The difference between Gold Plated, Gold Filled and Solid Gold

Posted by Lucia Mondella on

When it comes to buying jewelry, it can be difficult to compare types of gold and to understand what you are actually getting.  For example, how does a 10k ring compare to the same ring in 14k? Here are a few "key gold facts" that will help you understand what you're getting and give you the info you need to buy gold with confidence!


First of all: Karats

The definition of karats is "a measure of the purity of gold, pure gold being 24 karats". Think of a karat as “parts gold out of 24” (for example, 10 karat gold = 10 parts gold out of 24).

 

The different "types" of gold

The concept of “gold jewelry” can be very confusing. It can be solid gold jewelry,  gold filled or gold plated jewelry, and the difference in value and quality can be significant.


First of all the word “gold” can be used to describe the color of jewelry as well as the material of the piece. A reputable merchant should always disclose in their description what you are buying. It's in their own interest too, especially if they work with the higher quality materials! If you find it hard to find out whether you are paying for gold color or gold material, then you probably shouldn't even bother (and the answer is you're probably getting the cheaper version!).

This graphic shows the difference between solid, plated and filled jewelry.

 

Solid Gold

Solid Gold jewelry is the most valuable form of jewellery you can buy. Purity of gold is expressed as karats. The purest form of gold is expressed as 24 carats and is very yellow in color and soft in texture. Due to this, gold is often mixed (aka ‘alloyed’) with other metals to make it more durable (and less expensive) for the purposes of wearing it as jewellery. Gold is one of the most valuable resources in the world and will last a very long time as long if cared for properly.

 

Gold Filled

Gold Filled is made by bonding gold to a base metal called alloy (brass) to give it the appearance of gold. The process involves a high amount of heat and pressure and the resulting gold filled piece is typically more durable than a gold plated piece. 14k gold-filled jewelry is an excellent, affordable alternative to solid gold. It looks the same as solid gold and is great for people with skin sensitivity or allergies. It's the perfect compromise between the high cost of pure gold and the lower quality of gold plated jewelry.

Gold-filled might not have the same durability as solid gold (which can last literally forever), but it is still highly durable, and with proper care, it can offer decades of wear at a more affordable price. However, over time, Gold Filled jewellery will not hold its value like Solid Gold.

 

Gold Plated

Gold Plated jewellery consists of a very thin layer of gold being electrically charged onto a base metal or sterling silver. If sterling silver is plated in gold this can also be referred to as “Vermeil”. Gold Plated jewellery is the cheapest and lowest quality of the three metal types. They have an average lifespan of up to a year (with minimal exposure to moisture). People with sensitivities may find gold plated jewelry difficult to wear. It is a great solution if you want or need to be budget-conscious and you can wear pretty much any metal you like. Win-win, right? New jewelry+low cost, what's not love?

What is rose gold?

Rose gold follows the same specifications as yellow gold. Both 14k yellow gold and 14k rose gold alloys contain the same amount of 14-karat solid gold, but the combination of metals (copper in the case of rose gold) that are added to the pure, 24k gold changes the color—the pure gold part is that constant 58% of the alloy. 

This also explains why there are different shades of yellow and rose gold.

 

Which one is the best?

There are pros and cons to all types of metals. Solid Gold is generally the more superior metal because it’s the most durable, valuable and least irritating to those that have allergies to base metals. Solid Gold will be more expensive than plated or filled metals. Since it is sold by weight it will increase its value with time, assuming the piece has been properly taken care of. Which is a good reason to take advantage of the free cleaning service that many jewelries offer when buying a solid gold piece.

“Which is more expensive?”. An 18k gold piece of jewelry would be more expensive than a 14k gold one, because it contains more pure gold.  But in terms of jewelry, many people prefer 14k gold, not just because it is less expensive, but because it generally has a softer shade of yellow and is harder than 18k gold. 10k gold, by comparison, is even harder than 14k and has a lighter yellow shade, which can also be beautiful. Not everyone likes that "crayon yellow" shade of gold (that's what one of my customers once called it).

 

GIOIELLINI DESIGNS creates fashionable jewelry to meet the need for quality, yet accessible jewelry, in a market saturated by two extremes: fast-fashion and unattainable luxury.

Most of our necklace pendants are gold plated or silver plated, with the chains being either 14K gold filled or sterling silver.

Some pieces in our newest wire collection are made with argentium, instead of silver. For more info on argentium, stay tuned for our next blog post.

 


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