Gold-filled is the material I most commonly work with: it is great for light metalwork, like stamping, and it’s also durable and affordable. I often get asked “what is gold-filled?” so I wanted to take some time to explain it here.
To really understand what gold-filled is, we need to understand other gold metals. Let’s start with solid gold.
What Is Solid Gold?
Solid gold is the most expensive form of gold out there, and a piece of jewelry made from this is exactly what it sounds like: it’s made up completely of solid gold. Solid gold’s purity is expressed in “karats,” measured on a scale of 0-24. Because gold is one of the most valuable resources in the world, solid gold jewelry is, of course, quite expensive.
What Is Gold Plated?
Have you ever owned a piece of “gold” jewelry that has tarnished and changed color over a short period of time? This was likely a gold plated or vermeil piece.
Gold plated is the lowest quality of these metal types, and for this reason I don’t work with it. Instead of bonding gold with heat and pressure to a material, gold plated jewelry is made by using electricity or chemicals to bond an extremely thin layer of gold over another metal. Often, the layer of gold used is so thin you can easily scratch it off of the base.
A gold-filled and gold plated piece can look nearly exactly the same…at first. Gold plated jewelry is not durable and has a very short lifespan, generally around one year. It is for “fast fashion” purposes. You should not go swimming with gold plated jewelry, and it’s also not a good idea to sleep with it on because as it rubs against the skin, it wears even faster! It also can cause allergic reactions or make your skin turn green.
What Is Gold-Filled?
Gold-filled is made by bonding gold to a base metal by fusing. This means that a solid layer of gold has been bonded to a base metal, usually jewelers’ brass or sterling silver. There are a couple of wonderful things about this:
- Gold-filled jewelry is much more affordable than solid gold pieces
- The bonding process used to make gold-filled involves lots of heat and pressure, and thus the final gold-filled piece is oftentimes more durable than a solid gold item.
- Compared to gold-plated jewelry, gold-filled has a layer of gold that’s 5-10 times thicker, making it much more resistant to wear.
Legally, gold-filled must contain at least 5% gold, measured by weight.
Gold-filled is a quality material, and your gold-filled pieces will last you for years or even decades if properly cared for. It’s also hypoallergenic, which makes it a great option for those with sensitive skin!
How I Use Gold-Filled To Create My Jewelry
Using gold-filled material allows me to create a wide range of jewelry styles.
It is great for fabricating, and I love adding hammered, brushed, and other unique textures to my pieces.
Soldering gold-filled lets me create rings, studs, and other pieces and shapes.
What Type of Gold is Right For You?
That depends on you, the individual wearer! If you’re only looking for a piece to last for a few months, then you might be okay with gold plated jewelry. But, if you want something that will wear better and last much longer, gold-filled is a better choice.
Most of the pieces in my jewelry collection are available in 14k gold filled, and you will find some solid gold options as well. My gold-filled jewelry is the most popular due to its affordability. A solid gold piece is a great keepsake, but if you’re looking to purchase multiple items you can layer, choosing gold-filled will help you not break the bank!