What To Consider When Purchasing Gold Filled vs. Gold Plated Jewelry
If you were handed a solid gold necklace in one hand and a gold-filled or gold-plated necklace with the same design characteristics in the other hand, it would likely be impossible to tell the difference from the outside. That’s because the difference lies in the construction of each necklace from the inside. A solid gold necklace is constructed entirely of gold or gold alloy (a mix of gold and other metallic materials). Given their construction, these jewelry items are typically costly and highly desirable.
Gold-filled and gold-plated jewelry are less costly alternatives that can be equally as popular for those who enjoy the color and appearance of gold. It’s important, however, to understand the key differences and what to consider when purchasing jewelry that is marketed as either gold plated or gold filled.
What is gold-filled jewelry?
As opposed to solid gold jewelry, gold-filled jewelry is composed of layered material, not solid alloy. The gold you see on the surface is a thin layer of gold material that is bonded to an interior layer of jewelers’ brass or, in some cases, sterling silver or copper. Gold-filled jewelry can either be single-clad or double-clad. If a jewelry piece has only a single layer of gold material, it is considered to be single clad. Most jewelers construct pieces to be double clad, meaning that gold material is split and bonded on both sides of the piece so that it appears to be entirely gold from the outside.
Jewelers use specialized techniques to bond the gold material on the outer layers to the inside core material. Each piece of gold-filled jewelry is constructed using pressure bonding, where heat is applied and the material layers are pressed together until sealed.
In order for a piece of jewelry to be legally marketed as “gold filled,” it must meet specific requirements. Specifically, the gold ratio of the entire piece needs to be 1/20, meaning a construction of at least 5% pure gold. The pure gold layer (or layers) needs to also be comprised of at least 10 karats.
What to consider when purchasing gold-filled jewelry
Gold-filled jewelry is generally very durable. Because it contains a thicker layer of gold, it can withstand exposure to the elements through daily wear. It can even be more durable than solid gold pieces given that the inner construction of gold-filled jewelry is more compact and solid than pure gold itself, which can be quite soft. So long as the piece is properly maintained and cared for by its wearer, gold-filed jewelry can last a lifetime.
Solid gold does not tarnish. Given that gold-filled jewelry contains a good layer of solid gold material, it is resistant to tarnishing under most conditions. Tarnishing would only happen if the outer layer is scratched and the inner core is exposed. To avoid scratches, it’s best to wash gold-filled jewelry with mild soapy water and a clean cloth. Wash gently without scrubbing to avoid potential scratches.
Gold-filled pieces are less expensive than solid gold jewelry, but they can be on the higher end of some budgets given their durability and construction. However, for most people, they are affordable and are generally designed to appeal to most consumers desiring gold jewelry. If you’re looking for a gift for a friend or loved one to celebrate a birthday or special occasion, gold-filled jewelry is an ideal option. The wearer can expect to continue to wear it for decades if properly maintained.
What is gold-plated jewelry?
Like with gold-filled jewelry, gold-plated jewelry is also gold in appearance on the outside with layered material on the inside. The difference is in the amount of gold used and how the jewelry is constructed. Gold-plated jewelry contains a very thin layer of gold alloy material on the outside that is bonded to a solid inner core of material typically made from brass, copper, or silver. In some constructions, a layer of nickel is applied in between the outer gold and inner metallic layer.
For gold-plated jewelry, the outer gold layer is applied via a process known as electroplating. Once the piece is fully constructed, it is dipped into a tank that contains the gold material. Through an electrical process involving electrodes, batteries, and electrolyte solution, the gold material becomes positively charged and slowly migrates to the negatively charged materials of the jewelry piece. This creates a very thin layer of gold on the outside.
Unlike gold-filled jewelry, which is comprised of 5% gold by weight, the amount of gold present in gold-plated jewelry is typically .005% or less. If it were not for the bright color and shine that gold naturally projects, the layer would almost be invisible to its wearers.
What to consider when purchasing gold-plated jewelry
Because gold-plated jewelry is only covered in a miniscule layer of gold alloy material, it is not very durable. Daily wear and tear and exposure to heat and water can wear down the outer layer, exposing the brass layer inside. It’s best to avoid cleaning gold-plated jewelry pieces. If you need to polish or clean them for any reason, do not use soap or water. Instead, try rubbing gently with a cotton ball or swab to avoid corroding the outer gold layer.
If the core metal is exposed through daily wear (which is likely to happen over time), gold-plated jewelry can easily tarnish. For those with sensitive skin or susceptibility to allergic reactions, gold-plated jewelry should be avoided. When the outer gold layer wears down, the skin can be exposed to oxidation and irritation when it comes into direct contact with the inner material.
Gold-plated jewelry items are typically very budget-friendly. With only a thin layer of gold applied, most of the cost of these pieces comes from labor and the material comprising the inner core. If you’re looking for more of a trendy statement piece and not something that you’ll expect to wear for years at a time, gold-plated items are favorable, inexpensive options.
We use only gold filled metal for our jewelry at starmapjewelry
As mentioned above gold filled jewelry is an overall better option for gold jewelry. We want your special star map jewelry to last for many years to come so we use the highest quality 14k double clad gold filled metal to handcraft our jewelry.
Check out other articles from our blog for more astronomy and star facts.