Everything You Need to Know About Gold:Types, Karat, Care
While different pieces of gold jewelry might appear similar on the surface, they can vary significantly in quality and cost, depending on the process used to make them.
While I’m a silver girl, I absolutely love mixed metal jewelry with gold accents. So here’s what you need to know when buying a piece of jewelry that is all gold or partially gold.
Types of Gold
Typically the lowest cost option, gold plated jewelry is made of a base metal like brass or copper that is covered in a thin layer of gold (0.05% gold or less). The gold layer on gold plated jewelry may fade or tarnish over time.
Pronounced “ver-may,” gold vermeil jewelry consists of a sterling silver base covered in thicker gold plating. Like gold-filled jewelry, it’s higher quality and more durable than gold-plated jewelry. A key difference between gold vermeil and gold-filled jewelry is how they are manufactured. Gold vermeil uses an electroplating process, whereas gold-filled uses a pressure and heat bonding process.
Higher-quality gold-filled jewelry is made from a base like a jeweler’s brass, with a solid layer of gold that has been mechanically bonded to that base. Gold-filled jewelry features nearly 100 times more gold than gold-plated jewelry, and because of the mechanical bonding process, the gold won’t rub off.
I worked with gold-filled in the past, however found it scratched and even tarnished more easily, so I switched to full gold for my jewelry.
Solid gold is just that – a piece of jewelry ( or accent ) made entirely of gold with no base metal. It comes in various karats (discussed below), with higher-karat jewelry corresponding with higher quality, purity and cost.
Different Karats of Gold
To understand the different karats of gold, it helps to understand what a karat is in the first place. A gold karat is 1/24 part (4.1667%) of the whole. You measure a gold alloy’s purity based on the number of these parts it contains. At 24k, pure gold is too soft to wear as jewelry, so it must be mixed with other metals to make it wearable and durable. This mixing, or alloying, results in a variety of karat levels. Lower karat jewelry is typically less expensive because it contains less gold but is harder and more durable.
What is 14 karat gold?
14k solid gold contains 14 parts gold (58.3%) and 10 parts alloys (41.7%). Due to its strength, 14k gold is considered the most wearable type of gold.
What is 18 karat gold?
Higher-quality 18k solid gold contains 18 parts gold (75%), and 6 parts alloys (25%). 18K is just a little brighter than 14K and I use it when I feel the piece needs that extra pop of yellow color.
What is 24 karat gold?
24k gold is completely pure, with no alloys added. 24k gold is very soft and therefore is not recommended for everyday wear, rings, bracelets, or most jewelry.
Gold Plated & Gold Vermeil: It’s recommended you keep it dry and away from skincare products. Take it off to shower, don’t wear it swimming, and avoid coming into contact with lotions and creams. Storage tip- keep it in a plastic bag to help avoid moisture in the air.
Gold Filled: You are fine to shower in gold-filled jewelry, get it wet, wear it for life! It is recommended you remove it in salt water or chlorine. Wearing it while using basic lotions is fine, but remove it when putting on anything strong- retinol, peels, glycolic acid etc.
Solid Gold: Little care is needed here. Give it a wipe with a jewelry cloth once and awhile to keep it fresh.
Almost all of the mixed-metal jewelry that Pure Whimsy Jewelry makes is solid gold.