With so many options for buying jewelry today, all the different “gold” terminology can be confusing. Solid gold, gold vermeil, gold plated.... our heads are spinning too! Our Gold Guide is here to give you all the details on gold jewelry to help you choose long-lasting, high-quality pieces suited for everyday wear.
What is gold?
Gold is a precious yellow metal with an irresistible luster. Known as “Au” on the Periodic Table of Elements, gold is a chemical element found in its pure form in the earth. It is easy to work with as it is very malleable when heated, yet it is virtually indestructible. Gold does not corrode or tarnish, making it a perfect choice for fine jewelry. Pure gold is hypoallergenic and allergic reactions to solid gold are rare. Ancient artisans from Egyptian, Minoan, Assyrian, and Etruscan societies crafted elaborate masterpieces out of gold, and many are still in perfect condition today. Gold has been a highly coveted metal throughout history (think Klondike Gold Rush and the Yukon Trail), and it continues to be the most used metal in jewelry making today.
Why is gold valuable?
Gold’s unique combination of color, brightness, indestructibility, and malleability, as well as its ability to conduct heat and electricity, make it a very versatile metal. These qualities caused gold to be accepted as currency in exchange for goods and services worldwide. Gold was used to back paper-currency systems starting in the 1870s, and this “gold standard” monetary system was widely used around the world until World War I. Although gold is no longer used as part of the international financial system, 45% of the world’s gold is held as a reserve asset by governments and central banks. Throughout history, societies and economies have placed value on gold, and its attractiveness and relative rareness have perpetuated this value. The price of fine jewelry fluctuates heavily based on the price of gold. Many investors will sell riskier assets, such as stocks, in turbulent economic times and buy “risk-off” assets such as gold. The conflict in Ukraine has caused gold to rise to very high levels. Unlike buying other fashion items such as jewelry, gold (and gemstones) hold a fundamental value. Many shops will buy your gold for cash.
14k vs. 18k gold - which one should I choose?
First, let’s talk about the “K,” which stands for karats. The K refers to the amount of gold in a piece of jewelry. While it sounds like carat - the term used to refer to a gemstone’s weight, it stands for karat with a “K.” One karat is equal o 1/24 part or 4.1667 percent of pure gold. That means 24K is 100% pure gold. 100% pure gold is very malleable and breaks easily - that is why you rarely find it in jewelry. Jewelers will mix pure gold with other metals such as nickel, copper, and zinc to make the jewelry more durable and affordable. By these measurements, a 14K gold piece of jewelry is actually 58% pure gold, while an 18k piece of jewelry is 75% gold. Anything from 10 to 24K gold is considered “solid gold” jewelry. 14K gold is more affordable than 18K gold due to its lesser gold content. For everyday wear, especially for rings, the strength and durability of 14K gold make it the preferred choice. Around 90% of engagement rings are made of 14K gold, as the gold alloy is strong enough to hold diamonds in place. 18K gold can be more vibrant in color, and its higher level of purity is a positive factor for those with sensitive skin. Our customers typically respond well to 14K gold jewelry, making it a perfect choice that blends durability with a reasonable price point. If you have sensitive skin, it is important to wear gold that is not mixed with nickel. At Alexis Jae, we avoid using nickel in our gold.
What is gold plated?
We’re sure you’ve heard the terms “gold plated,” “gold vermeil,” and “gold filled” in the fashion jewelry world, but what do they mean? There are distinctive differences between the three labels. When jewelry is gold plated, a low-end metal such as brass or copper is electroplated with a thin layer of gold. This process binds the two metals together with an electrical current. There is no required minimum karat weight or thickness of the gold, leading to variations in quality. As the thin layer begins to wear down, the base metals are exposed and can cause an allergic reaction. Gold plated jewelry will tarnish and wear over time, making it a less than ideal choice for longevity and everyday wear. Gold-plated jewelry is not considered real gold, as it is constructed of a lower value base metal. It is also considered worse for the environment because it doesn’t last, so it ends up in landfills. 14k and 18k gold jewelry is built to last over time.
What is gold vermeil?
Vermeil jewelry is also known as “silver gilt.” High-quality pure sterling silver is plated with a thin layer of gold, usually by the electroplating process. Unlike gold-plated jewelry, there are standards in the United States for the production of gold vermeil jewelry. The gold quality must be 10k or higher, and the gold must be at least 2.5 microns thick. In general, vermeil pieces will have a higher quality and a thicker layer of gold than a gold-plated piece. If the minimum standards are used, the gold electroplate on vermeil can tarnish and break down just as easily as gold-plated jewelry. Although often a better choice than gold plated, gold vermeil jewelry will also lose its coloring.
What is gold-filled?
Gold-filled jewelry is constructed of several layers that are bonded through heat. The core metal layer is made of jeweler’s brass. The outer layers are made of varying qualities of solid gold (anywhere from 10K to 24K). Authentic gold-filled jewelry must have a minimum of 5% gold weight to be sold in the United States. Although gold-filled jewelry has a lower price tag than solid gold, the durability and longevity of solid gold jewelry are unmatched.
Does solid gold come in colors?
Yes! Yellow gold is often thought of as “pure” gold, but it is a gold alloy created by combining pure gold with metals such as zinc or copper. Yellow gold, especially at higher karats, is easier to scratch and dent. It requires proper cleaning and regular care. Although yellow gold looks great on all skin colors, it is especially complementary to olive and warmer skin tones. It is the least likely of the three colors to induce an allergic reaction.
What is white gold?
White gold is also a gold alloy, but the gold is combined with palladium, manganese, or nickel to achieve a whiter color. At Alexis Jae, we then rhodium plate our jewelry to make it sure it is a bright white color. Rhodium is scratch resistant. White gold is also measured in karats based on the pure gold content. White gold is a beautiful and durable substitute for platinum lovers at a lower price point. Make sure to clean and polish your white gold to help maintain its longevity of it. You can have a jeweler “dip” or “rerhodium” your white gold every few years helps to maintain its luster. Many jewelers offer this inexpensive (or sometimes free) service. Fair or rosy skin tones are especially complimented by white gold jewelry. Those with sensitive skin may react to white gold with high nickel content.
What is rose gold?
Rose gold, although less common than yellow or white gold, has been gaining popularity over the past few years. It is an alloy that combines more copper, which gives it its rosy, romantic color. The addition of copper makes it the most durable of the three colors. It is often combined with white or yellow gold to create two-tone looks. Although the overall allergenic level of gold alloys is relatively low, the copper in rose gold may cause an allergic reaction for people with susceptible skin.
How to wear gold jewelry
If you’ve decided on purchasing a piece of solid gold jewelry, here are some of our favorites to get you started. Our gold jewelry is available in yellow, white, or rose gold. We love statement rings paired with a simple necklace, a stack of bracelets, and a couple of rings to finish the look. Mix and match the different colors of gold to create your own unique style that will elevate any outfit!
Here are some of our best selling gold items at Alexis Jae
Looking for something different, or have an idea in mind for a custom piece of jewelry? We would love to help bring your gold jewelry ideas to life! Contact us to create your own - we can’t wait to work with you.