What is the difference between gold-filled and gold plated?

Answered by Brandon Riddell

When it comes to understanding the difference between gold-filled and gold plated jewelry, it's important to consider the thickness and composition of the gold layer. While both types of jewelry have a layer of gold on their surface, the amount and durability of this gold layer vary significantly.

Gold-plated jewelry, as the name suggests, has a thin layer of gold plated onto the surface of another metal, such as brass or copper. The thickness of this gold layer is typically around 0.5 microns or less, which is extremely thin. In fact, it's so minuscule that it's barely noticeable to the naked eye. This thin layer of gold is achieved through a process called electroplating, where an electric current is used to deposit the gold onto the base metal.

On the other hand, gold-filled jewelry has a much thicker layer of gold alloy. The term “gold-filled” refers to a process in which a thick layer of gold is mechanically bonded to a base metal, usually brass or copper. Unlike electroplating, gold-filled jewelry involves a more substantial amount of gold. In fact, gold-filled jewelry has 100 times more gold alloy than gold-plated jewelry. The gold layer in gold-filled jewelry typically measures around 5% of the total weight of the item.

The thickness of the gold layer in gold-filled jewelry is also significantly greater than that of gold-plated jewelry. While the exact thickness can vary, gold-filled jewelry usually has a layer of gold that is at least 5% or 1/20th of the total metal weight. This thickness provides a more durable and long-lasting piece of jewelry compared to gold plated. It means that gold-filled jewelry can withstand daily wear and tear better and is less likely to show signs of wear or tarnish.

One advantage of gold-filled jewelry is its longevity. The thicker layer of gold alloy allows gold-filled pieces to maintain their appearance and luster for a longer period of time compared to gold plated. I have personally experienced this difference when comparing a gold-filled necklace to a gold-plated one. While the gold-plated necklace started to show signs of wear and fading after a few months, the gold-filled necklace remained shiny and intact even after years of use.

Additionally, the thicker layer of gold in gold-filled jewelry also allows for more flexibility in terms of repairs and resizing. If a gold-filled piece of jewelry becomes damaged or needs resizing, a skilled jeweler can work with the thicker gold layer without compromising its integrity. In contrast, the thin layer of gold in gold-plated jewelry makes it more challenging to repair or resize without potentially damaging the piece.

The main difference between gold-filled and gold-plated jewelry lies in the thickness and composition of the gold layer. Gold-filled jewelry has a significantly thicker layer of gold alloy, providing greater durability and longevity compared to gold-plated jewelry. The thicker gold layer in gold-filled jewelry allows it to withstand daily wear and tear better, maintain its appearance for a longer time, and offer more flexibility for repairs and resizing.