Gold Plated Vs. Gold Filled Jewelry -- What's The Difference?

gold plated vs. gold filled jewelry

If you’re confused about the difference between gold-filled and gold-plated jewelry, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll discuss everything buyers need to know about gold-filled vs. gold-plated jewelry. 

Both options are popular jewelry metals, but while they share commonalities, they aren’t the same metal.

One has a minuscule layer of gold plating bonded to a base metal, and the other is a layered gold alloy mounted to a base metal. Key differences between gold-filled and gold-plated jewelry is the percentage of gold content used, as well as the manufacturing process. But there’s much more to cover on the subject.

Let’s jump right in!

What is Gold-Plated Jewelry?

Gold-plated jewelry is a thin layer of gold alloy that’s bonded to a base metal like brass, steel, copper, or sterling silver. The reason there is a base metal is that gold-plating mimics the look of fine gold jewelry without the price tag. In other words, there’s only a tiny slice of real gold in the jewelry.

gold plated pendant with pearl and opalGold-plated jewelry is an affordable alternative that lends itself well to fashion jewelry. If you want to stay up-to-date on the latest trends without breaking the bank, gold plated is a fabulous option!

How much gold is used in gold-plated jewelry? 

Not much. Gold plated jewelry contains less than .05% of gold. The gold layer is minuscule and would be virtually invisible if it weren’t for gold’s naturally bright yellow coloring. 

You might think the tiny gold contents are a disadvantage, but there’s certainly a place for gold plating in the jewelry market, thanks to its budget-friendly price points. 

gold plated ring with emeraldHow long does gold-plated jewelry last?

Unfortunately, the lifespan of gold-plated jewelry isn’t long because it’s more susceptible to scratching and tarnishing. Daily wear and tear will wear down the tiny gold layer and expose the jeweler’s brass beneath. 

You might wonder why gold plating is so thin. To answer that, we need to compare the manufacturing processes of gold-filled vs. gold-plated jewelry.

How is gold-plated jewelry made?

Wondering how jewelers create the micro gold layer? Making gold-plated jewelry involves three ingredients: base metal, gold pieces, and electroplating solution. The last item is both an ingredient and part of the manufacturing process. 

First, the base metal and the gold pieces take a bath in the electroplating solution. Next, an electric current sends a negative charge to the base metal and a positive charge to the solution and gold bits. 

gold plated ring with diamondsFrom there, the positive-charged gold pieces bond to the negative-charged base metal, forming a thin gold layer around the metal.

The result is a newly gold-plated jewelry item! Pretty neat process, right? So, how does it differ from gold-filled jewelry?

Let’s compare.

What is Gold-Filled Jewelry?

Before we get to the manufacturing technique, let’s cover the important details about gold-filled jewelry and how it differs from gold-plated.

gold filled pendantGold-filled jewelry has layers of gold alloy bonded to a metal core. While it sounds similar to gold-plated, it’s entirely different — from manufacturing to longevity. See, gold-filled jewelry has layers of gold alloy, rather than one external layer of pure gold. This is an important feature because it ultimately creates a more durable, long-lasting jewelry metal.

Is gold-filled real gold?

Not exactly. Gold in its natural state contains 100% pure gold, with no addition of alloyed metals. While the gold used to make gold-filled jewelry contains solid gold, the entire metal itself isn’t pure. So technically, gold-filled contains real gold, along with various alloys, but the item itself isn’t 100% real gold. 

Does that makes sense? If not, let’s expand on the gold contents to bring it full circle.

gold filled earringsHow much gold is used in gold-plated jewelry? 

About a hundred times more than gold-plated jewelry, for starters, which equals about 5% of pure gold. That comes out to a 1/20 ratio, with one part of the metal being gold and the remaining parts containing the core metal.

How long does gold-filled jewelry last?

You’ll notice that gold-filled jewelry has a much longer lifespan than gold-plated. Why? Because instead of having a tiny, vulnerable layer of gold, gold-filled is, well, filled with layers of gold. Thanks to its higher percentage of gold, the jewelry is thicker and more durable. 

Ultimately, daily wear and tear won’t have a significant impact thanks to the manufacturing process. Speaking of which...

gold filled pendantHow is gold-filled jewelry made?

Rather than using the electroplating process, gold-filled jewelry requires intense heat and pressure. There are three layers and they’re structured like a sandwich:

  • The bottom layer is gold alloy

  • The middle layer is a metal core of brass or sterling silver

  • The top layer is also gold alloy

These layers receive high heat and are then rolled over repeatedly to bond the metals together. And that sums up the key details of gold-filled jewelry!

Key Differences Between Gold-Plated vs. Gold-Filled Jewelry

Is gold-filled jewelry worth buying? Is gold-plated a waste of money? What occasions and uses does each type of metal lend itself to?

We’ve covered a lot, so let’s briefly recap the differences between gold-filled and gold-plated jewelry.

  • Gold content: Gold-filled has multiple gold layers, and contains a higher percentage of gold than gold-plated.

  • Manufacturing process: Gold-filled jewelry is pressure bonded, while gold-plated is electroplated.

  • Value and pricing: Gold-filled has at least 5% gold that’s a minimum of 10k, so it’s more expensive than gold-plated. However, both are inexpensive alternatives to fine gold jewelry.

  • Durability: Gold-plated jewelry is vulnerable to scratching and tarnishing, which exposes the brassy metal core. Gold-filled is bonded with thicker gold alloy and will last a lifetime with proper care and maintenance. 

  • Best for: Gold-plated jewelry is great for fashion items and trendy, statement pieces you don’t want to splurge on. Gold-filled combines durability with quality, making it great for daily wear, thoughtful gifts, and special occasions. 

Now that you’ve got the full breakdown of gold-plated vs. gold-filled jewelry, which is right for you? The truth is that they each serve a purpose. Gold plated jewelry is affordable and trendy while gold-filled is timeless and durable. Bottom line: there’s a gold jewelry option for everyone!

Shop gold jewelry to find yours today!

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