What Does Gold Filled Mean?

You’ve heard of solid gold, you will have heard of gold-plated but might be a little confused with the term “gold filled”, which is sometimes referred to as rolled-gold.

You don’t see the description that often and it conjures up images of a piece being filled with gold!

So what does ‘gold filled’ mean? What is gold-filled jewellery and is it any good?

Gold-Fill is where a layer of gold is bonded strongly to a base metal, like brass.

You may think that this is just like gold-plate but it isn’t. Very specific quantities need to be used to be permitted to be called gold-filled (unlike in gold plating which can be any thickness).

Also, the process used to cover the item in gold is done differently than it is with gold plating. This produces a very solid adherence to the metal underneath which lasts very well.

This article will explain what gold fill is, how it differs, and if it’s better than solid gold and gold plating (or gold vermeil).

Silver and Opalite bangle with gold filled wire detailing
Silver and Opalite Bangle with Gold Filled Wire Detailing

What is Gold Filled Jewellery?

Gold filled jewellery is where a layer of gold, which must weigh a minimum of 1/20th (or 5%) of the total weight of the item, is mechanically bonded under extreme pressure and heat to a layer of metal underneath – often of brass but this can be silver.

Solid Gold vs Gold Filled

Solid gold jewellery is literally made of a solid metal alloy of gold. As pure gold is virtually unworkable it is mixed with other metals in varying amounts to give it strength and malleability (which is denoted by its carat – 18 carats or karat (18k) having more pure gold than 9 carats or karat (9k). If you want to read more on this you can read our blog here.

Gold-filled jewellery is made of either silver or base metal, like brass, which has a heavy layer of solid 14k gold over the top.

Manufacturers can only call gold filled jewellery gold-filled if the layer of gold weighs at least 5% of the total weight of the item. So it’s a good, thick layer.

Gold-Filled vs Gold-Plated Jewellery

Gold Plated jewellery can be any thickness of gold. They measure the thickness in microns (indeed, many brands will state how many microns thick their gold plating is). Gold Plating can be a minimum of 0.5 microns thick to a minimum of 2.5 microns thick in the case of gold vermeil.

This means gold filled jewellery can have a layer of gold 10-15 times thicker than gold plated jewellery. You can read our blog on gold-plated jewellery here.

To create gold plated jewellery, the gold is encased, or laid on top of, a base metal by a process of electrochemical bonding. With ‘gold vermeil’ jewellery, they layer the gold on top of the silver. It is extreme heat and pressure that is used to bond gold to create gold-filled jewellery.

Silver pendant with gold filled detail and freshwater pearl
Silver Pendant with Freshwater Pearl and Gold Filled Detailing
Comparing golds diagram
Comparing Golds. Copyright @CaratheaJewellery

How Long Will Gold-Fill Last?

Gold Filled jewellery, with reasonable care, will last 10-30 years without wearing, flaking or coming away. Gold Plated jewellery won’t be as long-lasting.

How Do You Know If Something Has Been Gold-Filled?

Items that are gold filled will have the stamp on the item (although lightweight jewellery pieces may not need to be hallmarked or stamped) but they should be sold as Gold-Filled if that’s what they are.

Any stamp on the inside of the jewellery will note the carat of the gold used, for instance, 14k or 18k, followed by GF for ‘gold filled’.

Does Gold-Filled Jewellery Last?

Yes, it does. If you take good care of your jewellery (which you should do even if the piece is made of solid gold), gold filled jewellery will last many years. It won’t flake or wear thin.

Is Gold-Filled Jewellery Good Quality?

Yes, it is. As already talked about, gold filled jewellery lasts very well and you will get years of wearability out of these pieces. If you look after them well and protect the pieces whilst not wearing them, the pieces could well last decades.

Is It Expensive?

Gold Filled jewellery is considerably cheaper than solid gold and therefore makes it much easier for people to buy pieces of jewellery that they love, which may otherwise be cost-prohibitive if made in solid gold. 

How Do You Care For Gold Filled Jewellery?

As with all jewellery, even solid gold pieces, keep jewellery away from strong chemicals like cleaning fluids, perfumes, lotions and products which contain chemicals.

Don’t scratch or wear your jewellery in situations where you’d like to know or repeatedly rub the surface of the piece. (For instance, please remove your jewellery before doing heavy jobs or housework).

Clean your jewellery with suitable, gentle products designed for the material – for gold-filled jewellery use a soft detergent in warm water with a makeup brush to reach the nooks and crannies, or a jewellery cleaning cloth or jewellery cleaning dip for gold jewellery.

Does Gold-Fill Jewellery Tarnish?

Gold fill jewellery shouldn’t tarnish any more than solid gold pieces. If it does, a quick wipe over with a gold cleaning cloth will restore its lustre.

Does Gold-Filled Jewellery Irritate Sensitve Skin?

It shouldn’t do as there is a very thick layer of gold over a brass or silver base. Gold is a very inert metal, and it’s unusual for it to irritate the skin. If you have any deep scratches on the item of jewellery or worn to such a degree that any brass layer underneath comes in contact with your skin, this may cause problems. But, if you check your jewellery every once in a while you should spot this before it becomes a problem.

To Sum Up….

On the whole, gold-filled jewellery offers a great, inexpensive way to wear pieces of jewellery that look gold or have gold accents on them without the price tag (and worry) of wearing solid gold.

We hope this has answered the questions you had about gold-filled jewellery. Do ask in the comments box if there is anything we haven’t covered.

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