gold filled vs gold plated vs gold vermeil...
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14 karat gold: Pure gold is 24kt, meaning 24 out of 24 parts are gold. 24kt is too soft to be functional, so it is alloyed with other metals for durability, cost, and color. 14kt is 14 parts gold out of 24, and the remaining 10 parts are other metals. Depending on the color of gold (which can be yellow, rose, green or white), the other parts may be copper, silver, nickel, zinc, tin, palladium, and/or manganese. (People with nickel allergies should be aware that white gold contains nickel.) All of the 14Kt gold we carry is yellow gold.
Gold plate is a very thin deposit of gold, electroplated or electrochemically applied to the piece. It is a very small fraction of an inch thick (about 1/1,000-1/1,000,000 of an inch thick). Heavy gold electroplate might be 2 or 3/1000s of an inch thick (this can also be written as 2 or 3 mils). Gold plate vs. gold-filled: gold-filled is 50 to 100,000 times thicker than regular gold plating, and about 17 to 25,000 times thicker than heavy gold electroplate. More.
Gold fill (also called gold overlay) is made by using heat and pressure to apply a layer of karat gold to a base of less costly metal. This produces a surface with karat gold. The minimum layer of karat gold must equal at least 1/20 of the total weight of the item. Tubing and wire are usually seamless, so only gold touches the body. Gold-filled sheets of base metal used to make other findings can be either single clad (gold on visible side only) or double clad (gold on both sides and sometimes the edge). Seamless and double clad gold-filled items are less likely to discolor since the base metal is sealed inside the gold. However, the layer of gold on a single clad 1/20 gold-filled item is as thick (and the same total weight) as the two layers of gold on a double clad 1/20 gold-filled item. (Silver-filled items are created using the same process with sterling or fine silver.) Use care when buffing gold-filled items, to avoid removing the gold layer.
The surface layer of karat gold is usually 10kt, 12kt or 14kt. Also, to know the thickness of the layer, look for a fraction, such as 1/10 or 1/20. It is 1/20 unless otherwise stamped.
1/10 10kt GF: 1/10 of the total weight must be 10kt gold.
1/20 12kt GF: 1/20 of the total weight must be 12kt gold.
What's the difference between gold plate and gold fill?
Gold fill is 50 to 100,000 times thicker than regular gold plating, and about 17 to 25,000 times thicker than heavy gold electroplate.
Vermeil is gold over sterling silver and the thickness is somewhere between gold plate and gold fill.
Posted at 7:46 pm Aug 10, 2008 EDT
Vermeil (IPA vɛʁ'mɛj, and also vûr'məy), sometimes called silver gilt, is a combination of sterling silver, gold, and other precious metals. It is commonly used as a component in jewelry. A typical example is sterling silver coated with 14 carat (58%) gold. To be considered vermeil, the gold must also be at least 10 carat (42%) and be at least 1.5 micrometres thick. Sterling silver covered with another metal cannot be called vermeil.
Posted at 7:46 pm Aug 10, 2008 EDT
Hey Robin, I like gold fill and vermeil. I tend to have an easier time explaining the cost of vermeil though as I can say its sterling silver plated with gold - sounds worth it right? where as gold filled, no matter how you go on about it being a durable and long lasting, to jo public, its still gold plated. Even though its more expensive than vermeil!
Posted at 8:03 pm Aug 10, 2008 EDT
Gold filled will last the longest of the 3 choices given in the OP. To answer that question! Of those 3, I believe (though someone correct me if I'm wrong) that gold filled is also the only one that has to meet government standards for the amount of gold that is supposed to be in there. You also have to use the correct FULL name of the metal whenever you describe it. You can't just call something gold filled, you have to state whether its 10, 12, or 14k gold filled.
Posted at 11:27 pm Aug 10, 2008 EDT