There can be a lot of confusion surrounding the terms you see online when buying any kind of jewelry. I believe the terminology surrounding gold jewelry in particular needs to be addressed. There are many different types of gold jewelry, so let's clear up some of the most used terms.
I am going to start with gold plating. Plating is a very, very thin layer of gold electroplated to a base metal like brass or nickel. The plate is not very strong and tends to flake or rub off the base metal, and if you are allergic to the base metal (itchy ear lobes, swelling, etc.), this is not a good option for you. I do not now nor have I ever used gold plated ear wires in my jewelry. I AM allergic to base metals, and I will not use plated materials for my own customers.
Gold fill is a superior option to gold plate and more affordable than solid gold. The gold is physically bonded in a much thicker layer to the base metal. Unless the gold layer is nicked or sanded too much, it will not wear away the way plating does. I have gold fill earrings I've worn for years that are still in great shape. Most gold fill is sold as 12 K, but you can sometimes find 14 K gold fill. I do, on occasion, use gold fill in my work, but it is always disclosed as such.
Vermeil is still used to some degree today, but you find it more often on vintage jewelry. Vermeil is usually sterling silver with a thick layer of gold plating - sometimes, it can be bronze with gold plating. The gold will wear off, as with any plating, but since the underlying metal is usually sterling silver, it is not as likely to cause adverse reactions.
This is the most expensive gold option, and usually the most trustworthy. Gold comes in different karats, as it is too soft and malleable on its own. It is most often alloyed with copper, silver, nickel, palladium, and zinc. The colored golds - rose, green, white, and yellow - get their colors from varying amounts of these alloys. The higher the karat number (24 K gold versus 14 K gold), the finer the gold is.
A reputable jewelry seller will tell you what karat they have used and if the piece is solid or not. Unfortunately, there are sellers, in real life and on the internet, who have no problem with trying to pass gold plate or fill off as real solid gold. The price is going to be your biggest clue - if the price is too good to be true, it isn't. Solid gold is going to be expensive - the current market price is around $1200 an ounce. Gold fill will be more affordable, but it is still more expensive than gold plated jewelry is. Solid gold will also often be stamped with the alloy content (24 K, 18 K), called the hallmark.
Please read carefully, no matter where you shop, learn to look for the hallmark, and check a seller's pricing.The jewelry on my site is described to the best of my ability as to purity and content. If you ever have any questions, you may always contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Gold and mixed metal jewelry is here.