Gold Filled vs Gold Plate


Many of you have asked me what exactly is the difference between Gold Filled and Gold Plate.  

Gold-filled is constructed in two or three layers. The core metal is jewelers’ brass. The gold alloy (such as 14K) is bonded to one or both surfaces of the brass core with heat and pressure. The bonded raw material is then sold as sheet, chain or wire to jewelry manufacturers for use in designs.

Gold-filled is legally required to contain 5% or 1/20 gold by weight. This 5% is then described by the karatage of the gold alloy. Most gold-filled I use is 14kt gold-filled. 

OK, this one isn’t a question but it raises an important issue. Some jewelry designers will refer to gold-filled items as just “gold.” It is not gold and the distinction should be explained to you. 14K, 18K or higher "Gold" has far greater pure gold content and should not be confused with gold filled.

Is gold-filled the same as gold plate?
No, gold plating is a miniscule layer of solid gold applied to a brass base. The plating does not compose any measurable proportion of the product’s total weight. It is estimated to be 0.05% or less of the metal product. Gold plating will wear off rather quickly and expose the brass base product. It does not stand up to heat, water or wear over time. By comparison, gold-filled contains 5% gold by weight; moreover, all the gold is on the surface which will generally offer product protection from tarnish and wear. 

Can gold-filled tarnish?
Yes it can, but it takes a rare set of circumstances. Gold-filled is usually a lifetime product because the gold layer bonded to the brass core is quite thick. However, in some instances of sulfide exposure the gold-filled can blacken. Gold filled jewelry that come in contact with harsh chemicals, lotions and acidic conditions will change and darken in color. 

Usually, gold filled just requires light surface cleaning with an untreated cloth or mild soapy water. Store in small zip top bags to keep your jewelry looking great for years.  

Gold-filled is a reasonably priced, quality alternative to solid gold and my preferred go-to solid Gold alternative. Most gold-filled items are Made in the USA.