All that glitters is not gold: Learn to differentiate the 4 types of gold
Do you wish to acquire or to gift beautiful gold jewelry but find yourself lost dealing with different range in prices? You want to be certain that your gold jewelry meets your expectations in terms of price, quality and longevity?
At Joaillerie St-Onge, we want to ensure the longevity of your jewelry so you can enjoy it for years to come, which is why we choose to only use solid gold. Since we’re serious about gold – our forever favorite material – we felt it was time to explain what sets these types of gold apart.
When we, jewellers, simply refer to gold, we are usually talking about solid gold. And when we refer to a jewel made of solid gold, we refer to a jewel made entirely of gold. The latter exists, on the other hand, in different proportions. Pure 24 karat gold is yellow and very malleable. To obtain 18, 14 or 10 karat gold, one or more alloys must be added to it. The higher the number of karats, the greater the proportion of gold relative to the alloy (i.e,: an 18 karat gold jewel contains 18 parts of pure gold per 6 parts of alloy). It is to solidify, make your jewel more durable that it is mixed with other metals. A jewel made of solid gold will last several generations, unlike a jewel in plated gold or vermeil. At St-Onge Jeweller, none of our alloys contain nickel, a very allergenic metal. We use palladium alloy in our 18k white gold jewelry, silver in our yellow gold jewelry and copper in our rose gold jewelry.
Filled gold is an interesting and a little less expensive alternative to solid gold. Pay attention! Filled gold does not mean that all the jewel is filled with gold. In fact, filled gold jewelry is composed of a base metal, like brass, covered with a layer of gold (10 or 14K) by a process combining pressure and heat which consists in melting a layer of gold on the base metal. To be considered gold filled, the proportion of gold in relation to the weight of the jewel must be at least 1/20 (5%). The gold layer being thicker than the one of gold-plated jewelry, it will tarnish less quickly and lower are the risk of allergic reaction. Although filled gold jewelry keeps its gold layer longer, it will inevitably experience discolouration and tarnishing over time. You will be thus limited in the possible number of polishing of your jewel. The inside of a filled gold jewel will always be marked with a karat figure, but it concerns only for its surface. Do not be fooled into thinking that all the jewel is made of this gold!
Gold Vermeil is a common type of gold plating, which uses sterling silver (.925) as the base metal. The difference between vermeil and gold-filled is in the thickness of the gold and the base metal used. Vermeil is more hypoallergenic (provided that it is free of nickel and lead) and has a thicker layer of gold than regular gold plating. Wearing Vermeil jewelry on a regular basis as well as the accumulation of scratches will cause the gold plating to wear out after a while. In fact, the gold layer is so thin that even too much cleaning can scratch it or even remove the gold layer. It will also require more maintenance to maintain its original brilliance.
Gold plating is a method of depositing a thin layer of gold onto the surface of another metal, most often copper, brass or silver, by chemical or electrochemical plating. You need to know that the amount of gold used is minimal, which explains its low price. Gold plated jewelry therefore have a shorter shelf life than gold filled or solid gold jewelry. In fact, gold plated jewelry will eventually tarnish and flake over time. Be careful if you are particularly allergic to nickel, as there is a good chance that the metal under the gold layer contains it.
In summary, we must ensure that the price paid is fair in relation to the quality of the jewel chosen. Make sure to clearly identify your expectations and budget accordingly. Do not hesitate to ask all the necessary questions before buying, and if you are not satisfied with the answers, don’t buy! A jeweler should be able to advise you accurately and reassure you about your purchase. Contact us!