Gold Plated Vs. Gold Vermeil Vs. Gold Filled: Which Is Best For Your Jewelry?

Not all gold is created equal, and despite its dazzling exterior, there is much more than meets the eye when buying gold jewelry. With more than 10 types of gold available on the market, it's essential to know the differences, since each tells a different story and has various levels of wearability (via Jewelry Informer). Unfortunately, a lot of the trendy jewelry coming down your Instagram might easily turn your neck green, despite its "gold" label.

When buying a piece of gold, always check whether it is gold plated, vermeil, or gold-filled. The price on the tag will definitely help clarify which is which, as they ascend in price from plated to filled. This is because each has a different amount of gold and a different manufacturing process that affects the durability of a piece. Let's start with the cheapest and the most likely to irritate your skin – gold plated.

Gold-coated, but not solid gold

Despite its alluring appearance, gold-plated jewelry only uses between 0.03 – 0.05% gold to coat the outer layer of a piece (via S-kin Studio). The rest is either brass, nickel, or copper hiding underneath and will eventually appear once the thin exterior fades away. If you sweat often or wear perfume or lotion, you can expect the gold veneer to dissipate more quickly and possibly cause skin irritation (via Gold Plating). This jewelry is best for costume wear or short-term usage if you're not ready to invest yet. These fast fashion pieces usually don't last more than a year, and only if kept away from water and heat.

Like gold-plated jewelry, vermeil (pronounced "ver-may") also coats only the outer layer with gold; however, it's plated on a sterling silver base, giving it a significant boost in value (via S-kin Studio). In addition, it uses electroplating technology, incorporating anywhere from 0.5 – 1% gold in its design. This may not sound like a lot, but with a thickness of at least 2.5 microns, these can be beautifully sturdy pieces of jewelry with good wearability (per Jewelry Informer). Jewelers at Roma Designer Jewelry state that industry practices require the gold portion to be at least 10 karats to be considered vermeil, with more refined pieces coming in at 14k, 18k, and 20k. These pieces can last for years with proper care (via Monica Vinader).

Gold filled lasts the longest

Coming in as what is considered the most valuable of the three gold options is gold-filled jewelry. According to the International Gem Society, this manufacturing process heat treats and bonds a thick layer of gold around a metal alloy that is either sterling silver or brass, thus creating a fused gold sandwich. Then it's laminated with another alloy and rolled to whatever thickness is desired. This procedure creates a quality gold product that can last you up to a lifetime if cared for correctly (via Gold Plating). These jewelry pieces are the most expensive of the three but still not as pricey as the superior fine solid gold, which, as you can guess, is the purest form of gold you can get.

Gold filled will almost always be the best option when deciding between the three options. But it's important to remember that all rings experience wear and tear. Clean your jewelry regularly and remove pieces when using harsh cleaning products or jumping in the pool. The longevity of a ring relies not only on its gold standard but on proper owner care.