressure until bonded, which is why you might see it also referred to as rolled gold.
This type of jewelry wears much better than regular gold plated as the outer layer of gold is a lot thicker. With care, chances are you’ll be able to enjoy your gold filled jewelry for years to come without it losing its gold finish.
GOLD PLATED JEWELRY
Gold plated jewelry contains the least amount of gold of all of these alternative gold finishes. It is created by applying a thin layer of gold most often over a base metal using electrical or chemical deposition.
The main pro is that the price will be a lot lower than other finishes given the small amount of gold used to create this jewelry.