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13 Things to Know About Gold Filled Jewelry

Gold vermeil jewelry FAQs

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Gold-filled is the perfect alternative for those who want traditional golden jewelry at a reasonable price.  Although gold filled jewelry doesn’t have the same value as pure gold, it’s still sought-after for its affordability and similarity to solid gold. But there’s a lot of misconceptions and myths surrounding this type of metal, so to clear up any confusion, let’s take a look at 13 things you should know about gold filled jewelry before you buy.

What is Gold Filled?

Gold filling is a technique discovered by John Turner in 1817 and became particularly famous during the Victorian Era. Although the technique of gold filling was used from the 1800’s, it began to be regulated and inspected only after the First World War.

This type of gold is made by fusing a solid layer of gold to a base metal, typically brass or some other low-end metal. The gold ranges in purity but is generally over 12K. The legal requirement for gold-filled jewelry is that it should make up at least 5% of the item’s total weight.

The quality of gold-filled jewelry depends on the percentage of gold, and the base metal used. The cost varies, depending on whether the base metal is copper, brass, nickel or silver. 

What are the different types of base materials used for Gold Filled?

In the past, sterling silver was commonly used as the base metal for gold filled jewelry. Today, this is known as gold vermeil. These days, a metal known as jeweler’s brass is predominantly used as the base metal for gold filled jewelry. It consists of 10% zinc and 90% copper.

What is the difference between Gold Filled and Gold Plated?

These two terms are often confused, but there’s a lot of difference between gold filled and gold plated jewelry.

Simply put, gold filled jewelry has more pure gold than gold plating. In general, a gold filled item has at least 5% of gold making up its total weight, while gold plating only has around .05%. The thicker layer of gold in gold filled jewelry makes it longer lasting and more durable. It’s also more valuable.

There’s also a difference in how the metals are manufactured. In gold filled jewelry, the precious metal is bonded or fused to the base metal using pressure and heat.  Gold plating is done via electroplating or ‘dipping’ the base metal into a gold bath.  

What is the difference between Gold Filled and Solid Gold?

The answer to this question should be clear but let’s go over it just in case. Gold filled jewelry has a thick layer of gold coating its surface, whereas solid gold is just that – solid gold.

Remember that gold is typically alloyed with other metals to enhance its durability, so unless the item is made of 24K gold (pure gold), it will be alloyed with other metals. Naturally, solid gold is more expensive, has a greater resale value, and is more durable.

A choice between gold filled jewelry and solid gold depends on the occasion, purpose, and budget. If you’re looking for heirloom-quality jewelry, consider buying solid gold. But if you’re content with a moderately durable piece at a good price, opt for a gold filled piece.  

How thick should the Gold Filling be?

One of the most important characteristics of gold filled jewelry is the thickness of the gold layer. Gold filled jewelry with thicker gold layers are more expensive, but they also last longer. The bands of gold are usually anywhere between 0.03 and 0.1 millimeter thick.

Does Gold Filled jewelry have a resale value?

The downside of gold filled jewelry is that it doesn’t have a high resale value as it contains little gold. Even though it contains at least 5% of gold, the process of refining the gold isn’t worthwhile unless you have a lot of gold filled jewelry to refine. Most people purchase gold filled jewelry not as an investment but as an inexpensive alternative to gold jewelry. If you’re looking for valuable jewelry with high resale value, it’s best to go with items made entirely of precious metals. 

Does Gold Filled jewelry tarnish?

Gold filled jewelry is resistant to scratches and damage, with a lower likelihood of them peeling, tarnishing or discoloring. This is because the sheets of gold attached to the base metal thick, compared to gold plated jewelry. However, gold filled jewelry can lose its color and turn darker, especially when exposed to heat or chemicals. For the most part however, with proper cleaning and care, it’s very rare for gold filled ornaments to tarnish.  

How is Gold Filled jewelry marked?

When purchasing gold filled jewelry, look for the hallmark that indicates what it is.

  • GF – Gold filled jewelry is marked with the acronym GF for Gold Filled. This is stamped or printed on the piece of jewelry to clearly identify the metal and to avoid confusion with other types of gold.  
  • Karat number – A gold filled item will have a karat number to reflect the purity, quality and percentage of gold. For instance, a 10-karat gold ring would contain 41.7% of solid gold concealing the base metal.  

Note: Some items could be etched with the letters RGP which stands for Rolled Gold Plate. These items are bound to have a much thinner layer of gold than the ones that are stamped with GF.

How durable is Gold Filled jewelry?

The durability of gold filled jewelry depends on several factors. For instance, the quality and thickness of the gold layer can determine the strength and durability of the item.  Gold filled jewelry that has a thicker band of gold can last for about 30-40 years, while others can only retain their luster for about eight years. But durability also depends on how the item is being cleaned, polished and maintained.

Does Gold Filled last longer than sterling silver?

Gold filled items don’t last as long as sterling silver. In fact, many people even compare the durability of sterling silver to that of solid gold and say that both can last for a very long time. However, choosing between gold filled and sterling silver depends on the preference of the buyer. While some would like to own something that resembles solid gold, others prefer silver for both its color and durability.

 How do you clean and maintain Gold Filled jewelry?

Gold filled jewelry can last for a very long time depending on the maintenance. It is important for buyers to read up on how it should be cleaned and what should be avoided while wearing gold filled items.

Things to avoid:

  • It’s best to not wear any gold filled jewellery while entering a public pool, as these contain high levels of chlorine that can tarnish and damage the item.
  • Gold filled jewelry should also be removed before exercising, as constant exposure to salt and sweat can gradually damage the ornament.
  • It would also be a better idea to remove the item before applying creams, hairspray or lotions that contain a lot of chemicals.

Tips for cleaning:

  • It’s always good to clean the gold filled item regularly. It can be gently washed with plain water and thoroughly dried, or merely be wiped with a soft cloth, depending on the lifestyle and day to day activities.
  • If the item has been exposed to harsh chemicals, it’s best to give it a thorough clean. Mix a mild soap with warm water and let the piece soak in the solution. To take of any excess dirt, use a soft toothbrush.
  • You can also use polishing cloths and commercial cleaning liquids, but these can cause damage to the piece, so always double check whether it’s safe to use.

Does Gold Filled jewelry come under the category of fine jewelry?

Gold filled jewelry doesn’t come under the category of fine jewelry because this is a term that is used to refer to items made of solid gold, sterling silver, platinum, and other precious metals.

Gold filled items belong to a category called Demi-Fine jewelry, which is only one step below fine jewelry. Demi-fine means that the piece is of very good quality, but can be bought at an affordable price.

Can Gold Filled jewelry cause skin sensitivity or allergies?

It’s very rare for gold filled jewelry to cause skin sensitivity or allergies. This is because the base metal is usually covered with a thick layer of gold, which is hypoallergenic.  In very rare circumstances, when the gold wears off, the skin might get exposed to the base metal. If you have metal allergies, this can cause sensitivity, rashes or irritation. This can be avoided if the gold filled item is properly maintained and cared for.

Wrapping Up

Gold filled jewelry is an excellent alternative to gold jewelry, offering good value and high quality. When taken care of, these pieces of jewelry can last several decades. If you want to learn about other types of plating, check out our in-depth guides on rhodium plating and gold plating.