ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Gold Plated Jewelry Differences: Gold Plated vs. Gold Filled vs. PVD vs. Vermeil

Updated on March 2, 2018
CallMetalMan profile image

Metal Man is the most trusted gold buyer near Charlotte, NC. I also blog about jewelry. Learn more. Click "more" (above) and then "profile".

What is Gold Plated Jewelry?

Gold plated jewelry consists of a base metal, covered with a layer of gold. The base metal can be steel, brass, copper, or even silver. The outer gold layer can be 10K to 24K gold, but 14-karat and 18-karat gold are used most often. Gold plated jewelry exists for buyers on a budget.

Comparing Different Kinds of Gold Plated Jewelry: Plated vs Filled vs PVD vs Vermeil

There are a few different kinds of gold plated jewelry. Each is made in a different way, and each is marked differently. Essentially, all gold plated jewelry is created by bonding or fusing a thin outer layer of gold with a different base metal underneath.

You may have heard of gold electroplate, gold filled, gold overlay, rolled gold, PVD, vermeil, or gold tone. Most people don't understand these terms and their meanings. So let's examine these different kinds of plated gold.

Please note: I have included a table in this article, for key details at a glance.

Test Your Knowledge about Gold Plated Jewelry!

Gold plated jewelry can irritate your skin, but karat gold jewelry does not. (Answer highlighted later in this guide.)

See results

Gold Electroplated Jewelry

Electroplated gold is the most common type of plated gold jewelry. The electroplating process combines electricity and an electrolyte solution. This creates a magnetic attraction between the metals, which results in a chemical bond.

"What did he just say?"

The base metal (let's say brass) is dipped into the liquid. When a little voltage is applied, the brass magnetically attracts ions of gold in the liquid. When the gold ions touch the brass, they bond though electrochemical magic.

There is no standard thickness of the gold surface layer of electroplated jewelry. For very thin layers, 18K gold may be used, since it imparts a richer color. Some pieces are labeled or described as heavy gold electroplate, heavy gold plate, which indicates a slightly thicker layer of gold. However, the actual thickness may not be clarified.

Some gold electroplated jewelry does a stamp or marking. Some is marked "GP", "GE", "GEP", "HGE", or "HGP".

Gold Electroplate = Base Metal + Nickel + Gold

Electroplating begins with the base metal. That is plated with nickel first, and then gold. The thin middle layer of nickel helps improve adhesion of the gold layer, so it sticks. Think of it like applying primer before paint.

Gold Filled Jewelry

Gold filled jewelry has many names, for some reason. It's also called gold overlay, rolled gold, and rolled gold plate. Gold filled jewelry begins with a base of jewelers' brass. A layer of gold is wrapped around it, with no metals in between the layers. Then heat and pressure are applied, which bond the brass and gold.

The gold layer must account for 1/20th of the total weight of gold filled jewelry. Thus, it's substantially thicker than an electroplated gold layer and lasts longer.

Gold filled jewelry must indicate the karatage of the outer layer. Common markings are "14K 1/20 GF" and "14KRGP"; others use a "12" or "18" instead of the "14".

Gold Filled vs Gold Plated
Gold Filled vs Gold Plated


PVD stands for Physical Vapor Deposition. I'm including PVD gold coating in this list because it produces a type of gold covered jewelry. Technically, however, PVD items do not qualify as gold plated jewelry.

PVD is a more technically sophisticated process than gold plating methods. A gold mist is applied to a base metal item, via a vacuum process or ion bombardment. (Sounds crazy, right?) A layer of titanium nitride adds durability to the gold layer. This is often preferred for watches, which constantly flex and rub against the wrist, because the result can offer a more durable gold color than gold plate.

"All That Glitters is not PVD Gold."

PVD does not always involve gold. PVD gold-tone jewelry is just non-precious metal covered with a gold-colored substance, using the PVD process.

Other Gold Plated Jewelry

Not every piece of gold plated jewelry is made though a complicated process. Many of the cheapest jewelry pieces are just sprayed or dipped in gold. There's no need to explain this in depth, right? Somebody just sprays the piece with an ultra-thin layer of gold, or they dip it in gold instead.

How do you know if a piece of jewelry that you're looking at has been dipped or sprayed? How about, it costs five dollars.

Sprayed or dipped gold jewelry is unmarked.

Gold Tone Jewelry

Unless you see a marking that indicates otherwise, gold-tone jewelry is not gold. Sellers use the term "gold tone" because the it contains the word "gold". But gold tone jewelry doesn't contain any gold. It's the classic definition of costume jewelry.

There is no marking for gold tone jewelry.

Test Your Knowledge Answer: False!

Some kinds of gold plated jewelry can cause skin issues. However, some people experience an allergic reaction to the nickel contained in white gold jewelry too.


And then there's vermeil (pronounced vehr-MAY). Vermeil is actually a type of gold electroplated jewelry. However, there's a key distinction. Vermeil begins with a base of sterling silver. The silver is covered with a layer of gold, no less than 10 karat, at least 2.5 microns thick. So it's gold over silver.

Vermeil is composed of precious metal. That makes it better than other gold plated jewelry. And gold sticks to silver well, which means that gold plated silver retains its gold luster longer than standard gold plated jewelry.

It's worth a bit more and costs a bit more, though it's still inexpensive compared to fine gold jewelry. As a result, some vermeil jewelry displays a higher level of craftsmanship.

If a piece of jewelry is yellow like gold and marked "925" or "STER", you know it's vermeil. Some vermeil is plated with white gold, though, in which case you'll need to recognize the subtle color difference between white gold and silver.

Kinds of Gold Plated Jewelry: What's the Difference? - What is it? How is it Made? How is it Marked?

Gold Plated Jewelry Type
Other Names
How is it marked?
What is it made of?
How is it made?
Gold Electroplated
gold plate, plated gold, heavy gold electroplate
Gold over brass or steel
*Electrical current is added to solution, which magnetically attracts gold ions.
Gold Filled
rolled gold, gold overlay
1/20 GF, RGP
Gold over brass or copper
Heat and pressure bonds, or fuses, layers.
physical vapor depostion
Gold over steel
**Gold mist is bonded by vacuum or "ion bombardment".
gold plated silver, gold over silver
925, STER
Gold over sterling silver
Electroplated (see above).
Gold Plated vs Gold Filled vs PVD vs Vermeil

* The electroplating process involves a middle layer of nickel.
** The PVD process includes a layer of titanium nitride to add durability.


Some people dismiss gold plated jewelry as fake jewelry, and cheap. As you've learned, there are several different kinds of gold plated jewelry. Some are nicer than others, and hopefully you've learned the differences between them.

The terms "fashion jewelry" and "costume jewelry" are more accurate. Furthermore, although some professionals use these terms interchangeably, I separate the two groups. To me, gold filled jewelry and vermeil are fashion jewelry, because they have more precious metal content. I consider the rest to be costume jewelry.

© 2018 CallMetalMan

Questions? Ask it below, and I'll try to answer promptly. Did you learn something? Please comment and share!

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • ARY DPO profile image


      5 weeks ago from Burbank, California

      Referring to JazzKat's comment, Vermeil is typically more durable, however, to ensure the jewelry piece preserves its natural look longer, it should be kept away from direct exposure to alcohol and alcohol-based products like perfume, regardless of the plating method. Also, daily showering with plated items is not recommended and it should be dried carefully if the piece gets wet. Additionally, it's best to use cotton soft cloth to remove excess residue after each wear (note, polishing cloth must never be used on plated, even "vermeiled", jewelry, as it may remove the layer of gold).

    • profile image


      3 months ago

      Which is the most durable for daily wear PVD or Vermeil?

    • profile image

      Calla Gold 

      10 months ago

      I love your in depth dive into the intricacies of non-fine-gold, yet gold looking jewelry. I am especially happy you mentioned PVD coating and that though it looks gold, it is not. And yet how resistant to scratching it is because of the titanium.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)