Gold Jewelry: What is Gold Filled?

Have you ever been baffled by the difference between gold plated and gold-filled jewelry? I sure was when I first came across the word gold-filled and if you agree with me, you probably are in this fix too. Sure, you probably figured out gold platted must be a layer of gold just wrapped around a piece of jewelry but do you know your other gold jewelry types?

Find out here!

‡Gold Plated Jewelry uses a base metal usually a steel or brass item dipped into a bath of electroplating solution that deposits a thin layer of gold on the jewelry. The gold layer is less than gold filled, quite thin and will wear off faster than gold-filled.

Gold Vermeil Jewelry uses sterling silver which has been gold plated. The highest quality gold vermeil is 24K, but it can be made with varying qualities. When you are considering a piece of gold vermeil jewelry it’s wise to look for a Karat label.

Gold-Filled Jewelry uses a process in which gold is bonded to a base metal alloy such as nickel or brass. Commonly, the amount of gold used must make up at least 5% of the total weight and all exterior portions are solid gold. Most gold-filled jewelry pieces tend to be 18Kt.

White Gold Jewelry combines pure gold with other white metals, such as zinc, nickel, platinum and silver. Durable and resistant to tarnish, white gold jewelry is brittle and requires platinum or rhodium plating. Generally produced to be a more cost effective than platinum, white gold can cause allergic reactions once the plating wears off.

Rose Gold is an alloy that combines gold with copper to create a golden metal with a reddish hue. While it normally uses a gold to copper ratio of 3:1, rose gold can be found with varying percentages of each. Based on the addition of copper, the intensity of rose gold will be lighter or darker and will patina over time.

Generally pure gold is too soft for use in jewelry, so it’s commonly mixed with alloy metals such as copper and zinc. Below is a breakdown of the percentage of pure gold in each of the popular karat weights:

24 Karat – 99.9% Pure
22 Karat – 91.7% Pure
18 Karat – 75% Pure
14 Karat – 58.3% Pure
12 Karat – 50% Pure
10 Karat – 41.7% Pure

When selecting jewelry like necklaces or bracelets, note it’s important to balance gold purity with the durability. Pieces like rings and bracelets often take more abuse – especially from water to hand lotion to perfumes – and are much likely to become deformed if softer gold is used; as a result, 18 Kt or 14 Kt gold may be a better selection for those types of items.


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