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What Is The Difference Between Gold Plated And Gold Filled?

You’ve probably come across the terms “gold plated” and “gold filled” when shopping for jewelry, but do you know what sets them apart? Understanding the difference between the two can help you make informed decisions when it comes to purchasing accessories. In a nutshell, gold plated jewelry refers to items that are coated with a thin layer of gold, while gold filled pieces are made by bonding a thicker layer of gold to a base metal. Both have their unique qualities, so let’s explore further to discover which option suits your style and budget best.

Gold Plated

Definition

Gold plating is a process where a thin layer of gold is applied to the surface of another metal, typically through electroplating. The gold used in this process is usually a lower karatage, such as 10k or 14k, which means it contains a lower percentage of pure gold. The layer of gold in gold plated jewelry is often very thin, typically around 0.5 to 2.5 microns in thickness. Gold plated items are commonly found in the fashion jewelry market, where affordability and trendy designs are key factors.

Process

The process of gold plating involves several steps. First, the base metal, such as brass or silver, is thoroughly cleaned to ensure proper adhesion of the gold layer. Next, a thin layer of a different metal, such as nickel or copper, is often applied as an undercoat to improve adhesion and prevent the base metal from reacting with the gold. Finally, the gold layer is deposited onto the surface of the base metal using an electroplating method, where an electric current is applied to attract and bond the gold particles onto the metal. The gold layer is then polished to achieve a smooth and shiny finish.

Thickness

Gold plated jewelry typically has a very thin layer of gold, ranging from 0.5 to 2.5 microns in thickness. This thin layer is sufficient to give the jewelry a gold appearance, but it may wear off over time with regular use. Factors such as the thickness of the gold layer and the way the jewelry is treated and cared for can affect the durability and lifespan of the gold plating. It is important to note that thicker gold plating does not necessarily mean better quality, as the adhesion and quality of the base metal, as well as the overall craftsmanship, also play a crucial role in determining the longevity of the gold plating.

Durability

Due to the thin layer of gold, gold plated jewelry is generally less durable compared to solid gold or gold filled pieces. The gold layer can wear off over time with regular friction and exposure to harsh chemicals, sweat, and moisture. However, with proper care and maintenance, gold plated jewelry can retain its appearance for a considerable period. It is advisable to remove gold plated jewelry before engaging in activities that may cause excessive friction or expose them to chemicals, as this can help prolong their lifespan.

Cost

One of the major advantages of gold plated jewelry is its affordability. Since the gold layer is thin and contains a lower percentage of pure gold, gold plated items are typically more budget-friendly compared to solid gold or gold filled pieces. This makes gold plated jewelry an attractive option for those who want the look of gold without the hefty price tag. However, it is important to keep in mind that the gold plating may need to be re-applied periodically to maintain the desired appearance, which can be an additional cost to consider in the long run.

Gold Filled

Definition

Gold filled jewelry, also known as rolled gold or gold overlay, is a type of jewelry where a thick layer of gold is bonded to a base metal, usually brass or sterling silver. Unlike gold plating, the gold used in gold filled jewelry is typically a higher karatage, often 12k or 14k, which means it contains a higher percentage of pure gold. Gold filled jewelry is considered a higher quality alternative to gold plated jewelry and offers more durability and longevity.

Process

The process of creating gold filled jewelry involves a mechanical bonding method, rather than electroplating like gold plating. The base metal is first cleaned and coated with a thin layer of adhesive. Thin sheets of gold are then heat and pressure bonded to the base metal, creating a thick layer of gold that is permanently attached. This process ensures that the gold layer remains intact and does not easily wear off over time.

Thickness

Gold filled jewelry typically has a much thicker layer of gold compared to gold plated jewelry. The gold layer in gold filled items can range from 5% to 10% of the overall weight, making it significantly more durable and long-lasting. In order to be considered gold filled, the gold layer must be at least 5% of the total item weight. This thicker layer of gold not only gives gold filled jewelry a higher quality appearance but also increases its resistance to tarnishing and wear.

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Durability

One of the key advantages of gold filled jewelry is its durability. The thick layer of gold ensures that the jewelry retains its gold appearance and does not wear off easily with regular use and exposure to moisture or chemicals. Gold filled jewelry can withstand everyday wear and tear better than gold plated jewelry, making it a popular choice for those seeking long-lasting gold jewelry without the higher cost of solid gold.

Cost

Gold filled jewelry is generally more expensive than gold plated jewelry due to the higher percentage of pure gold used in the manufacturing process. However, it is still a more affordable option compared to solid gold jewelry. Considering the durability and longevity of gold filled jewelry, it can be a cost-effective investment in the long run, as it requires less frequent re-plating or replacement compared to gold plated items.

In conclusion, the main difference between gold plated and gold filled jewelry lies in the thickness of the gold layer and the bonding process used. Gold plated jewelry features a thin layer of gold applied through electroplating, making it more affordable but less durable. On the other hand, gold filled jewelry has a thicker layer of gold bonded mechanically to the base metal, resulting in a more durable and long-lasting piece. While gold plated jewelry is a great option for those on a budget or for fashion-forward trends, gold filled jewelry offers a higher quality alternative with greater longevity.

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