Originally published on Medium
Article by Marie Lawlor
It’s official…..I am in love with gold… gold stacking rings, gold layered necklaces, gold bangles.
But sometimes my relationship with gold can be a bit on the confusing side.
How many times have you, like me, gone into a shop to buy affordable and fashionable gold jewellery only to be bamboozled by the whole ‘gold plated, gold filled, vermeil’ terminology?!
As a jewellery lover and someone who has become more immersed in this world in the last few months, I think a lot of us still struggle with understanding exactly what these terms mean.
So go pour yourself a cuppa cha/coffee or a glass of vino, grab a comfortable pew and get ready for some insight into the world of gold.
Gold in all its variations
Gold has been used in jewellery and accessory design for centuries.
The Incas referred to gold as the ‘tears of the sun’ and it has long been associated with gods ,wealth, power, immortality and as Liz Taylor conveys so well above, gold has always been associated with beauty.
As we know, gold is measured in carats, reflecting the purity of the piece. Pure gold is 24 carats. But pure gold is quite soft , scratches easily and so is not durable enough for jewellery manufacturing.
So instead jewellery is made from a ‘gold alloy’. Essentially the addition of another metal/metals to pure gold.
An example of the grading of the various carats of gold are as follows:
So when you are looking at an 18 carat gold piece, know that 75% of the metal used in that piece is actual gold while the remainder will be another alloy/alloys. While a 14 carat gold piece would contain 58% gold and the remainder would again be alternative alloys.
To give you a sense of what alloys are used in jewellery making, I’ve listed a few examples below:
- Zinc: Commonly used to help harden the gold to improve its durability
Copper: Often used in conjunction with other metal alloys to help shape gold jewellery but also it is used to give colour to a piece, for example in rose gold jewellery.
- Nickel: Often used in gold plated items to decrease the cost of manufacturing. If, like me, you suffer from allergies to cheaper metal alloys, it’s best to always ask if nickel is used — it’s the most common cause of skin irritation when it comes to jewellery.
- Silver: Used in a lot of coloured gold jewellery to lighten the tone of pieces. Silver is less expensive than gold but still gives a very good finish and can give greater shine to a gold piece as it is more radiant than gold.
Gold plated jewellery has become very popular . Ultimately it’s a lower cost alternative to solid gold.
Gold plated jewellery is created when a base metal is electroplated with a thin coating of gold. The layer of gold used is typically 10 carat or higher. Gold plated items are usually very strong as they have a thinner layering of gold than say gold filled. However on the flip side, because the gold plating is thin, it can mean that the gold effect can tarnish quicker.
When buying a gold plated piece, it’s also wise to ask what that base metal is — again in some cases nickel can be used, and nickel isn’t suitable for everyone.
So it’s important to wear gold plated jewellery with respect — no wearing in the shower or over spraying your wrists or neck with your favourite perfume!
Gold filled jewellery is created when a base metal(e.g. copper)is filled inside a hollow tube of gold. The gold coating on this tube is 100 times thicker than would be found on gold plated jewellery. Essentially it is hard wearing, and with good care, won’t tarnish.
In the gold filled item, a higher carat piece certainly means a more higher value piece but the metal will be a little softer and thus more susceptible to damage. So look for those pieces with a lower carat value to ensure longevity for your piece.
Vermeil is a particularly good option when buying fashion jewellery. Vermeil (pronounced VER-MAY) is sterling silver that has been gold plated — so super durable with a good shine and an all-around good bet if you are allergic to other base metals. In order to be vermeil, the gold coating must be at least 10 carat and have a minimum thickness of 2.5 micrometers.
Keeping your gold items looking shiny and new
The best thing you can do to protect your gold plated/gold filled /vermeil items is to store them in an airtight box or bag. Use a soft toothbrush and a little warm water to gently clean the items.Then a cotton wool ball or a soft cloth to polish them up.
The Big G
So, lets all thank our lucky stars that gold has been re-imagined in so many new forms to make it affordable for our jewellery boxes.
Hopefully the explanations above have given you some useful insights to help you make more fully informed buying decisions.
If you have any questions about the big G please get in touch via the comment boxes at the bottom here or on my facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/lotsofpurtythings/