Gold Jewelry 101

Lexi Petersen

Here at Indiecords we are fully obsessed with creating and supplying earrings and other accessories that are high quality, hypoallergenic, and affordable. We love pieces that range from bold and sassy to sleek and classy. And, as you probably can tell, we adore gold jewelry.

Here’s where we want to get a little bit nerdy with you. As you probably know, all gold jewelry is not created equal, and the distinctions are not always obvious. Shopping for gold pieces and trying to weigh the quality of your options against their prices can be a bit of a headache. We’ve put in extensive research and work with our manufacturers and suppliers, and we are confident that the pieces we offer here at Indiecords strike an ideal balance between quality and affordability.

Because we care deeply about the quality of our pieces, and because the world of gold jewelry is a bit confusing, we want to empower you with some information so that you can make an informed decision as a consumer.
In a conversation about gold jewelry, you’ll probably hear the word “Karat.” A Karat (K) is a measurement of the purity of gold. A higher number of karats means that the piece is made from a higher amount of gold relative to any other metals. 24K is the highest number possible and means that the piece is pure gold with no other added metals. Differences in the number of Karats in a piece of jewelry can lead to variations in color and durability even though each item is technically made with gold.

So, what if a piece isn’t solid gold? Gold-plating is a process where gold is layered over a core metal. There are a variety of gold-plating processes. In the same way that a slice of Little Cesar’s Pepperoni and a slice of Margherita from Naples are both pizza, the term gold-plated covers a large range of jewelry that vary in qualities like durability, appearance, and affordability. Let’s talk about a few of the most common.

Flash-plated gold is very affordable, but that affordability comes as a cost. Flash-plated pieces are quick-dipped jewelry, which means that the layer of gold-plating is very thin. This thin layer is extremely flimsy and typically lasts only 1-2 wears before the core metal shows through. So, while the price is appealing at first, the ultimate trade-off in quality just isn’t worth it.

Gold-plating, like we mentioned above, is a process where gold is layered over another metal. While not as valuable or durable as pure solid gold, 14K, 18K, and 24K gold-plating are great options that balance quality with affordability. Often, gold-plated pieces have core metals that are nickel or copper based, but we make sure that the pieces here at Indiecords use only hypoallergenic core metals like stainless steel, sterling silver, and titanium.

With proper care, gold-plated jewelry can maintain its bright color long term, while retaining all its beauty. That’s why jewelers recommend that you remove your jewelry before you swim or shower and that you keep it away from creams, perfumes, water, and oils. While many types of plating can withstand these types of exposure for a time, taking extra care will help your pieces last longer.

The name “gold-filled” is a bit misleading. It sounds higher quality because it seems to suggest that your jewelry pieces are full of gold. This is a misnomer. Gold-filled jewelry is simply gold-plated jewelry that is regulated differently. In gold-filled pieces, the gold content is measured by weight rather than the thickness of the plating. Gold must make up 5% of the item’s total weight for it to be considered gold-filled.

Gold-filled pieces are less common because the process is more time intensive and expensive for manufacturers to produce. Like typical gold-plating, gold-filled jewelry (especially pieces with a higher gold content), are very durable and long lasting. The core metal that the gold is plated onto, in gold-filled pieces, is typically either jeweler's brass or copper (these two types of metal turn green or tarnish as they oxidize).

Gold Vermeil
Like gold-filled, gold vermeil is a regulated class of gold plating. It is one of the highest quality gold-plated options available. In order to call their pieces “gold vermeil,” manufacturers must meet higher standards in the thickness of the plating, and the base metal that the gold is plated over must be 925 Sterling Silver, which is both a hypoallergenic and a precious metal. The gold purity must also be 10K or higher to be classified as "gold vermeil."

We at Indiecords love quality jewelry. While someday we may expand our offerings to include pieces made from pure, solid gold, for now we are focused on helping our customers find beautiful, bold, and timeless pieces that they can trust to strike a balance between price and quality. The pieces in our shop are 14K or 18K gold and we make sure to only use components that have stainless steel, sterling silver, and other hypoallergenic metals at their core.

We test every design prior to adding them to the site to make sure that they meet our standards for hypoallergenic, comfortable, durable, and gorgeous jewelry. If we wear something and it isn't comfortable, we won't add it to the site.
Thanks for going down this nerdy rabbit-hole with us! If you have any questions about the differences in gold-plated jewelry, or any of the pieces in our shop, please contact us at We’d love the chance to talk with you.

Lexi and the Indiecords Team


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