Solid Gold vs. Gold Filled vs. Gold Plated
This article originally written by Rupa Jogani under the title, "The Ultimate Guide to Differentiate Solid, Filled and Plated Gold Jewelry"
We know gold is the ideal metal standard in jewelry, but with the different ways it’s used it can be difficult to know what you’re paying for. With help from our expert, fourth generation jeweler and Pratiksha designer, Tisha Vaidya, we compiled a simple guide to highlight the differences between solid gold, gold plated, and gold filled jewelry -- and why you should care.
SOLID GOLD (AVERAGE LIFESPAN: FOREVER)
Solid gold jewelry is the highest standard of gold and is also an immediate indicator that you have a piece of fine jewelry. Since pure gold (24k) is too soft for everyday wear, high end gold jewelry is sold with karat weights ranging from 14-24k. Solid gold is typically alloyed with another metal (like copper, nickel, zinc, or silver) to make it sturdier for design creation and creates different colors of gold (rose, yellow, white - even purple and green!). A professional jeweler will certify the jewelry piece with a stamp if it is solid gold. <br />If cared for properly, solid gold jewelry retains its value over time and can be passed down for generations. Proper care is simple - all you need is a polishing cloth or wash with soft, soapy water.
GOLD FILLED (AVERAGE LIFESPAN: 5-30 YEARS)
Unlike gold plated jewelry, a gold filled (or rolled gold plated) piece uses slightly more gold making it durable and longer lasting than gold plated jewelry, and also less expensive than solid gold. Gold filled jewelry is made by bonding gold to a base metal, usually sterling silver or brass, using high heat and pressure. This makes it very similar to gold plated jewelry since the gold is on top of the base metal rather than mixed into it, like solid gold jewelry. Gold filled pieces are created by jewelry manufacturers looking for ways to keep the appearance quality high and sale cost low. Despite it looking very similar to solid gold jewelry, the amount of actual gold used in it is only a fraction of the karat weight (i.e. 1/20th of a 14k piece by weight). In the long run, it won’t wear as well (typically averaging a life span of 5-30 years) and this makes the overall value of the piece of jewelry significantly lesser than if it was solid gold.
GOLD PLATED (AVERAGE LIFESPAN: ABOUT 1 YEAR)
Gold plated jewelry has a much lower quality threshold compared to solid gold. In fact, there is such a small amount of actual gold used in plated jewelry that it inevitably rubs away over time, leaving you with a dull metal piece. <br />To create a gold plated piece a very thin layer of real gold is electrically charged onto a base metal, such as copper or nickel, to make it look like solid gold. Gold plated jewelry is often used in costume jewelry to lower the cost as much as possible while still trying to make it look like you are getting a nice piece (at first). Beware, the base metals used in gold plated jewelry can turn your skin green and also cause allergic reactions, like rashes.
Solid gold jewelry is the most desired and retains its resale value for longer periods of time versus gold plated or gold filled jewelry. Prices may be daunting, but remember - purchasing a solid gold piece of jewelry is an investment. In the long run, you could end up spending just as much re-purchasing costume jewelry that’s wearable as you would have buying one quality piece of solid gold jewelry.
Rupa Jogani is a Contributing Writer and Social Media Manager for Heirlume. She knows the ins and the outs of jewelry from a family history long embedded in the industry. Her preferred jewelry style is using very few pieces that each have their own subtly unique, eye-catching qualities.