June 21, 2018
Since the beginning of recorded history, gold has been a valued and sought after metal that has been used for coins, jewelry and other artistic designs. It is a very soft metal, so to make it suitable for jewelry it is often mixed with silver, nickel, zinc and copper to make it harder. The mixture of the amount of gold in comparison to the other metals is what determines the karat designation.
Gold is also used in other ways to create jewelry. Some of the terminology to describe how the jewelry is constructed is gold filled, gold plated and vermeil.
Gold Filled or Rolled Gold Plate (older term) are very confusing terms. It's sounds like the item is filled with gold, but this is not the case. This process is easier to understand if you think of an Oreo cookie. The cookie part is a sheet of gold and the cream filling is a sheet of base metal. The piece of jewelry is made of this "cookie" of metal. The gold is touching your skin and is what is seen, but it has the added strength of the base metal.
In 1906, the metals act was passed in order to prevent many misleading markings. You can find items from the 1800's that are marked "solid gold" but are really gold filled. Pocket watches and wedding rings are common items from this time period that you may see this marking on.
Gold Plated sounds like it should be the process listed above, but it is not. Instead, the entire piece of jewelry is made with a base metal then a very thin coating of gold is electroplated on it.
Vermeil (pronounced Vair-May), is similar to Gold Plated. This is a very old process of coating sterling silver with gold. Gold items that are marked "925" or "sterling" are vermeil.
It is important to understand these difference when collecting beautiful items of gold.
We have a lovely selection of estate jewelry at Seaside Art Gallery.
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