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Solid Gold vs. Gold Plated - A Guide for Man to Buying Jewelry as a Gift

I have often used unusual materials in jewelry such as marble and wood and have been a long time fan of gold plated.

Here at GWUMM, however, I want to ensure the longevity of my jewelry so you can enjoy it for years to come just as love should be, which is why I choose to only use solid gold.

With so many terms to describe gold jewelry, it can be confusing to know exactly what you’re buying (especially if you are not practical), the value of your pieces and how to look after them. 

I would like to explain to those men who are buying jewelry for their girlfriend what sets these types of gold apart, to help them choose the right one.solid gold vs. plated gold a guide

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Gold Plated

gold plated structure

Summary: expect a short lifespan.❌

When something is gold plated, it means that a base metal like brass has been quickly dipped in a solid gold bath. The gold content is usually less than 1%. While they may possess the same luster and gold appearance at first, this layer is quick to fade when washed, rinsed, or rubbed too hard, leaving behind discolored skin and dirty looking jewelry. Most fashion jewelry is gold-plated, making the cost as low as possible.

Value for money: The price of gold plated pieces can vary. Remember, the thicker the plating, the longer the gold layer will last.

Gold Vermeil

gold vermeil structure

Summary: A high quality version of gold plating, depending the thickness of plating.❗️

Gold Vermeil is a common type of gold plating, which uses sterling silver as the base metal. Vermeil is more hypoallergenic and has a thicker layer of gold than normal gold plating, which is why you'll see it in stores selling fine jewelry. However, with enough scuffs and scratches the plating can wear off.

Value for money: Gold vermeil is more expensive than gold plated jewelry because it uses sterling silver as the core material.

Gold Filled

gold filled structure

Summary: Made with an old-fashioned technique that's usually more expensive than it's worth.❌

Instead of being dipped in gold, Gold Filled jewelry undergoes a mechanical bonding process that melts a thicker layer of gold onto the base metal. By law, gold filled jewelry must contain 5% gold by weight to be categorized as such. Because of this, the inside of a gold filled jewelry piece will still be stamped with a karat number, however this is only for the filled coating. While filled jewelry will maintain its gold cast for longer, it will inevitably undergo discoloration and tarnishing after time.

Value for money: Gold filled jewelry is generally a bit more expensive than gold plated jewelry with similar base materials because it's not as economical to manufacture and due the uses of more gold.

Solid Gold

solid gold composition

Summary: The best of gold-tone jewelry. ✅

When jewelers simply refer to "gold," they are usually talking about solid gold. Solid gold's name is a bit misleading—while it's the highest quality type of gold, it isn't 100% gold element (or Au on the Periodic Table). In its most pure form (24k) gold is soft, almost orange in color, and altogether too weak to work with for jewelry. Because of this, alloys are added to create a more structurally sound metal that mixed together, is known as "solid gold."

Not all solid gold has equal proportions of pure gold, however. 14k solid gold, used in my jewelry, has 14 parts pure gold and 10 parts other alloys, whereas 18k gold, is 18 parts gold, 6 parts alloys.

Value for money: Solid gold is the priciest gold-tone jewelry you can buy, and the higher the karatage (proportion of gold), the more expensive it will be. Since it's gold all the way through, you won't have to worry about the gold color rubbing away, but you'll have to be ready to spend more on it, especially if the pieces are really large and use a lot of material.

GWUMM solid gold products are 14k; I like the beautiful, sumptuous color that isn't too orange. It's hardy enough for daily wear, and starts at a friendlier price point.


Which one is the best?

In my career I have created both gold plated, vermeil and solid gold jewelry. I will be honest by telling you that I was a big fan of plated jewelry, because they are cheaper and the result is quite similar to solid gold jewelry.
There is only one problem, the plating will go away sooner or later, this is the main reason that led me to use solid gold for my brand:

I wanted my jewels to be eternal.

There are pros and cons to all types of metals, but Solid Gold is generally the more superior metal because it’s the most durable, valuable and least irritating to those that have allergies to base metals. However, Solid Gold will be more expensive than plated or filled metals.

Gold Plated pieces are a more affordable alternative, however they only contain a tiny amount of gold and any friction will cause the plating to rub off quickly, leaving a dull piece of metal. Most base metals used in Gold Plated jewelry also tend to stain your skin green or cause allergic reactions. Gold Plated jewelry is only suitable for fashion jewelry, and requires more care and maintenance, as exposure to small amounts of moisture, sweat and lotions will degrade the piece rapidly. Regular re-plating is also required to restore pieces back to their original condition, resulting in added ongoing expenses.

Gold Filled pieces are also a more affordable alternative to Solid Gold, however over time they will also degrade and discolour.

With more affordable alternatives in lower carat gold (e.g. 14k gold), Solid Gold pieces will:

  • Always be valuable
  • Last longer and require less maintenance
  • Encourage sustainability due to the longer wearing nature of fine jewelry pieces

GWUMM was created to meet this need for premium, yet accessible fine jewelry, in a market saturated by two extremes: fast-fashion and unattainable luxury.

All of my jewelry is crafted in 14k Solid Gold, at accessible price points thanks to a good job made during the design process.

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