Gold-Filled vs. Gold-Plated: What’s the Difference?

Gold-plated and gold-filled are terms individuals simultaneously use when describing jewelry without realizing the key differences. It’s almost like the difference between karat vs. carat in the world of jewelry terminology. The way retailers market gold-filled and gold-plated jewelry can be comparable even though the products have distinct differences.

The primary difference between plated and filled gold lies in the amount of gold itself. In addition to the amount of gold used, the manufacturing of gold-filled vs. gold-plated jewelry involves distinctive processes. The drastic price points of these two types of jewelry stand out as another significant difference to consider.

To take a closer look, we will look at what makes both gold-filled and gold-plated jewelry, how much they cost, and the pros and cons of both styles. This information can help you decide which type of jewelry best suits your personal or gifting needs.

What’s the Difference?

Have you ever received a piece of gold jewelry from a friend only for it to tarnish after a few months of wear? Don’t worry; they probably didn’t deceive you. This jewelry is likely gold-plated, meaning it only contains a minuscule amount of gold on the surface of the jewelry.

The primary difference between gold-filled vs. gold-plated stems from the manufacturing process itself. Gold-plated jewelry contains a thin layer of gold over an alloy metal, usually brass. Gold-filled jewelry has more gold overall with an alloy center, but it’s not solid gold.

In addition, these two types of jewelry do not offer the same number of design possibilities. As you learn more about the manufacturing process for gold-plated and gold-filled jewelry below, you will see why.

Gold-Plated Jewelry

a gold plated metal under coal

Gold-plated jewelry will oxidize over time as the thin, top layer of gold rubs away with daily wear. The actual amount of gold is hardly measurable, usually less than 0.05%. If you intend to keep wearing the piece of jewelry, you can enhance it with a new layer of gold to renew its overall look.

While it may only contain a trace of shimmering gold, gold-plated jewelry serves a demographic of shoppers who want the look of gold but don’t want to pay solid gold prices. Because of its composition, you can make gold-plated jewelry into many different designs due to its flexibility. Creating gold-plated jewelry involves three primary ingredients and is easy to make.

How Do You Make Gold-Plated Jewelry?

Gold-plated jewelry contains a microscopic amount of gold in a single layer over an alloy metal such as sterling silver or brass. To ensure the jewelry has a sterling silver base, check for gold vermeil plating. The gold-plating process involves three main components: pure gold, a base metal, and an electroplating solution.

To begin the process, the gold pieces and base metal soak in the electroplating solution. Next, the jeweler discharges a negative electric current to the base metal and a positive charge to the gold, causing them to bond together. You can mold and shape gold-plated jewelry in many different ways because of the metal composition, making it more flexible.

You can design many intricate and thin shapes because of this method, making it desirable for jewelry enthusiasts. The design possibilities include delicate casts for complex patterns that gold-filled jewelry cannot achieve. As a result, this process creates the gold-plated jewelry we often see in fashionable clothing boutiques and online shops.

How Much Does Gold-Plated Jewelry Cost?

From costume to high-end, jewelry has a wide range of price points.

Gold-plated jewelry typically ranges anywhere from $10 to $50 on the market today. You can find this jewelry at boutique clothing stores and mid-range stores like Zara or Madewell. This price point makes gold-plated jewelry widely accessible for everyone who wants to wear gold jewelry without paying high-end jewelry prices.

Gold-Filled Jewelry

a gold filled jewelry

Gold-filled jewelry contains a measurable amount of gold, 5% or more, due to the several layers of 14k gold within the jewelry. A significant difference between gold-filled vs. gold-plated jewelry means that gold-filled options will not oxidize or change color. Gold-filled jewelry will not tarnish because it contains many layers of gold instead of just a single layer like gold-plated jewelry.

Gold-filled jewelry makes a perfect choice for daily wear because of its durability. With regular cleaning, gold-filled jewelry will continue to shine and remain scratch-free. The durability of gold-filled jewelry makes it a wise investment if you plan to wear it every day.

How Do You Make Gold-Filled Jewelry?

Making gold-filled jewelry includes an entirely different process than gold-plated jewelry. Making gold-filled jewelry requires high heat, pressure, and stacking gold and alloy metal layers. This process involves three layers:

  1. A gold top layer
  2. A middle layer or core, usually sterling silver
  3. A bottom gold layer

While this process provides more durability to your jewelry, it can limit the number of designs possible. The composition of metals makes for a less flexible end product. Typically, you cannot cast metal designs with this process. You can generally only use a stamp method for innovation, which severely limits the different possible aesthetics.

How Much Does Gold-Filled Jewelry Cost?

The cost of gold-filled vs. gold-plated jewelry tends to be more costly due to the higher quantities of gold. Gold-filled jewelry generally ranges from $30 to around $100, depending on the jewelry style. Keep in mind that a high-end retailer like Nordstrom may charge more for a similar piece of jewelry with the same amount of gold as a store like Target.

Which Is Stronger?

a broken gold ring

Gold-plated jewelry will scratch and fade if you wear the jewelry piece every day. While it appears like gold due to the single layer of solid gold on top, that layer will eventually rub off, exposing the brass or other alloy underneath. This reaction will make your jewelry look less bright until it no longer has any shine left.

On the other hand, you can wear gold-filled jewelry daily without tarnishing. To avoid your gold-filled jewelry looking dull, clean it often to remove buildup and grime. If properly cared for, gold-filled jewelry will last you a lifetime!

How To Tell the Difference Between Gold-Plated vs. Gold-Filled

If you find a piece of jewelry at a thrift shop and do not know if the piece is gold-filled or gold-plated, you should consider a few key elements.

Because gold-plated jewelry contains only a tiny amount of gold, it becomes far more flexible than gold-filled jewelry. The design of the jewelry itself can give you clues as to its composition. Gold-filled jewelry pieces usually feature a stamped or pressed appearance because of their composition. A piece of gold-filled jewelry will often have a signifier of “GF” after the karat number.

Best Uses for Gold-Plated Jewelry

If you frequently purchase fashion jewelry to keep up with the most current trends, gold-plated jewelry might be what you desire. Gold-plated jewelry makes an excellent gift for a friend because it costs less than solid gold or gold-filled jewelry. It also works perfectly for someone who frequently changes their jewelry daily, allowing a piece to get a break from wear and tear from daily use.

Best Uses for Gold-Filled Jewelry

Gold-filled jewelry makes an ideal choice for memorable gifts such as anniversaries, birthdays, and graduations. Gold-filled jewelry is more expensive because it contains more gold than gold-plated jewelry. With proper care, gold-filled jewelry can stand the test of time and look flawless years down the road.

Because of the high gold content, gold-filled jewelry is perfect for those who suffer from metal allergies.

The Gold Market Today

globe stack with coins

Today, the price of gold is roughly $1,869 per ounce. While this doesn’t drastically alter the price of gold-plated jewelry because it contains so little gold, it can increase the price of gold-filled jewelry. You will need to track the price of gold if you plan to use gold as an investment opportunity.

Resale Value of Gold-Plated vs. Gold-Filled Jewelry

Gold-plated jewelry does not have a high resale value based on the price of gold because it barely contains any gold.

Even though gold-filled jewelry contains about 5% gold, it doesn’t have a high resale value either. The cost to extract the pure gold from the gold alloy negates the value of the available gold.

Final Thoughts on Gold-Filled vs. Gold-Plated Jewelry

  •       Gold-filled jewelry will typically last a lifetime because it has many layers of gold, which prevents scratches and tarnishing.
  •       Gold-filled jewelry is more expensive than gold-plated jewelry, ranging in price upward of a few hundred dollars.
  •       Gold-filled jewelry has limitations on its designs because it is harder to make and is less flexible.
  •       Gold-plated jewelry contains only a minuscule amount of gold (>0.05%).
  •       Gold-plated jewelry will tarnish quickly if worn daily as the top layer of gold rubs off.
  •       Gold-plated jewelry is popular for its trendy designs and affordability.
  •       Gold-plated jewelry has limitless possibilities in terms of style because of its flexibility in design.

If you are curious about gold and want to learn more about investing in gold, Learn About Gold is here to help. Gold jewelry can become your first step in investing in gold. A gold IRA makes an excellent investment for your financial portfolio to take further action.

Contact us today to learn more about gold as an investment strategy.

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