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What Does Gold-Filled Mean in Jewelry?


Solid gold, which is 99% gold, is the purest, and most expensive form of gold. However, since it is extremely expensive and rare, the next best option is gold-filled jewelry. Few things scream value in the same way that gold does. Gold has historically been considered a safe investment, and even today, painting anything gold will instantly make it sell faster (remember the craze for the gold iPhone?). But when purchasing a gold product, it is important to know exactly how much gold the item contains. This is especially relevant since there are several different types of gold products, containing varying amounts of the mineral.

What Exactly Is Gold-Filled Jewelry?

Gold-filled jewelry usually consists of a base metal like copper, brass, or nickel that has been coated with gold under high pressure and heat. This gold can be 10, 12, 14, or 18 karats. As mentioned earlier, gold-filled jewelry is the second type of jewelry with the most amount of gold in it. This category of ornaments is legally mandated to contain at least 5% of gold. They are usually marked with the karatage (14/20 GF, 14kt, etc.), or the ‘/‘ sign.

The manufacturing process of gold-filled items severely minimizes its supply in several ways. These items can only be manufactured in the form of sheets, wires, and tubes since it cannot be cast. For pendants, circle, square, and bar pendants are the standard. Casting is a popular process for encasing objects with a mineral, it involves melting the gold and pouring it on the metal. But this would result in the gold permeating the surface of the metal, giving it an uneven look. This process is also very expensive as compared to those for other types of gold ornaments. These restrictions result in gold-filled jewelry being much rarer as compared to the most popular type, which is gold plated jewelry.

What Does Gold-Filled Mean in jewelry - gold filled jewelry

Types of Gold Used in Jewelry

There are four different types of gold jewelry one can purchase. These are solid gold, filled gold, gold vermeil, and gold plated. While plated gold jewelry, like gold-filled, employ copper and brass as base metals, gold vermeil uses sterling silver, which is the purest form of silver available. So while it does not have a layer of gold as thick as filled gold, it makes up for that in value through the silver. Compared to gold-filled, vermeil only has a layer of gold that’s 2.5 microns thick, which is still significantly more than plated gold. The latter, in turn, makes up for its flaws by allowing for re-plating if it gets worn down. With filled gold, however, one can rest assured about its durability for several years despite daily usage.

Is Gold-Filled Real Gold?

Yes, gold-filled items are sandwiched between layers of solid gold. However, contrary to what some might think, this is not 100% gold. The reason behind this is that 100% pure gold is difficult to mold, and so mixing it with some other metals is essential for jewelry production. Thus, even the purest gold can only be 99.9% pure, which is still a massive amount. This makes gold filled a great option since a piece can range from anywhere between $30 to around $100, while plated gold also has a similar, albeit slightly lower, range.

What does gold filled mean - Gold filled jewelry

Due to the percentage of gold in a gold-filled jewelry piece, it retains a high sell-in value should you ever choose to trade it in. However, the same cannot be said for plated gold, which contains only around 0.05% gold. While shopping for gold jewelry, be careful of items simply marked as ‘gold’. This type of branding is highly misleading, and likely to be a scam. Also ensure that you do not have any allergies to any metals in the alloy, since this may cause your skin to irritate or develop a rash.

When buying a gold-filled item that is not in the shape of a tube or a wire, a customer has the option of choosing whether to concentrate the gold on one side of the bar or divide it equally between the two. This is perhaps the only customization option besides the choice in shape. It is perhaps the only drawback of choosing filled gold, but if you find something you like and can choose between plated gold and filled gold, the latter is by far the better option.

Does Gold Filled Jewelry Last?

Yes, gold-filled jewelry lasts for very long periods of time. This is largely owing to two factors, the amount of gold and the coating process. Pure gold is difficult to tarnish, and any signs of wear and tear on jewelry are usually there because the base metal is starting to flake. The process of gold filling also results in more durable jewelry than electroplating, giving this type of jewelry a much longer life. However, even though it might take decades, the piece will eventually start to tarnish. The one thing that might accelerate the process is exposure to large amounts of pollution, which might blacken the gold on your jewelry. In some rare cases, an allergic reaction might also turn the gold itself black.

What does gold filled mean - Gold filled necklace

Can You Shower With Gold-Filled Jewelry?

Yes, you can shower with gold-filled jewelry. In fact, some say can even swim with it (though we still don’t recommend it). But the point remains that gold-filled is very durable, much more so than gold plated jewelry, which will start fading if worn in the shower. This means that if you intend on wearing your gold piece on a regular basis, gold-filled is a no brainer due to its relative cost-effectiveness and much longer lifespan. However, gold-filled jewelry is still susceptible to getting tarnished, but we got you covered on that front.

Here are some tips to keep your gold-filled jewelry looking like new:

  • Avoid touching the gold part as much as possible. Surface friction from touching, as well as the interaction of your skin oils with the mineral, could cause degradation to occur faster than normal.
  • While cleaning your gold jewelry, use warm water with a mild detergent for best results. However, do not soak gold for too long, and never use anything too rough to dry it.
  • Store your gold filled jewelry separate from the rest of your collection to avoid it grinding against other ornaments. Cover the piece with a soft material before putting them away for added protection against scratches.
  • Take off your jewelry during physically intensive tasks such as gardening, playing sports, doing the dishes, etc.
  • Do not use abrasive cleansers such as toothpaste, or baking soda to clean your jewelry, as they will cause the gold to corrode quicker, despite claims to the contrary on the packaging of several chemical cleaners.

Related: Can You Scratch a Diamond?

Related: 10k vs 14k Gold – What’s the Difference?


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