What's the Difference between Gold Plated and Gold Filled?

Posted on January 09, 2015 by Mary Hood | 0 Comments

Customers looking for very affordable jewelry options may consider gold-plated and gold-filled pieces. While both gold-plated and gold-filled items are typically less expensive than solid gold items, there is a significant difference of durability between the two.

Gold Plated

Gold-plated items are made by covering a base metal (usually brass) with an extremely thin layer of gold overlay and electroplating it (a process that uses an electric current to coat one metal with another). On its own, gold is a fairly soft metal, making it susceptible to nicks and dents. A harder metal (such as brass) coated in gold, however, will make for a stronger piece. On the other hand, because gold plating is so thin, it may wear away with everyday use, making the piece prone to tarnish.

 What's the Difference between Gold Plated and Gold Filled?

Funky and fun gold-plated brooch.

Gold-plated metal is perfect for fun, casual pieces or costume jewelry. Also, pieces that experience less wear will retain their gold finish for longer. Gold-plating on brooches and earrings may last longer than gold-plating on rings and bracelets, for example. Avoid exposing your gold-plated items to sweat, cleaning chemicals, and other abrasive materials. 

Gold Filled (a.k.a. "rolled gold")

Gold-filled items contain significantly more gold than gold-plated metals. For this reason, gold-filled jewelry is more durable, valuable, and expensive than its gold-plated counterpart. Gold-filled metal is at least 5% gold; this higher quantity of gold helps protect the piece from tarnish. The thicker layer of gold is usually an alloy (i.e. gold blended with another, stronger metal).

The amount of gold in a gold-filled piece will depend on the manufacturer. Gold-filled pieces assembled in the U.S. are required to contain a stamp indicating the ratio of gold to base metal. A stamp of 1/20, for example, indicates a presence of 5% gold. 

Yellow gold-filled jewelry is a safe option for those with metal allergies (white gold fill will likely contain nickel, however). Gold-filled jewelry has a life span of anywhere between 10 and 30 years, depending on wear and the thickness of the fill. Solid gold pieces will last a lifetime, however.

 What's the Difference between Gold Plated and Gold Filled?

Antique gold-filled pocket watch, circa 1898.

Gold-filled metal may be more practical for everyday items that tend to receive more wear, like rings and bracelets. While gold-filled jewelry is a relatively affordable option compared to solid gold, solid gold jewelry is ideal for investment pieces and any item that may hold sentimental value, like a wedding band or engagement ring.

What's the Difference between Gold Plated and Gold Filled?

Solid gold is the best option for very special jewelry.

Ideal Twig Bridal Ring Set (18k solid recycled gold)

You may also be interested in:
Testing for the Purity of Gold
Diamonds vs. White Sapphires

Photos: Nonnasoul, Ruby Lane, Barbara Michelle Jacobs 

Posted in gold, gold filled, gold plated, gold purity, informative, jewelry, recycled gold



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