One of the most often asked questions we get regarding jewelry is, "What is it made of?". Here at our online boutique, and at our San Francisco boutique, we carry a range of jewelry from gold fill to vermeil to gold plated to brass and even base metal. Depending on what you are looking for, each suits a specific need. We thought it might be useful to provide some clarity on the differences between each of them.
This is the gold standard (yes, pun intended.). Will it rub off? Nope. Will it fade? No way. Will it tarnish? Nu-uh. Is it real gold? Yes and no. Gold fill is metal that has been bonded over several times with gold sheeting. The pressure bonded gold layers over the metal is equivalent, in most cases to 14k gold. Gold Fill will go to bat for you. Bathe with it, wash with it, do hot sweaty yoga with it. Love it and it will love you back. But do not take a dip in a swimming pool or sulphur spring with it. Like with any relationship, it has its limits. Chlorine and sulphur will cause it to tarnish. Gold Fill works well for people who have allergic reactions to other types of metals and can only wear gold.
This is fancy pants gold plated. Vermeil is used to describe sterling silver items that have been plated over with gold. In most cases, 22k to 24k gold is used for the plating. When the gold plate tarnishes, because it will over time, underneath will be sterling silver. So yes, it fades, yes it rubs off and yes it tarnishes, but what's left behind won't be yucky greenish metal. It's the poorer relation to Gold Fill yet, the higher class sister to Gold Plated.
Golf Plated items are made from base metal that has been dipped in an electroplating gold bath. The current zaps a thin layer of gold over the base metal product. Sure, it does look like gold but over time, it absolutely will tarnish, fade and rub off. Yes, yes, and yes. Gold plated jewelry is a good option if you're looking for something fun and not too expensive to wear and don't mind the color rubbing off over time. Gold plating is kind of like puppy love. It's cute while it lasts, but don't expect a commitment. However, if you take care to remove it before bathing and washing your hands, gold plated items can last pretty long.
While brass may have a gold like appearance, it is not gold. Brass is an alloy, while gold is a metal. Brass will tarnish, fade and rub off and it may even rust, so steer clear of water. Brass is well suited for costume jewelry. It's inexpensive and easy to cast, hence you will probably be able to find more intricately designed brass items. Brass also has it's own unique look and weight. Oftentimes, it has an antique worn look to it which many people actually find attractive. Brass can actually be polished with jewelry cleaning cloths to get rid of the dark dull hues that tarnish it over time. Brass basically beats to the sound of its own drum.
Let us introduce you to the ugly step- sister. She gets a bad rap and rightly so. She's no gold nor brass. She's cheap. She fades. She rubs off. She tarnishes. And, she can't be saved. BUT she's so much fun! Base metal jewelry is fun and inexpensive. They serve well as trendy items, but don't count on longevity. But for what it's worth, base metal jewelry can expand your wardrobe significantly without breaking the bank, so don't discount it. if you're looking for a bunch of inexpensive cuffs or rings to stack, it will serve that purpose. Keep away from water and you may just prolong it's longevity. But beware, that greenish, blackish discolored stuff, will rear it's ugly head easily.