When shopping for jewelry, have you ever come across a piece that is designated as gold-filled? What does this mean? How is such jewelry made?
Gold-Filled Is Not Gold-Plated
These two terms can be misunderstood. Both types have a core metal that is not gold. Let’s start there. We know the piece will be cheaper than a solid gold article.
The difference is that gold-plated jewelry has an extremely thin coating of solid gold (not pure gold, mind you). It may have a coating of 10k or 14k gold, for example.
Gold-filled jewelry has a heavier coating of gold alloy on it. The gold-filled jewelry therefore would wear better, although its coating would eventually wear thin and tarnish just as the gold-plated one would.
Naturally, the more gold, the higher the price.
How Is Gold-Filled Jewelry Manufactured?
A core metal such as brass is used for the interior of the piece. Then a thick gold sheet is wrapped around the core and fused with heat to the underlying metal. The result is sometimes called “rolled gold” or “gold overlay”. The thickness of the gold is usually between .03 and .l millimeters.
Stamping of the Gold-Filled Piece
When you see a stamp on a gold-filled piece of jewelry, the karat number refers only to the gold on the surface, not to the underlying metal. There should also be a mark of GF denoting gold-filled. The marking is commonly written like this: 1/20 14K GF, meaning the gold is 1/20th of the weight of the item, it’s 14k gold and it’s gold-filled. Most gold-filled jewelry is between 10 and 20 karats.
Naturally, the thicker the layer of gold the longer the piece will retain its gold appearance. Eventually, though, the jewelry will show the core metal underneath and will have to be coated again to be usable as jewelry. Don’t count on it lasting more than about 8 years, with average use.
So, next time you come across such a piece of jewelry, you will be better able to evaluate it and its use for your purposes.