What’s The Difference Between Gold Filled And Gold Plated?


One of the most memorable times I admire was in the 1990s when Michael Jackson’s gold-filled video do you remember the time came out.

Though outstanding visual artisan gold design work, like you, I still asked myself if all that glitter is real gold. Today we know it was probably gold-filled or gold-plated and this brings me straight to our today’s topic.

Gold-filled jewelry is bonded when a base metal, precisely jewelers brass is layered with a thick gold coating of minimum 10-Karat gold and the brass base must be 35% zinc at max. The rest is copper, occasionally silver is added. On the other, gold-plated is any metal covered by a thin gold layer.

This is huge, right? Especially,  when deciding to shop for gold-filled or gold-plated jewelry gifts for yourself or a loved one concerning quality, price, possible allergies, and duration. 

Let me help you make a sound buying decision by getting deeper into the pros and cons of both gold jewelry options in terms of creation, quality, duration, possible allergies, and of course, appearance as well as price.

Gold Filled vs Gold Plated Explained

Though gold-plated and gold-filled may seem to be resembling solid gold pieces, they distinguish from each other significantly:

Gold Filled versus Gold-Plated Chart

Gold-Filled Jewelry Gold-Plated Jewelry
Made of jeweler brass metal (zinc, copper)* Any metal base (precious or not)
Thick solid gold layer (5%), 10K or more Thin solid gold layer (0.5%)
Gold is bonded top-bottom, pressure, and heat process Gold is electroplated (dipped in a solution)
Perceived high value Perceived lower value
Durable Non-durable
Source:Litawear.com, *next to zinc and copper, silver may be added

Gold-Filled Jewelry Benefits and Drawbacks

The joy of wearing real gold instead of purely alloys, including higher graded gold-filled jewelry items is more than that is due to its appearance, rich history, perceived high value, and eternity symbol from ancient times to modern days.

#1 Legal Advantage

Gold-filled is compared to gold-plated usually higher priced due to the thick gold content of 5% or more to label it officially gold-filled as stated by the US Federal Trade Commission body (FTC).

In other words, no jeweler can mislead you by saying you are buying a gold-filled chain when in fact it doesn’t fulfill the official and clear requirements of the gold-filled standard.

Gold-filled is a legal jewelry term, not just a fun fashion label.

#2 Gold-Filled Value Jewelry

When you purchase gold-filled hooks it’s probably a high dollar value in comparison to electroplated brass items coated with a thin gold layering.

That’s because gold filled is a process that at the end completely bonds the base metal brass with thick layers of gold. Usually covering all sides of the core metal by pressure and heat until the desired bonding is achieved. The thick of it is measured in microns above 1 to signify high thickness.

Therefore, gold-filled rings have not just perceived higher value, but are a real and pawnable evaluation you can typically trust when it comes to gold jewelry types since there any a couple of choices to select from.

#3 Gold-Filled Rose or Yellow Benefit

Next to the above two advantages, gold-filled necklaces and other items can be purchased with different glowing colors that will make him or her speechless.

People get themselves gold-filled jewelry also because of their stunning appearance that truly resembles real yellow or trendy and feminine rose gold better than electroplated golden items.

Copper proportions in gold-filled accessories determine the surface color of a gold-filled ring from yellow (lower copper percentage) to rose gold-filled (higher copper proportion). The solid gold proportions though remain the same e.g. at 14K, for both gold alloys (mixtures).

Gold-plated pendants or bands cannot achieve this quality of appearance and material solidity or durability attained by the higher percentages of fine gold in gold-filled fashion jewelry.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Gold-Plated Jewelry

Jewelry For Daily Wear

Costume jewelry is a fantastic statement to showcase your current mood and taste of the moment and your gold-plated jewelry collection is a perfect place to draw inspiration from daily.

Therein lies one of the biggest advantages of gold-plated name necklaces and other body accessories made of this popular material.

Gold-plated items are inexpensive, trendy, and available in different styles, colors, and sizes. This combination is unique and perfectly explains custom jewelry success.

Drawbacks Gold Plated vs Gold Filled

None of the two metals are perfect because neither gold-plated earrings nor gold-filled bracelets and so on are 100% solid gold made.

What is a gold alloy?

Both metals are so-called metal alloys, which means they are core metals mixed with gold each in a specific way to give them the typical yellow appearance. Whereby, the jewelry result can significantly differ from each other as well as towards pure gold.

The problem with gold-plated is its thin layer with gold regarding different material quality and durability. On one hand, let’s be honest, gold alloys that are durable and forever, like platinum base material, cost a fortune.

Gold-filled Disadvantage

On the other side, engraved gold-filled lockets may be more durable, nevertheless, ability of wear and tear may still occur when the chain is excessively polished, and it may scratch too.

Though the latter is less likely to occur compared to gold-plated pieces of jewelry.

Nonetheless, sometimes tear and wear off happens with gold-filled, whereas sold gold, remains well, solid for decades or generations.

What about…

Gold-filled vs solid gold?

Real gold is the clear winner, albeit the latter at a retail price suitable for bespoke fine jewelry only.

Differences Gold-filled versus Gold-plated (Conclusion) 

Outside these drawbacks, gold-filled jewelry (and to some extent plated gold)  gifts for her or him are a viable option to make someone happy with something special, durable, and of high quality only surpassed by costly 100% real gold.

A gold-plated accessory too has its place when it comes to fast fashion or special occasions. 

Especially where you just want to wear an anniversary or promise ring for a season or two, before you switch to a stunning rose gold-filled engagement ring etc.

What about other gold mixes?

If you want something in between these two interesting gold mixtures in terms of quality, duration, and price, then maybe this handy gold vermeil vs gold-plated article I previously wrote can help you further.

Now I’m going back to practice the moonwalk, possibly another real Sicilian pasta dish is awaiting me in the evening as a reward from my Italian sweetheart.

How Long Does Gold-Filled Jewelry Last?

A gold-filled accessory can actually last for 5 years or longer as long as one wears it and then clean them gently with a soft cloth afterward. This is due to the relatively thick layer gold of 5% solid gold (minimum 10 Karat) required to officially label a ring gold-filled (GF or RGP).

Does Gold-Filled Jewelry Tarnish?

Jewelry made of the gold-filled alloy by sandwiching the base metal of zinc and especially copper into brass with real gold, tarnishing will not occur. Provided you keep the gold mixture away from showering or water as well as body sweat, acids, and pool chemicals. Scratching too should be avoided.

What Is Gold-Filled Jewelry Worth?

The worth of gold-filled jewelry ranges from simple pieces of yellowish necklaces under $50.00 to more sophisticated charm bracelets in the price category of $250.00 and beyond. Handmade designer pieces may even cost more. Generally, a gold-filled 24K is an affordable, trendsetting item to buy.

Bill Dominic

Bill is an art history and business graduate. Moreover, he loves to test, compare, shop jewelry & fashion items for his 5 sisters, girlfriend, nieces when not enjoying a great novel.

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