Gold Filled vs. Gold Plated: Understanding the Differences
Within the world of gold jewelry, there are several different types of gold pieces. Gold filled jewelry, gold plated jewelry, and real gold jewelry are created using various manufacturing methods. They also boast different amounts of gold content and other metals, depending on their make-up.
When looking for the best quality gold pieces, it is important to learn what each type of gold product is, how it’s made, and whether or not it is considered a high-quality option.
Brief History of Gold
As a precious metal, gold has a long association with wealth and royalty. As long ago as 4000 B.C.E, gold was used to make decorative items in Eastern Europe. Around 1500 B.C.E., gold became a standard form of international trade due to its use in Egyptian civilization, and in 1091 China began using gold squares as a legal form of tender.
The earliest instances of gold jewelry are found in the ancient Iraq civilization of Sumer, where intricate gold jewelry pieces adorned the bodies of the wealthy. Ancient Egyptians also wore gold jewelry, associating the precious metal with the power of the sun God, Ra. The ancient Egyptians began alloying gold with other metals around 1200 B.C.E., paving the way for all colors of gold jewelry.
The value of gold fluctuates on the modern market but remains one of the staples of wealth in the global trading sector. As of November 2021, its value is $1,860 per ounce. Gold reached an all-time high on August 7, 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic caused rates to soar to $2,067.15 per ounce, so a slight decline is to be expected. Gold and high-quality gold jewelry remain, as they have for centuries, good investments and markers of wealth.
What is Gold Filled Jewelry?
Gold filled jewelry features a solid layer of gold attached or bonded to a metal base. During the manufacturing process, gold is bonded to jeweler’s steel, sterling silver, or copper. Manufacturers use pressure and high heat to bond the metals together, creating a piece with gold on the outside and a cheaper, more durable metal on the inside.
There are three construction methods, called clads, for gold filled jewelry. Single clad, double clad, and wire clad. Single clad gold filled pieces bond the gold content onto one side of the jewelry, giving it a heavier gold appearance on the front only.
Double clad pieces place the gold onto two surfaces, typically the front and back of a piece. This gives the appearance of solid gold.
Wire clad pieces feature a thin layer of gold bonded to an inner layer of brass in the shape and thinness of a wire.
Gold filled jewelry’s legal requirement is at least 5% gold alloy bonded to the inner metal. Typically, gold filled pieces are labeled with a karate amount, either 12K or 14K, followed by a “/20”. For example, a 12K filled piece label would read “12/20 gold filled.”
Some pieces may use the abbreviation “GF” to indicate that they are gold filled. The National Gold and Silver Stamping Act of 1905 makes it illegal for manufacturers to label a gold filled piece as gold because this indicates solid gold and is considered fraudulent.
What is Gold Plated Jewelry?
Gold plated jewelry is made from durable metals, like nickel or brass, dipped or coated in a thin layer of gold. The process of gold plating, also known as electroplating, uses electric currents to adhere the two metals together. The weight of the gold plating is typically between .05% and .025% of the entire piece, making the layer of gold extremely thin.
Like gold filled jewelry, regulations state that gold plated pieces must be labeled accurately to avoid fraudulent transactions. For gold plated pieces, the labels detail the percentile of gold against the total weight of the piece. For instance, if a piece is dipped in 14K gold and the gold content is .025% of the entire weight, the label should read “1/40 14K gold plated.” You may also see the term “gold overlay.”
The gold layer on gold plated jewelry is so thin that it wears off quickly. Products like perfume, hair spray, sweat, shampoo, chlorine, and even natural sweat all affect the look of gold plated jewelry. They can cause it to tarnish, darken, or even rub off completely.
The thin layer of gold on gold plated pieces is also easily scratched off. All these factors make gold plated jewelry affordable but impractical as long-term pieces for your collection.
Gold Filled vs. Gold Plated: Which is Better?
When comparing gold filled jewelry to gold plated jewelry, there are several categories to consider: value, purpose, durability, longevity, appearance, and cost.
Gold filled pieces carry more market value than gold plated pieces. The composition process allows higher gold content on filled pieces, giving them a higher precious metal composition. This makes them more valuable on the market than gold plated pieces.
Gold filled pieces are suitable for most jewelry collections. When made well, they tend to keep their shine and gold color and maintain durability.
Gold plated jewelry does not last as long as an everyday piece, nor does it belong in a long-term collection. However, gold plated jewelry works for costume pieces or trendy pieces that you only plan to wear a few times.
Gold filled jewelry and gold plated jewelry are both durable in their own way. Gold filled features gold content made more durable and scratch-resistant by the base metal to which it’s bonded.
Gold plated jewelry is almost entirely made of base metal. The thin gold coating is not durable at all and wears off easily.
When taken care of properly, gold filled jewelry can last a long time. As long as you keep the gold portion from scratching or denting, this type of piece is something you can keep for many years.
Gold plated jewelry is not long-lasting and will likely need to be replaced within a few months.
Both filled gold and gold plated look decent when first purchased. Unfortunately, gold plated jewelry quickly loses its sheen. It is prone to tarnishing due to the metals underneath the surface and is known to darken when exposed to chemicals and sunlight.
Gold plated pieces contain less gold content, making them more affordable than filled gold options. However, this may make them more expensive in the long run, especially if you keep buying pieces because they lose their gold layer quickly. Gold filled may be a better option, although it is slightly more expensive.
Between gold plated jewelry and gold filled jewelry, gold filled jewelry is superior. However, the best option for long-term, high-quality pieces for your collection of gold chains for men is 14K or 18K gold.
What is Gold Jewelry?
Unlike gold filled or gold plated, gold jewelry is made of a gold alloy in which pure gold accounts for most of the product’s composition. Gold is a malleable precious metal, so jewelry manufacturers often combine pure gold with other metals, such as platinum, copper, and nickel, to create more durable pieces.
Gold pieces are designated by karats, a measurement that marks the purity level of a gold piece. 24K gold is pure gold and indicates that 24 out of 24 parts are gold. An 18K piece indicates that it comprises 18 parts of gold combined with 6 parts other metals, and 14K gold represents 14 parts of gold mixed with 10 parts alternative metals. To label a piece as gold, it must be at least 10K in the U.S.
Alloying gold with other metals gives it unique coloring along with durability. Although exact percentages vary, the following are examples of metal alloy combinations for yellow, white, and rose gold by karat:
- 14K Yellow Gold: 58.3% gold, 30% silver, 11.7% copper
- 18K Yellow Gold: 75% gold, 15% silver, 10% copper
- 14K White Gold: 58.3% gold, 32.2% silver, 9.5% palladium
- 18K White Gold: 75% gold, 25% palladium
- 14K Rose Gold: 58.3% gold, 9.2% silver, 32.5% copper
- 18K Rose Gold: 75% gold, 2.5% silver, 22.5% copper
What are the Benefits of Gold Jewelry?
Gold jewelry boasts many excellent characteristics that make it beloved by consumers and jewelers alike. The following are several benefits of wearing and owning gold jewelry:
- Gold does not tarnish
- Gold is malleable and workable
- Gold lasts indefinitely when well cared for
- Gold does not oxidize or corrode
- Gold is rarely damaged by chemicals or acids
- Pure gold is hypoallergenic
In addition to these benefits, wearing gold jewelry is thought to have beneficial effects on skin temperature.
Gold vs. Gold Filled and Gold Plated
Gold jewelry is far superior to gold filled and gold plated jewelry for several reasons.
Gold jewelry is more valuable than gold filled or gold plated pieces. 14K gold, the most popular choice among consumers, contains about 58% pure gold, while gold filled pieces only have roughly 5%.
Gold jewelry lasts longer than gold plated or gold filled pieces. Gold itself lasts indefinitely. Due to the high gold content in gold pieces, they are more likely to last if you clean and handle them properly.
Nothing beats the appearance of high-quality gold jewelry. For instance, 14K rose gold chains contain 58% pure gold, which gives them a lustrous, blushing appearance. Their solid construction and high gold content provide a rich depth, and shiny look that gold filled and gold plated pieces cannot emulate.
Gold on its own is malleable, but when alloyed with other metals in the right proportions, it is extremely durable. Copper, palladium, and silver alloys harden the malleable precious metal, making it more durable and capable of withstanding wear and tear while keeping it a majority of pure gold. Because gold jewelry is rarely 24K gold, you can expect gold pieces to be reasonably durable when treated appropriately.
Although gold pieces cost more upfront, the price is worth the investment. It is financially sound to invest in a gold piece that will last a lifetime or more, rather than buying inexpensive pieces that you have to replace frequently. At Frost NYC, we pride ourselves on price-savvy gold jewelry items that are made to last.
Where to Find Gold Jewelry
Finding high-quality gold jewelry is essential to building your collection with worthy pieces. Although many retailers sell gold filled jewelry and gold plated jewelry because it is cheap and easy to produce, not all companies offer quality gold jewelry to their customers.
To find quality 14K and 18K gold pieces, like chains, bracelets, rings, and watches, it is best to buy from a company like Frost NYC. Frost NYC has a great reputation among celebrity clientele, including Nicky Jam, Rick Ross, and Farruko.
Our pieces are 100% real gold and provide you with a lifetime warranty, lifetime maintenance, and lifetime upgrade when you make a purchase. These pieces are inspired by our love of urban culture and will instantly add swagger to your look.
Our New York Diamond District location has been serving hip hop inspired jewelry pieces for more than three decades. With our 15-day money-back guarantee and financing options, there is no better place to find authentic gold jewelry for your collection.
Find High-Quality Gold Pieces for Your Collection
Choosing between gold filled, gold plated, and real gold jewelry can be confusing, but the bottom line is that real gold is the best option. Real gold is more valuable than gold filled, or gold plated pieces. It lasts longer, looks better, is more durable, and costs less in the long run.
If you are searching for the right gold chain to add to your blinged-out collection, Frost NYC has a wide selection for you to choose from. View our wide array of men’s gold chains that includes Cuban link, Herringbone, Franco, Rope and Figaro, and make finding the right high-quality gold piece for your chain collection simple.