Solid gold, sterling silver, vermeil: what are the different alloys in jewelry?

Solid gold, sterling silver, vermeil: what are the different alloys in jewelry?

Alloy is by definition a combination of different metals or a metal and one or more other elements that are melted and cast together. They are historically produced to improve the properties of a metal or to give it special properties. In jewelry, the alloys used will determine the color of the jewel and its strength. Some alloys are also more or less allergenic depending on the skin of the person and it is therefore important to get information before making your purchase.

1. Gold plated and vermeil

Gold plating is a material often used for costume jewelry because it is an affordable solution. Gold-plated jewelry is made from copper or brass and then dipped in gold so that a thin layer covers the main metal. The plating can be repeated several times to achieve different thicknesses. The standard in Canada for plated jewelry is about 1 micron or one thousandth of a millimeter. Without this layer of gold, the jewelry would oxidize and change color over time until it turned green. However, this affordable material can irritate sensitive skin and is therefore not recommended for people with allergies. Finally, despite the gold coating, gold-plated jewelry can tarnish quickly.

A more expensive but better alternative is vermeil, which is sterling silver coated with gold, making it a precious metal. Indeed, the gold layer is thicker, often between 3 and 5 microns, and of better quality than gold plating since it is 18K gold. Vermeil jewelry is still affordable, less allergenic than gold-plated jewelry and does not tarnish as quickly. However, they will be of lower quality than solid gold jewelry. Cleaning too hard could scratch the thin layer of gold and repeatedly remove it.

2. Silver

Silver is a soft metal and cannot be shaped as it is, it must necessarily be transformed with other metals such as copper. The name sterling silver or 925 silver refers to the 92.5% silver content of this metal.

Silver jewelry is more sensitive to chemicals than gold jewelry. It is therefore strongly advised to remove it before using household products, cosmetics or before going to the swimming pool and shower. They should also be stored preferably in boxes or pouches in order not to accelerate their oxidation and tarnishing due to the presence of copper. To learn more about jewelry care, you can read our dedicated section here.

silver jewelry
From left to right: Abacus Earrings in sterling silver, Large Forge Band in sterling silver and Signet Ring in sterling silver.
large curb chain
Large Curb Chain in sterling silver.

3. Gold

Gold is the most noble metal in jewelry. In addition to being hypoallergenic, it resists well to the hazards of everyday life and is the most advisable metal for high jewelry, especially those set with precious stones. Pure gold is called 24-carat gold but it is too soft to be used as such in jewelry. It is therefore necessary to combine it with other materials to give it rigidity. It is called 18-carat gold when 75% of the alloy is gold, 14-carat gold when this proportion is 58.3% and 10-carat gold when it is 41.7%. The higher the gold content, the more the jewelry will tend towards a bright yellow color, the more its value will increase and its price with it. The carat of the gold is marked on the jewelry with a punch. In Canada, 14K gold jewelry is the most popular.

The different mixtures and their proportions will then allow the jeweler to play with the final color of the gold.

Yellow gold

Yellow gold is a timeless classic. As mentioned earlier, it is not possible to have pure gold because it would be too malleable. Yellow gold is therefore an alloy of different metals: gold, copper and silver. It is an alloy that has been used for thousands of years to create precious objects. Yellow gold will retain its color very well. It is a very good choice for creating jewelry sets with any colorful gemstone and birthstone.

Rose gold

Rose gold is a gold alloy with a higher proportion of copper, which gives it its pink color. This soft alloy is appreciated by both women and men for its original appearance.

White gold

White gold is also a gold alloy but with a higher proportion of silver and palladium. It is also sometimes coated with a thin layer of rhodium to give it extra sparkle. It is a great alternative for people who are allergic to silver but like the soft color. It is a favorite for men's jewelry at MYEL.

Other gold colors

Although the above-mentioned gold colors are the most common, it is possible to create a wide variety of gold through the mixtures and proportions used in the alloys. For example, blue gold can be obtained from cobalt and iron, purple gold from aluminum etc.

Rose gold and yellow gold rings

Square Band in 14K rose gold and Large Forge Band in 14K yellow gold.


Memento pendants in 10K yellow and white gold and in sterling silver.

4. Which alloys do we use at MYEL?

MYEL is a responsible high-end jewelry company whose products are handmade in Montreal. Our creations are designed to stand the test of time, which is why we use only the highest quality materials that we trust such as solid gold and sterling silver. Our Memento and Icon collections as well as some of our chains are made from 10K gold, but most of our jewelry is made from 14K solid gold and can be customized with rose or white gold. Since April 2021, our love rings have been produced with Fairmined 14K gold, an ethical gold from Peru.

We can also produce some of our creations in 18K gold to best meet the needs and desires of our customers.

Finally, we use sterling silver, which allows us to produce high quality but more affordable jewelry.

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