Gold filled jewellery became popular in the early 20th century and increased in use throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Gold filled is a far better alternative to gold plated, due to its durability.
How is Gold Filled Made?
Gold filled metal is made by mechanically bonding a layer of gold alloy to a base of sterling silver, copper or jewellers brass. This is done using heat and pressure. The layer of gold alloy must be at least 5% by weight of the piece. If the weight is less than 5% than it is usually called gold rolled plate.
If the gold filled metal is wire, it is then drawn to the desired thickness. The final layer of gold is 5 – 10 times that of regular gold plating and up to 25 times that of gold electroplate.
Similarly, gold filled sheet has the gold bonded to one or more sides and then it is rolled to the required thickness.
Something to keep in mind is that the gold layer is mechanically bonded to the base layer. This means that all gold filled items are limited to what can be made from gold filled sheets, wires, tubes etc. It can’t be melted and cast because the metals would then blend together.
If ever you see a cast item advertised as gold filled, it is incorrect. It may have a thicker electroplated layer, but it is not gold filled.
Most high quality gold filled pieces have the same appearance as high carat gold, and gold-filled items, even with daily wear, can last 10 to 30 years.
Please note that gold filled jewellery can tarnish under certain extreme circumstances. There are a number of reasons why it can tarnish, but for the vast majority of us, other than normal soiling, it will retain its beautiful gold appearance for many years.
Gold filled jewellery can be stamped in a similar manner to solid gold items, though often it has no stamp. A stamp example is 1/20 14K GF. This indicates it is 14 karat gold alloy bonded to the base metal, and the gold alloy is 1/20 of the total weight of the item. The stamp may also be something like 14/20 GF or just 14/20 or 1/20 14K. Gold filled should never be stamped with just the karat, like 14K. Be very careful as we have found many gold filled items stamped with just the karat and misrepresented as solid gold.
- It is much longer wearing than gold plated.
- More affordable that solid gold.
- It’s still not solid gold and the gold layer may eventually wear off
- It can still tarnish, much like any alloy
But in summary, gold filled is excellent value. You still have a beautiful piece of jewellery that, with a little care, will last many years.
Gold filled image by KDS4444 / CC BY S-A 4.0