Should you buy gold-plated, gold vermeil, gold-filled, or solid gold jewelry? / A guide to buying better gold jewelry
I’ve never been the type of gal to invest in the little things, like accessories and jewelry—mostly because I didn’t have the money, but also because I didn’t realize how much the little things matter.
I’ve come to realize that a pair of minimal earrings or a dainty necklace can do wonders to make me feel more put together. And as I’ve started buying fewer, better things, I’ve stopped buying cheap fast fashion jewelry that tarnishes quickly in favor of investing in timeless pieces of jewelry that will last me a lifetime.
When it comes to buying gold jewelry (I’m a yellow gold kinda girl because I think it brings out the warm tones in my skin), there are so many options in price and quality that can be confusing! What’s a girl to do when confronted with the choice between gold-plated and gold-filled, and is solid gold really worth it?
Here’s a handy guide to the different kinds of gold jewelry you can buy and how you can ensure you’re buying jewelry that will last.
Disclosure: I was gifted a custom necklace by Automic Gold in exchange for blogging about my experience. This post also contains affiliate links. As always, all opinions are my own. No amount of money or product is worth more than my relationship with you, and I strive to provide transparent and honest content.
What are your options when buying gold jewelry?
In order of least expensive to most expensive, and low to high quality, these are your options when buying gold jewelry:
Gold-plated jewelry has a base of some other metal, such as brass, covered with a thin layer of gold. This is what you’ll find on the lower end of the price spectrum. Gold-plated jewelry rubs off easily, revealing the metal underneath and losing its color and shine quickly. It also tarnishes quickly from my own personal experience.
Gold vermeil is similar to gold-plated jewelry but the difference is that the layer of gold is thicker and the metal underneath is sterling silver. It will last longer than gold-plated jewelry, but the gold layer can still rub off and reveal the silver underneath.
Gold-filled jewelry, contrary to the name, is not actually filled with gold. Rather, a thick layer of gold is bonded to another metal, such as brass or copper. The gold layer is 5% of the total weight. Gold-filled jewelry is a great economical alternative to solid gold. If taken care of, it can last as long as solid gold and won’t tarnish or rub off; however, gold-filled jewelry does require more maintenance than solid gold. The downside is that if you were to resell your gold-filled jewelry, it would not have as much value as solid gold jewelry.
Solid gold jewelry is not actually 100% solid gold, because pure gold is too soft to create durable jewelry. Instead, gold is alloyed with a mixture of metals like silver, copper, and zinc. Solid gold jewelry is the most expensive and high quality option as it’s long-lasting, doesn’t rub off or flake, and doesn’t tarnish. Gold actually increases in value over time, and solid gold jewelry has the best resale value.
Why I invest in high quality jewelry
In the past, I’d buy cheap gold-plated jewelry only to have it lose its color or tarnish in a few months. This creates waste and contributes to the mentality of fast fashion: that clothing and accessories are meant to be disposable and it’s okay to keep buying more.
However, I’ve recently learned that gold mining is horrible for the environment and workers. And as with the other purchases I make, I’m trying to shift my mindset to buying fewer, better things.
Now that I’ve learned about the social and environmental costs of gold mining and have the means to invest in high quality jewelry, I shy away from gold-plated and gold vermeil, and try to buy reclaimed solid gold or gold-filled jewelry whenever possible.
Besides not tarnishing with wear, solid gold jewelry also has real value which increases over time—a true investment!
My custom jewelry experience with Automic Gold
I was gifted a custom piece from Automic Gold. I’ve worked with them previously and was impressed by the quality of their jewelry, as well as their efforts to be more sustainable through the use of reclaimed gold and more inclusive by featuring POC, trans, and non-binary models.
I love that they use 14k solid gold, so I can sleep, shower, and do basically everything without removing my jewelry. And I love that their gold is reclaimed, so they’re not contributing to the environmental damage of gold mining.
I wanted a personalized name necklace that I could wear all the time and with everything, so it was especially important to me that the necklace be high quality and long-lasting.
Ordering a custom piece was super easy! I gave them a photo of my inspiration and they asked clarifying questions. Then, the piece was done in a week and shipped to me within a few days after that.
The necklace is exactly as I had asked for, and I’ve already been wearing it 24/7! My favorite thing is that I don’t need to take it off to sleep or shower.
P.S. How cool is their packaging? It’s 100% recyclable! Each purchase also comes with a little jewelry pouch so you can store your pieces conveniently, and it doubles as a polishing cloth.
Budget-friendly tip: For those who want to do right by the environment but don’t have the funds to buy high quality gold jewelry, reclaimed brass can be an affordable alternative. The brass industry relies on recycling, so there’s no new mining of materials that damages the earth. Although brass doesn’t have the same value as gold, it has a similar shine and color. It does tarnish but if polished every once in a while, it can last a long time. Many of my favorite ethical and sustainable jewelry brands use reclaimed brass, including Nisolo and Soko.
What I’m wearing: