Gold, Gold Fill, Gold Plate and Vermeil – What You Need to Know

Gold (24kt) is really too soft for daily wear (and expensive) so Gold jewelry is generally alloyed with another metal to maker it stronger. It bears the mark of the karat weight. So 14/24kt Gold is 58.3% Gold, divide the karat weight by 24 (pure gold) to get the actual gold in a piece.

Gold Plate became an economical alternative to Gold and is applied to the finding or piece of jewelry after it is made of a base metal. It has a very thin layer of gold, again stated in karat weight, and a limited life. It is made by an electro-chemical process or flash, which is a very thin coating less than 0.25 Microns. The jewelers supply business sell small kits for gold plating like the one shown below for the DIY. The equipment ranges from a few hundred dollars to several thousands for the professional jeweler.

Electro Plating Equipment - Gold Plating Jewelry

Vermeil is a higher value Gold Plate, by law must be .2mils thick and is plated over Sterling Silver using the same electro-chemical process. This combination make it better for those with allergy to nickel and other metals. It is one of our favorite, namely because the base is Sterling.

Gold Plating Colors - Gold Plated Jewelry

Facts about Gold Fill

  1. It has a longer life than Gold Plate, wearable from 5 – 30 years.
    14/20 Gold Fill means that 14kt Gold was used and that the weight of the gold compared to the base metal is 1/20 or ~5%.
  2. Gold Fill cannot be cast.
  3. Gold Fill cannot be soldered.
  4. The color may not be as bright as Gold Plate.
  5. It is legally required to contain 5% or 1/20 gold by weight. They are identified as 14/20 or 12/20 Gold Filled.

Gold Fill uses more gold in the process making it last longer than Gold Plate, yet still less expensive than Real Gold Jewelry. The gold is bonded to the base metal, usually sterling silver or brass with pressure and high heat. The bonded raw material is then sold as sheet or wire to jewelry manufacturers.

The process was patented in 1900 by Charles Russell and Edward Goddard of Providence RI. This is no surprise as that was the home of the costume jewelry industry for years. If you’d like to read the log version, you can find at

Patent for Gold Fill 1900 Providence RI, USA

To see how it was made in 1955 and still today in Attleboro, another important area for jewelry manufacturer.

We offer all them all on our website just look in our Findings and Chains Section.

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