Gold, part 2 of 2

Gold, Part 2 of 2: Platings

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides guidelines for correct terminology when describing gold used in jewelry.  These guidelines apply only to items made in the United States.  Other countries may have different guidelines.

Gold Filled (also called gold overlay):

Gold filled jewelry is made by using heat and pressure to apply a layer of karat gold to a less costly base metal.  The surface layer of karat gold on gold-filled items is usually 10kt, 12kt or 14kt. To know the thickness of the layer, look for a fraction, such as 1/10 or 1/20. Examples:

  • 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.

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.

Gold Vermeil (pronounced vehr-MAY):

Gold vermeil is a plating of karat gold over sterling silver. The FTC guide states “An industry product may be described or marked as “vermeil” if it consists of a base of sterling silver coated or plated on all significant surfaces with gold, or gold alloy of not less than 10 karat fineness, that is of substantial thickness  and a minimum thickness throughout equivalent to two and one half (2 1/2) microns (or approximately 100/1,000,000ths of an inch) of fine gold.”

Gold Plated:

Gold plating is a very thin deposit of gold (about 1/1,000 – 1/1,000,000 of an inch).  Heavy gold electroplate might be 2 or 3/1000s of an inch thick (this can also be written as 2 or 3 mils).  Many gold-plated items have a white nickel plate under the final gold plate.  Gold plating can be worn away relatively easily.


Photo by Paolo Ciccone

Mochi’s Gifts Jewelry:

I use gold-filled beads, clasps, and ear wires for my designs. This is the best way to provide you with a durable, high quality piece of jewelry featuring gold components at an affordable price. I also use gold vermeil beads to get the beautiful color of high karat gold without the high cost.

The earrings pictured here feature gold-filled earwires and headpins (the straight wires the beads are on), gold vermeil puffed square beads, and garnets.

Thanks for reading!


Sources for information on gold used in jewelry:



Gold, part 1 of 2

Today I’m going to provide some information on gold used in jewelry including karat gold, gold vermeil and gold plating. Much of this information was initially confusing to me which is why I chose to learn more about it. I hope you find it interesting and informative and that it improves your confidence when you purchase jewelry!

Did you know that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) publishes guidelines for precious metals and jewelry? Gold fineness markings and descriptions have very specific definitions under U.S. law, but remember, products purchased in other countries may follow different legal requirements. And, unfortunately some sellers may purposely misrepresent their products’ purity.   See the sources at the end of this posting for more information.

Gold, part 1 of 2: The Basics

Gold has been used for jewelry for centuries and has been found in archaeological sites in Egypt and South America as well as in many other areas of the world.

Karat (kt) Gold:

Pure gold is 24 karat (kt), meaning 24 out of 24 parts are gold, in other words, “pure” gold. 24kt gold is very soft and not practical for jewelry as it is too malleable. To make it stronger, gold is alloyed with other metals.   Alloy metals may include copper, silver, nickel, zinc, tin, palladium and/or manganese. These alloys can also give the gold different colors (yellow, rose, white and green). In addition, the higher the percentage of the alloy vs. gold, the lower the cost of the finished metal. See the table below for the conversion from karat to gold content.

Common karat (or fineness) values seen in jewelry Approximate % gold
24 100
22 92
18 75
14 58
12 50
10 42

I have often been asked whether white or yellow gold is “better”. 14 kt white gold has the same amount of gold as 14 kt yellow gold. It is the percentage of gold that matters, not the other metals used to provide durability and color.

Next week, Gold, Part 2 of 2: Platings.

Thanks for reading!