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Gold Jewelry 101

Gold Jewelry 101

From gold plated to solid gold, there are countless jewelry options to choose from when purchasing a piece! Here at Made By Mary, we nerd out hard on quality, make, finish, color and everything in between. We wanted to break it down for you and help you better understand those differences. We’re going over the four most popular ways to make gold jewelry pieces today.

We love them all for different reasons– let's chat about each one!

What is Plated? 

Plated jewelry is made by first casting the piece in a base metal. An electric current is used to negatively charge that base metal, and it is then dipped into positively charged gold. Like a magnet, the two metals are attracted to one another and a layer of gold is formed on top of the piece. For our gold plated jewelry {we're looking at you, Beverly Beads!} a high quality 14k gold is used over sterling silver.

What is Vermeil?

(pronounced Ver-may)

Vermeil uses the same plating process but only gets to claim the title of “Vermeil” when it meets a certain standard. The standards are the following:

    1. Its base metal must be silver {giving it a quality metal base}
    2. The outer layer of gold must use a 10k gold or higher {we’ll review what the K means later!} At MBM, we use 14K– our favorite!
    3. The gold layer is at least 2.5 microns thick

Our vermeil pieces are carefully made and with proper care, they can last for years to come! This means no showering, exercising, swimming, etc. while wearing the piece.


The Details:

The plating/vermeil process can also be used in the details of other pieces! The process is sometimes used over solder joints (keep reading for an explanation on soldering!), used as an extra layer over gold-filled pieces for an extra smooth and even finish, or used to set gems– like in our Gemstone Collection! 

What is Gold Filled?

Contrary to what the name implies, gold-filled is a layer of gold coating on the outside of a base metal. However, the process in which it is made is much different than plating. Gold Filled often starts as a brass sheet or wire then a thick layer {5% or more of total weight, while plated pieces are often less than 1%} of at least 10K gold is then bonded to the brass base with extreme heat and pressure. At MBM, we use 14K! This process doesn’t just create a layer that sits on top of the base, it fuses the two layers making it incredibly durable. This substantial layer of gold is what keeps your piece tarnish and chip resistant. With proper care, gold filled jewelry can last for years to come! This includes not wearing your piece while swimming, gentle cleanings, and storing the piece with care.

What is Solid Gold?

If you’ve ever wondered why Olympic medalists bite their gold medals, it’s because gold is a very soft metal! So despite its common name in the jewelry world, Solid Gold pieces are often made by melting and mixing with another metal (aka alloyed) to make it sturdy enough to wear. Solid gold pieces contain the most amount of gold out of all other options and are the most long-lasting. These are pieces you could pass on for generations.


Too long, didn't read?

Here's the low down:

  • Great option for different shapes
  • Bonded by magnetic attraction of a negatively charged base metal dipped into positively charged gold
  • Most affordable
  • Thick layer of gold
  • Like plated, Vermeil is bonded by a positive/negative attraction between the base metal and the gold
  • Easily made into any design
  • Lasts well with proper care
Gold Filled
  • Resistant to chipping+tarnish
  • Bonded with intense heat and pressure
  • The most common metal type at MBM
Solid gold
  • Heirloom quality– the type of piece you can pass down
  • Melted+mixed with another metal for color and durability
  • Most durable of all gold options

Bonus tip! Nickel is the most common allergy metal, here at Made By Mary, we are nickel-free and do not use nickel in any of our pieces! 


The "K" in gold

Karat (or also seen as Carat or simply “K”) indicates how much gold is in a piece or the gold layer. Gold is split into 24ths, making 24k gold, 100% gold. The higher the percentage, the more yellow and soft the piece will be. We love 14K the most because of its color and durability. We use 14k on all of our pieces! 


(often pronounced saw-der in North America)

Soldering is a process used to join pieces together. For example, each of our rings starts as a gold-filled wire. The wire is then cut to length, shaped into a circle, and then the two ends are fused in the soldering process. The jewelry technician takes a small amount of gold and melts the gold onto the ends of the gold-filled wire essentially creating a glue that binds the two ends together. 

We hope that helps you in your search for the perfect piece! If you have any questions on gold material, what Made By Mary offers, or our process you can contact us here or follow along with our process on Instagram.