Let's be honest: if you're not an expert, it's easy to get confused by all the terms being thrown around the jewelry industry when it comes to the different materials used. Sure, we all know silver and gold, but what exactly is gold-plated jewelry, and is it different from gold vermeil? How do they differ from solid gold? And speaking of solid gold, what does 14k, 18k and 22k actually stand for?
Well, since we are very passionate about using only the finest materials, we did the research and are happy to share a very simple guide with you. And let us tell you, it's true what they say: all that glitters is not gold.
Let's start with the not-so-fine materials.
Gold-Plated, Gold Vermeil and Gold-Filled Jewelry
Because gold is one of the most expensive precious metals, many techniques have been developed to make jewelry look like they are gold, but at a fraction of the cost. Very often, jewelry is made from a less expensive base metal (such as silver or brass), and plated with a very thin layer of gold. There are a few different ways of doing this.
Gold-plated jewelry: is made from any inexpensive base metal (such as brass or copper). The base metal is then covered with a very thin layer of gold, which is usually applied using a chemical process. For jewelry to be called gold-plated, there is no minimum requirement for the karat (purity) or the thickness of the plating, so it is often very difficult to properly assess the quality.
Gold-vermeil jewelry: unlike gold-plated jewelry, gold vermeil uses a high quality base metal such as silver. A thin layer of gold is then applied to the base metal. Unlike gold-plated pieces though, gold vermeil jewelry not only requires a more precious base metal. Depending on the country, there are also specific requirememnts for the thickness of the gold layer and the karat that must be used.
Gold-filled jewelry: uses any base metal, but has a much thicker layer of gold applied to it. Because the gold layer is so much thicker, gold filled jewelry is much more resistant to wear and tear than gold-plated or gold vermeil jewelry.
As you can see, there are many differences between these categories. But what they all have in common is that they are all made from a base metal that is not gold. With time, the gold layer on top of this base material will wear off and reveal the base metal underneath. This will happen more quickly if you wear your jewelry every day, or if you don't take it off when showering or washing your hands. That's why we only use solid gold.
Since we're big fans of washing our hands regularly (even more so now!) and taking long, hot showers, but not the biggest fans of taking off our jewelry several times a day, we only use solid gold for all Oriad jewelry. Because solid gold is just that: solid gold. There is no base metal involved and the entire piece of jewelry is made from gold, not just a thin (or thick) layer of it.
With solid gold, you never have to worry that the colour will tarnish or wear off. But still, it's not that simple.
Because pure gold is a very soft metal, jewelry made from pure gold would bend and scratch too easily. So gold is usually mixed with other metals, such as silver or copper, to achieve an alloy that is harder and therefore more suited for jewelry. The measurement used to determine the purity of the gold is called karat. The most commonly used are 22k, 18k, 14k and 10k.
22k gold contains 91.6% pure gold, which still makes it very soft and delicate and not ideal for jewelry
18k gold contains 75% pure gold. This makes it harder than 22k, but still fairly delicate
14k gold contains 58.3% pure gold
10k gold contains 41.7% pure gold
14k and 18k are most widely used in fine jewelry, as they have a high purity and therefore value, but contain enough other metals to make them hard enough to be used for delicate jewelry items. At Oriad, we chose to only use 14k solid gold for our jewelry: it has a beautiful yellow tone, a high purity and therefore value, and most importantly, is harder than 18k and therefore best suited for our delicate pieces.
So you can wear your favourite pieces all day, every day, without worry.
To us, 14k solid gold is perfect.