I often get asked about the difference between 14k gold, 14k gold filled, gold plated and gold vermeil jewelry. It is a good question and anyone who wears jewelry should know what they are buying when it comes to different types of metals (especially if there are any metal allergies).
14k Gold: Pure 100% gold is 24 karat gold. This means that 24 out of 24 parts are gold. Pure gold is not very useful for jewelry because it is too soft so it is alloyed with other metals in order to make it durable, cost effective or to effect colour. 14 karat gold is 14 parts gold to 10 parts alloy (14 + 10 = 24). 18 karat gold is 18 parts gold to 6 parts alloy (18 + 6 = 24), and so on until you reach pure gold at 24 karat. Depending on the colour of gold the other parts may be copper, silver, nickel, zinc, tin, palladium, and/or manganese.
14k Gold Filled: This is what Raven & Stone uses for our pieces. It is made of a base metal (usually brass or copper) covered by sheets of gold in a mechanical bonding process. The coat of gold is thick making it last as long as 14k gold jewelry. Gold-filled items are usually used for top-of-the-line jewelry by designers who want the quality as well as the ability to provide a more affordable piece. It is safe for most people with sensitive skin or allergies. Fun fact: 1800s Heirloom jewelry is often gold filled which gives us confidence about its durability.
Gold Plated: A base metal such as steel or brass is dipped into a bath of electroplating solution, with a lump of solid gold. When an electric current is applied, a thin layer of gold is deposited on the metal. Since the plating is quite thin, the plate, and therefore the colour, on the piece can wear off.
Gold Vermeil: Vermeil is sterling silver that has been gold-plated. This is a good combination for those with allergy to normal, plated jewelry items. The layer of gold used for vermeil jewelry is very thin so extra care should be used to protect it from scratching and from the elements.
Hopefully this helps you when shopping for jewelry!
Raven & Stone