Gold Plated vs. Gold Filled: What’s the difference?

This week we are very proud to be releasing our redesigned hidden shim earrings! One thing that was very important to us when reimagining these was making sure we were bringing a high-quality item with top-end materials to our customers. Our new earrings feature things like real CZs and 14 karat gold-filled earring parts.

As soon as we started sourcing new parts, I found myself having to do some research on some jewelry terminology. I myself, as someone who has struggled with sensitive ears, wondered what exactly were the best materials.

What is Gold Plating?

The term “gold plated” is something I think a lot of us have heard many times, whether first-time shoppers or jewelry connoisseurs. Gold plating (sometimes called “gold overlay”) is typically done with electroplating. This is a process that uses an electrical current and a liquid solution to add a micro-thin layer of gold to a base metal. Gold plating is such a thin layer, the process doesn’t change the weight of the product as the gold content is roughly 0.05% of the total material. In jewelry, the benefit to gold plating is that you can add a real gold finish for a low cost. The downside, however, is that gold plating can begin to wear and chip over time, exposing a non-hypoallergenic metal.

What is Gold Fill?

Gold fill, like gold plating, is also a layer of gold put over a base metal. The difference is that gold fill is a significantly thicker layer of gold. While gold plating is a “dipped” process, gold fill is created by adding heat and pressure to bond the gold. The term “gold fill” is regulated by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) and dictates that anything “gold filled” must be at least 5%, or 1/20, gold by weight. (Our new designs use 14 karat gold fill parts, or “14/20 GF.”)

So what is the difference between gold-plated and gold-filled?

In a basic sense, the main difference is that gold plating is a microscopic layer of gold, while gold fill is a much thicker layer of gold. With gold-filled jewelry, you won’t have to worry about tarnishing, the thin layer of gold wearing down, or nickel and other metal allergies. Overall, gold-filled jewelry is significantly more valuable and less worrisome. We feel great being able to offer our customers quality gold-filled metals.

Why not solid gold?

If we know that skin contact with gold is much better for us, then why not use solid gold? Gold, even though sold at different purities (such as 12, 14, 24-karat), is still a very soft metal. While some fine jewelry does feature solid gold, for everyday use solid gold can be prone to bends and breakage. Using another material in the core of a product gives it strength. Having gold fill versus gold plating ensures that there less likelihood of skin contact with a base metal.

Christine & the LockEx Team

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