Quick lesson for you on the differences between solid gold, gold plate, gold vermeil, rolled gold and 9,10, 14 and 18K. 

Here's a topic that confuses the heck out of people so we're going to break it down for you shotgun style;

Gold Plated

Never mind the wording.....this is not solid gold. This is silver (or worse, brass) with  a very thin layer of gold on the outside. How thin? It can be as little as 1 micron. What's a micron? Well, the average human hair is 75 microns thick so 1/75th of that. Not so impressive now. What's the problem? Firstly, it wears off over time and secondly, silver tarnishes. No matter what anyone says and that black tarnish will show through your gold plated item too. 

Gold Vermeil

Another fancy term for "gold plated". "But wait!" they'll tell you, "Gold Vermeil is thicker plating". How thick? 2.5 microns. So.....still 1/25th of the thickness of a human hair? Still just silver with a extra coat of paint. Still going to wear off. Still going to oxidize and tarnish over time. Lipstick on a pig people. 

Rolled Gold or Gold-Filled

Low end jewelry companies get excited and try to flog this as "precious". They go on about how this gold isn't electroplated like the other two above - oh no, this is sheets of gold rolled and bonded onto a piece. How much of the piece is gold?...5%. And the other 95%? Is it silver? NOPE.....typically its brass. And that gold that's on there - usually a layer of 12k or 14K. Suddenly we're back where we started, its not that valuable, it wears over time and it tarnishes. 


Karat Gold.....finally moving on to the good stuff...

Pure Gold/24K Gold

This is pure gold, unalloyed and unmixed with anything else. Its a gorgeous, warm yellow and stays that way. How come we don't typically see 24K gold jewelry? Its also very soft; too soft for regular wear. In Indian culture, wedding dowry jewelry is often 24K and is worn for the wedding day before being safely put away for the next generation. Unfortunately too soft to wear for anything but the most special of occasions. It bends and knocks out of shape very easily. Because gold is naturally yellow, its only available in yellow. 


The K stands for Karat and refers to the fraction of gold compared to alloy. Alloys are the mix of other metals that go into most gold jewelry to improve its durability or to add color. So 10K = 10/24 = 41.67% pure gold. 10K is the minimum allowable amount of gold to be in a piece sold as solid gold in the USA. In Europe, it is 9K. 


Using the example above; 14K = 14/24 = 58.33% pure gold. This is typically found in commercial jewelry stores. Just over half gold. 


The sweet spot. The maximum amount of gold that allows you to comfortably wear your jewelry every day without any concern about durability while also having the highest percentage of pure gold. 18K = 18/24 = 75% pure gold. We feel like anything less is a compromise and this is why ALL TJR pieces are cast in 18K gold. 

Where am I getting all of this info? Well, I am a Graduate Gemologist from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). This is my passion and my life's work. If you have more detailed questions post them below and we'll answer them for you. 


  • What a good read, I have always seen those references in ads but had no clue what it actually meant.

    Whitlow on

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