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by Jesús Zabala - 4 min read

Gold Filled vs Gold Plated

When you enter the jewelry world, you have a lot of decisions to make before you get the perfect piece, starting from the design and ending with the metal type . Regarding the metals, many choose to go with the all-time classic: gold. However, the advancements in jewelry-making techniques have raised a dilemma among consumers about the differences between gold filled vs gold plated jewelry.

Both options are more affordable than solid gold. As your favorite hand-made jewelry makers, we created a comprehensive guide where we will explain what gold filled and gold plated mean. This will allow you to make the right choice when purchasing your next favorite piece.

Gold Filled vs Gold Plated Jewelry

Gold Filled vs Gold Plated

Gold is, without a doubt, one of the finest metals for making jewelry. Although solid gold jewelry is made out of pure gold, it has several disadvantages which make it  a less desirable option. For one, solid gold jewelry, although highly durable,  is more prone to scratching if not properly cared for.

Also, from our perspective as jewelry makers, the specifications of gold as a metal make it hard to work with. Consequently, pure gold jewelry pieces are typically simple designs without any intricate details.

To overcome the disadvantage of solid gold and yet take advantage of its durability and prestigious look, jewelers have found a way and created gold filled or gold plated jewelry. Both options are made with a base metal, such as sterling silver, nickel, brass, copper, titanium, tungsten, or other alloy.

So, what is the difference between gold filled vs gold plated? Gold filled and gold plated jewelry differ based on the thickness of the gold layers, the amount of gold that is applied to the base metal, and the jewelry-making process. 

Gold plated jewelry is made out of a base metal covered in a thin outer layer of gold. We make our gold plated jewelry pieces by electroplating and using 24 karat gold which is the purest metal. One of the characteristics of gold plated jewellery is that the gold content is not bound to the base metal.

On the other hand, gold filled jewelry contains thicker solid gold layers or sheets. The gold sheets are mechanically bonded to the base metal by utilizing heat and pressure. Gold filled pieces are highly durable, making them suitable for everyday wear.

Comparison of Gold Content, Price, Durability and Appearance

The differences between gold filled vs gold plated jewelry, don’t end with the way they are made. The two types of jewelry can be compared according to their gold content, price, durability, and appearance.

Comparison of Gold Content
Source: shutterstock.com/ Photo Contributor: Hatice Sever

Gold content

The required gold content for a piece of jewelry to be considered gold filled is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. For jewelry to be considered gold filled, the weight of the jewelry should have at least 1/20, or 5% of gold plating. In the jewelry industry, we also refer to gold plated jewelry as gold overlay and rolled gold plate.

In comparison, gold plated jewelry has significantly less gold content than gold filled pieces. Unfortunately, there are no standard recommendations for the gold content in gold plated jewelry. 

However, the estimations are that gold plated jewelry has up to 0.05% of the metal product. The actual thickness of the gold-plated varies according to the quality of the jewelry. A typical range is between 0.175 to 0.5 microns of gold alloy.

Typically, the bigger the jewelry, the bigger of a gold layer it will require. For instance, the 24K gold content we use in our Mystique Earrings, isn’t the same as in the Ula Closed Loop Earrings.

Putting the two types of jewelry side by side, the gold layers on an average gold filled jewelry can be up to 100 times thicker than the one a gold plated piece might have.

Price

Because of their significantly low gold content, gold plated jewelry is more affordable than gold filled. In addition to the gold content, the prices might vary according to the craftsmanship of the jewelry and the base metal used in their composition. 

Suppose two jewellery pieces have the same design and gold content, but one is made with copper as base metal and the other with silver. Because silver has a higher value than copper, that option might be more expensive.

Durability

As a rule of thumb, gold filled pieces tend to last longer than gold plated ones. This is mainly because they have a thicker layer of gold. Also, they are more suitable for everyday wear because they don’t chip and fade as easily as gold plate pieces. The chances of the gold layer fading and exposing the base metal are lower with gold filled jewelry.

Appearance

Both gold plated and gold filled jewelry offer the look of gold for a more affordable price. At first sight, you might not notice the difference in appearance, but there are slight differences.

Gold filled jewelry typically has a bright and shiny appearance, similar to solid gold. The colors are richer and more lustrous because of the higher gold content. In addition, the color of gold filled jewelry is more consistent, as the thicker layer makes it less prone to fading or wearing off.

Similarly, the gold plated jewelry has a bright and shiny appearance. However, because of the way it is made and the thin gold layer it has, the colors might not be as rich and vibrant.

Appearance of Gold filled jewelry
Source: shutterstock.com/ Photo Contributor: Piskova Photo

Conclusion

Comparing gold filled vs gold plated jewelry side by side, you might notice that they look almost the same. However, understanding the differences between them will allow you to make the right choice and purchase a piece according to your preferences and budget. If you want to add a unique piece of 24K gold plated jewelry, visit our JewelryLab shop. You will find necklaces, earrings, rings and bracelets with original designs that can be the perfect addition to every style.

Jesús  is the founder and designer of JewelryLab. He is the Head of Design and also oversees production, quality control, and precious metal sourcing.

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