Gold Jewelry 101 | Gold Filled, Solid Gold, Gold Vermeil, Gold Plated

Gold Jewelry 101 | Gold Filled, Solid Gold, Gold Vermeil, Gold Plated

Gold Jewelry comes in many different forms. With a quick glance it can be hard to tell the type or quality of gold jewelry you are getting. The jewelry industry uses fancy names for gold jewelry which can be misleading or confusing.

In this blog I will go into detail about the type, quality, and properties of each type of gold jewelry.

While I only use Gold Filled (and maybe some solid gold in the near future) at Chelsea Leigh Jewelry, I will be covering all types of gold jewelry in order to help you make informed decisions when purchasing your gold jewelry.


Gold Jewelry 101

Gold Plated Jewelry

What is it?
Gold plated jewelry is usually made from a cheaper base metal like copper, nickel, brass, or a combination of alloys. The base metal is coated with a very thin layer of gold or a gold colored alloy. The gold plating makes up about .05% of the overall piece of jewelry. 

What is the value for my money?
Very low. Gold Plated jewelry has a very small amount of gold and will easily wear off with normal, every day wear. Once the thin layer of gold wears off, the base metal will be exposed which normally is the culprit for green fingers or irritated piercings. Gold Plated jewelry is very inexpensive which can be great if you are on a budget, but it is not a piece that will hold its quality well.

What about Heavy Gold Plating or Electroplating?
These are terms the jewelry industry likes to use to make you think you are getting something with higher quality. Heavy Gold Plating still uses the same process as regular gold plating just with slightly more gold. The plating will still eventually wear off exposing the base metal. Be wary of companies that charge a premium for their "heavy plated" jewelry, more often than not, the true value will not match the price tag. Electroplating is another fancy term for Gold Plated. Don't let that word trick you into paying more.

Gold Vermeil 

What is it?
Another fancy term the jewelry industry likes to use to make their jewelry sound more expensive. Gold Vermeil (pronounced ver-may) is higher in quality than traditional gold plated, but it is still just a base metal that has been lightly coated with gold. The base metal for Vermeil is Sterling Silver.

What is the value for my money?
Low to Medium. Gold Vermeil is a much better investment than traditional gold plated jewelry. Sterling Silver is a metal that will last a lifetime. While the layer of gold plating may eventually wear off, you will be left with a sterling silver piece of jewelry. Sterling Silver is a hypoallergenic metal and will not bother those with sensitive skin.

Why is Vermeil called Demi-Fine?
Again, another term the jewelry industry has adopted in order to mark up the price of their jewelry. While Vermeil is a better investment than Gold Plated, do be wary that some companies will severely overcharge for Vermeil by classifying is as Demi-Fine Jewelry. 

Gold Filled

What is it?
Gold Filled is a USA standard that requires 1/20th or 5% of the total volume of metal to be real, solid gold. The layer of solid gold is mechanically bonded to a base metal which is usually a high quality jewelers brass. Gold Filled has 100x more real gold than gold plated jewelry.

What is the value for my money?
High to very high. Gold Filled is the next best thing to solid gold, without the price. Gold Filled pieces will be more expensive than gold plated, but with good care, your Gold Filled pieces can last you a lifetime.

Is Gold Filled actually Filled with Gold?
No. The name is deceiving because it is actually the opposite! The layer of solid gold is bonded to a base metal which makes the Gold Filled with that base metal.

Does Gold Filled Tarnish?
Tarnish is something that occurs when metal is exposed to natural elements such as light, moisture, oxygen, or sweat. Tarnish can also occur when jewelry comes in contact with chemicals like hairsprays, perfumes, or other harsh ingredients. Tarnish is normal with even the most expensive and high quality metals, but with a little care it can be prevented and removed! So yes, Gold Filled can "tarnish" but that does not decrease it's quality.

Does Gold Filled chip, flake, or rub off?
Often we use the word tarnish, when in reality we mean gold has chipped, flaked, or rubbed off. See above for more info on tarnish. The layer of Gold in Gold Filled jewelry is so thick that you do not need to worry about it chipping, flaking, or rubbing off.

Does Gold Filled Jewelry contain nickel?
No. Gold Filled Jewelry is Nickel Free

Will Gold Filled Jewelry turn me green?
No. It is extremely rare to have a reaction to 14k Gold. However, everyone's body chemistry is different and things like diet and medication can affect the way our skin reacts with metal which is what causes green or black discoloration. Unless you have an allergy to 14k Gold, then Gold Filled jewelry will not turn you green.

Is Gold Filled Jewelry good for sensitive piercings?
Yes. Gold Filled is considered hypoallergenic. As mentioned above, unless you have a metal allergy to 14k Gold, then Gold Filled Jewelry will not irritate sensitive skin or piercings.

12k, 14k, 18k Gold Filled? What's the difference?
The karat of gold defines the purity of gold. The higher the karat, the higher the purity and the richer/deeper the yellow coloring. Gold Filled Jewelry is a USA standard that is highly regulated inside the USA. Unfortunately, there has been an increase in sellers from countries outside of the USA (where Gold Filled is not regulated) who are selling metals they claim to be Gold Filled, but actually are not. 18k Gold Filled is not a USA standard and usually means the item comes from a country outside of the USA where production is not regulated. The majority of real and regulated Gold Filled jewelry is 14k, and the rest is 12k.  

What is Rose Gold Filled?
Rose Gold Filled holds the same exact quality and standards as Gold Filled. Rose Gold Filled is pink in color instead of yellow.




Solid Gold

What is it?
24k Solid Gold is a naturally occurring alloy that comes straight from the earth. Pretty cool right? Karat measures purity and 24k is as pure as it gets. Pure, solid gold is very expensive and very rich in its yellow color. 24k Gold is actually too soft for practical jewelry making so other metals are mixed in with it to make it more durable.

14k Solid Gold
The most common form of solid gold jewelry. It is made up of 14 parts gold and 10 parts other metals. The quality of 14k gold is extremely high and durable. 14k gold is a much softer and warmer color than pure 24k gold.

What is the value for my money?
Very high. Solid gold is the most expensive option of gold jewelry but it will last a lifetime. Gold jewelry is often passed down through generations and is an excellent investment.



Gold jewelry comes in many different forms and it can be hard to understand what exactly you are purchasing. I hope this guide helps you understand the types, terms, and value of gold jewelry that are out there!

I deeply value the quality of material I use at Chelsea Leigh Jewelry. I take pride in hand-making jewelry that will last you for years to come and that is exactly why I use high quality 14k gold filled!

You can shop my handmade Gold Filled Jewelry here.

If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email at


Chelsea Leigh

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