Because the price of gold has skyrocketed since the late 1970s, (currently gold is about $1650/ounce) alternatives have been created to 10K, 14K and 18K gold jewelry.
Terms such as "gold-plated", "gold-filled", and "gold vermeil" are common in the jewelry industry, but are confusing to you, the consumer. One of the most common questions I get asked at art shows is "what is the difference between gold-filled and gold-plated?"
Below is a reference guide to these terms in regards to process, durability, and cost. Note: none of Jen Lesea Designs jewelry is gold-plated. I want to ensure that my jewelry will withstand wear for years to come!
|Thin layer of gold (1 micron) that is electroplated to base metal (typically contains nickel) or copper. Not good for people with metal-allergies.
|Because of the thin layer of gold, it will wear off, showing blackening of the jewelry and possibly discoloring the skin.
Cheapest of gold jewelry, often used in costume jewelry
|Thicker layer of high karat gold (at least 2.5 microns) that is electroplated over sterling silver, which is nickel-free. Good for people with metal allergies.
|Because of the thicker layer of gold used over sterling silver, it wears better than gold-plated jewelry. Will not turn skin green. With proper care, gold vermeil jewelry will last for years to come.
A bit more expensive than gold-plated jewelry, due to the thicker layer of gold used and cost of sterling silver.
|Pressure bonded 14K gold that is at least 20% of metal weight typically with brass. (nickel-free). Good for people with metal allergies.
|Because of the bonding process and the amount of gold used, gold-filled typically wears like high karat gold jewelry, as long as proper jewelry care is done.
More expensive than gold plated or gold vermeil jewelry, but a fraction of the cost of solid high karat gold jewelry.
|High Karat Gold (10K, 14K, 18K)
|Karat is the purity measurement of gold. The higher the Karat, the higher % of gold that is used. Because 24K gold is soft and not often used in jewelry, metal alloys are used with solid gold; and the karat determines the amount of gold in a piece of jewelry. People with metal allergies do best with 14K or 18K gold jewelry.
|Jewelry and contact with skin will not discolor, as long as proper care is given to gold jewelry. (Note: do not swim in gold jewelry as chlorine, sulfur, or other chemicals can turn high karat gold jewelry black).
Because gold is currently around $1200/ounce, you are paying a premium for high-karat gold jewelry.