What's the Difference Between the Types of Gold?

Jun 23 , 2020

Have you wondered why it’s called gold filled jewelry when it’s actually not filled with gold? Unsure what vermeil and gold plated are? What IS the difference between all the different types of gold anyway?

We’re here to break it down for you by providing a quick snapshot on solid gold, karatage (the “k” you see in 14k or 18k gold), gold filled, vermeil, and gold-plated jewelry.  And of course, we’ll tell you why Asha Blooms uses 14k gold filled as our metal of choice.

Before we get dig into it, here’s a handy graphic for our visual learners out there:


Gold and Karatage
In gold's pure form, it’s too soft to actually wear and needs to be alloyed, or mixed, with other metals (such as silver or copper). The gold that we know of and wear on a daily basis is mixed with these other metals to harden the gold.

The “k” that you see with gold represents its "karatage", or how much gold is actually in the piece of jewelry. It’s expressed in 24ths, which means 24k gold is the highest karat gold - though this is not intended for everyday wear since it’s too soft and flexible. That’s why you’ll often seen 18k or 14k gold jewelry.

For our skimmers:
24k = 100% gold - you can’t actually wear this
18k = 75% gold - considered higher end or luxury fine jewelry
14k = 58.3% gold - the right balance of wearability, durability, and value

14k Gold Filled
The term "gold filled" is misleading because it’s not actually filled with gold. Rather, a layer of real gold is pressure bonded on to a base metal. That means it won’t tarnish, rub off, or cause allergic reactions to those who have metal sensitivities. It’s a perfect blend of wearability and value, and is considered hypoallergenic.

Here in the United States, gold filled is a legal definition which means it needs to contain 5% gold by weight. This 5% is described by the karatage of the gold alloy.

At Asha Blooms, we use 14k gold filled metals from the US. This includes the chain, clasp, wire wrap, and jump rings. Some pendants are vermeil, and those are sourced only from trusted producers.

Vermeil is a French term, pronounced ver-may. Sometimes, it’s referred to as "heavy gold-plated". Vermeil jewelry is made with precious metals and heavy plating for durability and wearability. We’d say it’s in-between gold-plating and 14k gold filled in terms of quality.

To be legally called vermeil, it must have sterling silver as the base metal, be overlayed in gold that’s at least 10k, and, most important of all, the overlay must be at least 2.5 microns thick. Vermeil is affordable and, if taken care of, can last a long time.

Gold Plated
Gold plated jewelry is just that, a base metal that’s got a pretty thin layer of real gold on top. Unlike the heavier vermeil, gold-plated metals are usually between .17 to 2.5 microns thick. It’s at a much lower price point because the gold will typically rub off. Because of this, it may irritate those with sensitive skin and is not considered hypoallergenic.

We like 14k gold filled metals ourselves. It's a reasonable, affordable price point for quality metal. With the right care, it can last decades. Any questions about any metal, let us know!