The Difference Between Solid Gold, Gold Filled and Gold Plated Jewelry
We get a lot of questions from people wanting to know the difference between solid gold, gold filled and gold plated jewelry. The best type of gold jewelry that's suited for you depends on a number of factors - your budget, how often you wear your jewelry and whether you’ll be able to take good care of it. Read below to find out the differences between these materials.
The gold used for jewelry isn’t actually pure gold — instead, it’s almost always a mix of gold and other metals. In its pure form, gold is extremely soft and malleable, which would not be ideal for a piece of jewelry as it is very easy to scratch, dent, warp or damage in other ways. Pure gold is also extremely bright, with a color closer to bright orange than the rich, warm gold color that most people associate with fine jewelry. To improve durability, gold is mixed with other metals before it’s crafted into jewelry. When people refer to solid gold jewelry, they almost always mean that it is made entirely of one material – usually, an alloy that contains gold mixed with other metals to make the compound harder and more durable.
The gold’s purity is measured using the karat system, which measures the ratio of pure gold to secondary metals used in the alloying process. There are various types including 10K, 14K, 18K and 24K gold. The 'K' stands for karat (or carat), and expresses the purity of the gold. The numbers represent how many parts gold to other metals there are in the mixture.10K gold is an alloy made up of 10 parts gold and 14 parts other metals such as copper, zinc, silver or nickel. In percentage terms, 10K gold contains 41.7% pure gold. Jewelry that is 10K gold will usually be stamped with a mark such as 10KT, 10K, 10kt or something similar.
The higher the amount of gold, the more expensive your piece will be. Counterintuitively, it will also be the least durable, since it’s made from a larger amount of pure gold and a smaller amount of more durable alloy metals.
Gold-filled jewelry is best for those looking for longevity and durability, but are more price-sensitive. It is considered the 'mid-range' option when buying gold jewelry.
Gold-filled jewelry is made by bonding gold to a base metal to give it the appearance of gold. The process involves a high amount of heat and pressure and the resultant gold filled piece is typically more durable than a gold plated piece. The most common stamps found on gold-filled jewelry are 1/20 12kt GF and 1/20 14kt GF. The layer of gold on gold-filled items is 5 to 10 times thicker than that produced by regular gold plating. Gold-filled jewelry is required to have a minimum of 1/20th (5%) gold by weight. The 5% gold in gold-filled jewelry may not sound like a lot, but it’s all on the outside and it's plenty to keep your jewelry looking great for many years.
Gold-fill is absolutely your best option after solid gold for quality and durability. You gold-filled jewelry should not rust, tarnish or flake off, and can be submerged in liquids without getting ruined. Gold-filled jewelry is safe for people with sensitive skin, as most people find they have no sensitivity to gold-filled jewelry. Because the outside of the piece is solid 10K or 14K gold, it interacts with your skin in the same way solid gold would.
Gold plated jewelry is great for those 'of the moment' trends, since its cost is typically lower than a gold filled or gold piece of jewelry. Gold plated jewelry is made by electrically charging a very thin layer of gold onto a base metal or sterling silver. If sterling silver is plated in gold this can also be referred to as “Vermeil". Buying gold plated jewelry is the best way you can be a part of the trend without having to worry about whether your investment into a more expensive piece was worth it. These pieces tend to be worn less frequently, so the look is more important than the durability. If you do decide to purchase a gold plated piece, it is best to keep it away from all water, sweat, perfume and any other substances that may cause wear.