Gold-filled is not solid gold. Gold-filled items are made with a base metal (such as copper) and then covered in layers of gold using heat and pressure. The layer of gold must be 100% genuine, so this term doesn’t apply to items that have been plated or coated in a fake sheen.
Gold-filled means that an item is coated by a layer of gold. The interior of the item is a different metal, and the metal is often either sterling silver or copper. Gold-filled jewelry does not last forever, because the gold layer slowly erodes over the course of 20 to 30 years.
Gold-filled jewelry is often used by people who love the look of real gold but can’t afford it – it’s a good alternative to 14 karats or 18 karats solid gold at a lower price point.
But what does ‘gold filled’ mean? How do you tell the difference between “real” gold over brass vs. just over aluminum – how can you tell if your piece is REAL GOLD FILLED? We will explore all of these questions and provide some tips for spotting the difference between gold-filled vs. solid gold.
Is real gold-filled gold?
Gold-filled has a layer of gold over the inner metalcore. For a piece of jewelry to be sold as ‘gold-filled’ in the U.S., it must have at least 1/20th by weight layer of 14 karat gold permanently bonded to a base metal.
Gold-filled is not the same thing as gold plating, where a very thin coating of non-precious metal is applied to the base metal to give it the appearance of being made out of gold. Gold plated items are typically only coated in 2 – 5 microns thick layer, whereas gold-filled jewelry contains much thicker layers with actual, solid gold underneath, which will not rub off or flake away easily.
To be considered gold-filled, the piece must also contain at least 1/20th by weight of 14 karat gold.
Gold-filled items are designed to last just like solid gold jewelry – but it is possible for the layer of gold to eventually wear away if you wear your jewelry every single day. However, this will take years and should not pose any major problems so long as you take care of your pieces (store them safely in a lined box, don’t use harsh chemicals to clean, etc.).
Is gold-filled better than gold-plated?
In terms of quality, gold-filled is not better or worse than gold-plated jewelry. Both items contain a base metal and a layer of real gold bonded to the piece with heat and pressure.
While gold-filled contains 100% genuine gold, it can’t be used in place of solid gold if your jewelry needs to be repaired – you cannot have your ring melted down and recreated without losing the layer of gold (which will result in weaker metal) If anything ever happens to your piece, you’ll need to send it off for replating at the very least.
On the other hand, gold-plated pieces are much more versatile; when something happens to damage one of these, it can simply be re-plated with gold.
Managed gold-filled pieces should last just as long as solid 14 karats or 18 karat gold items. It will not rub off or flake away over time and is a good choice if you love the look of real gold but can’t afford to invest in solid precious metals.
Gold-filled pieces are also ideal if you have sensitive skin – they contain no nickel, and therefore won’t cause an allergic reaction like white gold alloys often do. Just be sure to buy crafted 14 karat gold-filled jewelry – anything else is considered imitation by law.
Does gold-filled jewelry wear off?
As mentioned, gold-filled is not solid gold. The thin layer of 14 karat gold will eventually wear thin with daily use, and you may start to see the base metal beneath over time – but this takes years!
No matter how well cared for, your piece of jewelry will at some point need to be re-plated or sent off for professional repairs. This is not a sign that it’s poor quality, though – just that it’s real gold-filled. For most people, buying crafted pieces made with 100% genuine gold is simply out of their price range. Gold-filled jewelry offers an affordable alternative that provides the same benefits as 14 karats or 18 karat solid gold pieces.
If the item you’re buying contains 14 karat gold, then it’s possible that the piece is either 14 karat gold filled or 18 karats gold plated. You can always ask for this information to be confirmed or double-check by checking the hallmark on the piece.
Many pieces of fine jewelry carry an authenticity stamp (example shown below), which should match up with similar stamps found on jewelry and watch cases – another good indication that your purchase is 100% genuine.
Just like solid 14 karats and 18 karat gold jewelry, most pieces made from gold filled will also carry hallmarks that indicate their quality and material composition (not all pieces do, though – especially designer pieces). Any reputable jewelry store should be happy to provide this information for you.
As long as your gold-filled jewelry is treated with care, it will last just as long (if not longer) than solid 14k or 18k gold pieces. It’s a great way to get the look of real gold at an affordable price, and if cared for properly, should last just as long too!
Is gold-filled worth anything?
Much like solid gold jewelry, gold-filled pieces can be valuable depending on their history and rarity. You’ll often find vintage and antique gold-filled items that are worth a lot more than new, mass-produced pieces.
Of course, if you’re planning on reselling your jewelry, its value will depend entirely on the piece you have – age and maker aren’t nearly as important to buyers as the quality of the craftsmanship. Gold-filled does not go out of style by any means, but some designers prefer using sterling silver over gold-filled for its sleek look and lightweight appeal.
If you choose to sell your item later, contact a few local or online jewelers to get an idea of how much it would be worth. Of course, different pieces have been known to sell for more or less than their original price, so you may want to try your luck at a few local markets too.
Regardless of where you sell the piece, make sure that you check with the buyer about exactly how and where they intend on posting it – while gold-filled is strong and long-lasting, it can still break if dropped on a hard surface. This could result in some very costly repairs for your customer!
Gold-filled is an affordable alternative for people who want to buy jewelry made with real gold. It’s considered a ‘higher end’ option compared to plated or filled metals but provides the same beneficial properties as solid 14 karats and 18 karat gold.
Perfect for gifting or treating yourself (without breaking the bank), make sure you always buy your pieces from reputable jewelers – especially when buying online. This way, you can be certain that you’re getting the best value possible at competitive prices.