I haven’t talked too much on my blog about my love of jewelry, but jewelry is one of my loves. I love rings and earring and anything sparkly. Gold, silver, really classy and pricy pieces, more trendy and boho pieces—I love all of it. And I will admit to having something of a large collection. I especially love vintage pieces. But the more I became a conseguir of jewelry, the more I learned about jewelry in general.
Especially when it came to gold, and gold plating. You’ve likely heard the term gold plated, but then there is also vermeil, and gold filled. What are these?? Well, today I am sharing with you everything you need to know when it comes to gold jewelry—from solid gold, to gold colours and platings.
I’m sure you’ve heard of 10 karat gold, and 14k etc. But what does this actually mean? Well, I’m here to enlighten you. First of all, let’s begin by defining the word karat. It’s quite simple, it’s simply a unit of measurement for how much gold is in a piece of jewelry, like a ring. Keep in mind that gold is measured on a purity scale of 24, so if you run across 24k it is pure gold. But if 24k is pure gold, what does that mean for a piece of jewelry that is less than 24k? It means it’s been blended with other alloys to make it stronger. The trouble with pure gold is that is extremely soft, and therefore more susceptible to breakage. My mother’s wedding rings are 18k gold and the etchings on them have worn away over time because 18k is quite soft, though not as soft as 24k. The question now is, how much pure gold is in each karat?
The lower the number in karats, the less pure gold content in the piece. Does that make the ring or whatever you are buying less valuable? This depends on the piece of jewelry you are purchasing. Is it for daily wear? My mother has had to have her wedding ring re-finished twice over the course of her fifty year marriage. So higher karat gold, the less durable. My sister-in-law’s engagement ring is also 18k and twice the prong holding the diamond in place has broken off–luckily the diamond was not lost either time. Purity, while nice, does not mean the gold piece will be more valuable as damaged pieces will lose value. Purity does affect price as the higher the karat the more money you will be paying for a piece of jewelry.
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How Much Gold is in 10k?
10k gold is the most commonly seen in stores in North America, although in the UK, you will run into 9k and 12k gold. In 10k gold, 41.7% of the gold is pure gold, the rest is an alloy of copper and silver. Are you disappointed to discover that 10k gold is less than 50% pure gold? Being the most commonly sold and purchased gold karat, it’s understandable that you might be. But it is also a lot stronger than other karats, making it suitable for daily wear, especially if you are active and the jewelry piece is being subjected to knocks or pulls–a fine 10k gold necklace likely will not break if your baby tugs on it, while a fine 18k gold necklace might.
How Much Gold is in 14k?
If you are disappointed that 10k is less than 50% gold, never fear because 14k gold is 58.5% pure gold! Used more often for engagement rings, 14k is still fairly strong and has a nicer gold sheen to it. If you are looking for nicer pieces to wear for special occasions, or only occasionally, 14k isn’t a bad choice–it’s more expensive than 10k, but still reasonably affordable. Personally, I would always buy 14k if I could.
How Much Gold in in 18k?
Being raised in an Italian family, being gifted gold of less than 18k was considered being gifted something slightly better than junk. 18k gold was the gold standard when I was growing up. I have a lot of pieces in 18k gold because it was more readily available when I was young in Italian and other European owned jewelry stores. 18k gold is 75% pure gold, so it’s understandable that it was highly valued. It has a lovely deep gold colour, and still has a fair amount of strength and should hold up to the test of time if cared for properly. 18k gold would make a great selection for a piece that is heirloom worthy. I wouldn’t recommend it for rings you wear daily after the experiences of my mother and sister-in-law.
How Much Gold is in 22k?
I actually have a few pieces in 22k gold! India and other Asian nations do make jewelry in 22k, and they are stand out pieces not only for the artistry of the pieces, but because the colour of the gold is really rich. 91.7% of the gold in 22k is pure gold–so you are pretty darn close purity here! However, this is soft gold, so again, I wouldn’t recommend this for daily wear.
What About the Different Colours of Gold?
Good question! What is the deal with white and rose gold?? Let’s clear the air by immediately answering the obvious question which is, are they really a thing? The answer is no. Gold that comes out of the earth is yellow and even organe-y in colour. White and rose gold are man made alloys. So how do they get their colourations?
Personally, I never have seen the attraction of white gold when we have silver. Especially these days when we have sterling silver vs lower grades that shine just as nicely as white gold. But, white gold is very popular. It’s important to note that white gold (and rose gold) still contain more gold than other alloys. White gold that is 14k consists of 58.5% gold, and the rest of the content being an alloy of copper, nickel and zinc. The nickel gives the white it’s white colour, which is often made brighter by rhodium plating.
Rose gold has grown in popularity in recent years, and I personally have always loved rose gold. It is harder to care for, and can need more repair over time, but it’s a lovely alternative to yellow gold. Again, 14k rose gold is 58.5% pure gold and the rest of the content is an alloy with about 30% copper to give it that rosy sheen. Other metals like silver might be included in the alloy as well.
In the interests of being thorough, I’ll point out that yellow gold is the pure gold karat content as outlined above plus an alloy of metals such as copper, zinc and silver to name a few. I have often noticed that gold has different shine and brightness even in the same karat grade, and I believe this may be due to the alloy content used in different gold pieces.
How Do You Know it’s Real Gold?
Jewelry pieces you purchase should be stamped with a mark. In North America, since we use the karat scale your jewelry should be stamped with 10k,14k etc depending. Check your clasps and bales for a stamp on necklaces and bracelets. On rings and pendants you’ll find the stamp on the inside of the band or the back of the pendant. In Europe, or on European made pieces check for stamps like 585(14k) or 750(18k) to know the content of gold.
What is Gold Plated, Filled, Vermeil?
Have you seen these terms? I have in many listings for jewelry, and I had to research what the heck they were! Because there are differences between them. Gold plated jewelry is a base metal like brass or copper that has a layer of gold plated on top of it through the process of electroplating. Gold plated jewelry is less than 0.05% of gold so your piece contains very little actual gold. Gold plated pieces are nice on the eyes, but don’t stand up to daily wear well as the plating easily wears off if exposed to water, heat and wear. I have a couple of gold plated pieces and on one, the plating has worm off completely and the other I am very careful to always remove it before washing my hands. Gold plated is not worth it in my books, these pieces are a hassle. However, they are much, much cheaper than buying real gold.
Gold filled jewelry is different–the jewelry piece has an actual layer of gold that is pressure bond to the base or core metal, so they are not merely dipped as gold plated jewelry is. Gold filled jewelry must be 5% gold content of the piece and has to be 10k gold or higher. While gold plating tarnishes or wears off, gold filled pieces will only tarnish under certain circumstances. I have purchased some gold filled pieces from Etsy.
Vermeil is a high quality silver (pure or sterling) with an electroplated layer of gold on top. So essentially, there is no difference between vermeil and gold plated jewelry expect that gold plated pieces use a baser metal like brass or copper under the plating.Since vermeil contains two precious metals, silver and gold, it’s thought of as demi fine jewelry. It’s important to note however, that vermeil will wear off quickly if the layer of gold is thin.
Which Should I Buy–Real, Plated or Filled?
This is of course, a personal choice. The wonderful thing about real gold (10k or otherwise) is that is keeps its value. If you are interested in pieces that will last a lifetime and possibly be handed down through the generations, real gold is the way to go in my opinion. Gold filled pieces are nice if you are looking to have many fashionable pieces on a budget, pieces that can last a long time with proper care. Vermeil and gold plated are a lot more budget friendly and might be a good choice if you are into trendy pieces or just need some bling for an event but are not ready to invest a ton in a real gold piece. I have all in my own jewelry collection–real gold, varying from 10k-22k, vermeil and gold filled. There is no denying that real gold has a certain charm and elegance that vermeil and gold filled just can’t complete against.
Now that you know everything you need to know about gold, it’s time to go shopping! I honestly encourage you not to shy away from purchasing jewelry if you are interested in doing so–it’s not wasteful in my opinion, though of course don’t overextend yourself to buy jewelry–and it’s nice to have some quality pieces you can pull out for weddings, interviews, or even just dinner at a high end restaurant. Enjoy your gold, and happy shopping!
Are you into gold jewelry? Share your thoughts in the comments below.