Gold wolf pendant. Wolf pendant hand carved by Indigenous jewelry artist.

The Difference Between Gold-Filled Vs. Gold-Plated Jewelry

Ever wondered why some gold jewellery just seems to last as long than other jewelry? Most people have only heard about measuring gold in karats, but did you know that gold jewellery is classified by how it’s manufactured? Understanding the difference between gold-fill, gold-plated, solid gold, and gold vermeil will let you know if you’re really getting your money’s worth. 

Also Read: How To Buy Diamonds Like a Pro

14k gold hummingbird drop earrings. Handmade artisan earrings made by Indigenous jewelry artist.
See more of the 14k gold Hummingbird Teardrop earrings here.


Here’s a rundown of how gold jewellery is created and graded.  

How Gold Is Graded

When purchasing jewelry, you’ll notice that the product is labeled as gold-plated, gold-filled, solid gold, or gold vermeil. Pure gold is very soft, so it’s usually mixed with other metals to make it more wearable. Karate (k) measures the amount of gold content. You’ll usually hear that something is made with either 10k, 14k, 18k, or 24k gold. This refers to the weight of gold in the jewelry with 24k being 99.9% pure gold. 

Gold bear ring and orca ring. Handmade gold ring by Indigenous jewelry artist.
See more of the 14k gold Bear ring here
See more of the 14k gold Orca ring here.

When looking for higher quality jewelry, we recommend looking for 14k or 18k gold-fill jewelry. This is usually the most common karatage in gold-fill jewelry. The reason we recommend at least 14k gold is that over half (58.3%) of the material is made of pure gold.  

Types of gold jewelry infographic. Depictions of gold-plated, gold vermeil, gold-fill, and solid gold jewelry.

There’s a big difference between gold-fill versus gold-plated. Gold fill has almost 100 times more gold material and is manufactured differently. This doesn’t necessarily mean that gold-plated jewelry is “bad,” however, it does mean that plated jewelry tarnishes more easily.  

Gold Fill Vs Plated Jewellery

If you’ve ever impulsively purchased jewelry from Shein or H&M because it was cheap, you likely noticed that it left green marks on your skin or was easily damaged after a few wears. This is because what you likely purchased was gold-plated jewelry. Although gold-plated jewelry is incredibly affordable, this jewelry isn’t made to last. 

In many cases, forgoing quality for a good price is fine. It’s better to wear cheaper gold-plated jewelry at the gym, at work, or for a night out with friends since these are high-coercion activities. And if you’re a forgetful person, it’s less of a tragedy if you ever lose gold-plated jewelry. Because you’re paying more for gold-filled jewelry, you’ll need to be more considerate of your jewelry. 

However, when purchasing jewelry for special occasions, gifts, or investment pieces, we recommend at least 14k gold-fill jewelry. These pieces will last you much longer than gold-plated jewelry but you should be more careful with how you handle these pieces. 

Pros and cons of gold-plated vs gold-fill jewelry.

About Gold-Filled Jewelry

Gold-filled jewelry has 100 times more gold than gold-plated jewelry. Because there’s a thicker layer of gold, the jewelry is likely to last longer, withstand wear better, and is better for those with sensitivities to jewelry. 

Gold-filled boho bracelets. Bottom bracelet is made with lampwork glass and 14k gold-filled loop chain. Top bracelet is sterling silver with gold-filled wrapped details.
To create gold-fill jewelry, 10k, 12k, 14k, or 18k gold alloy is layered and bonded to a metal core. This is then heated and passed through a roller several times, creating an entirely new material. The layer of gold in gold-fill jewelry is anywhere between 20-75% of its entire weight. This is far greater than the gold content in gold-plated jewelry.    

As long as gold-filled jewelry is properly cared for, it can last a lifetime. To get the most out of your gold jewelry, be sure to: 

  • Store your jewelry properly in a covered jewelry box.
  • Regularly clean your jewelry with our at-home method. 
  • Remove your jewelry before working out or doing something laborious. 
  • Avoid getting perfume, lotions, or makeup on your jewelry.  
  • When your jewelry starts to look worn, take it to your local jewelry store to have it professionally cleaned and repaired.

Also Read: How To Clean Your Jewelry At Home

About Gold-Plated Jewelry

Gold-plated jewelry has a small layer of gold applied to a base metal. The gold used in this type of jewelry is usually less than 0.05% of the combined materials. This is why gold-plated jewelry quickly wears to a brass or rose colour.  

gold-filled vs. gold-plated jewellery comparison. Both necklaces have the same colour. The one on the right has a larger circle pendant and is gold-plated.

Gold-filled (left) Vs. Gold-Plated (right) necklaces. Both retail for roughly the same price and have virtually the same colour. 

Jewelry like this is created by chemically processing the gold onto other metals with an electrical current. This process is referred to as electroplating. Most gold-plated jewelry uses brass as its base metal. When the base metal is sterling silver or 925 silver it's called gold vermeil. 

About Solid Gold Jewelry

At this point, you’re likely wondering what’s the deal with solid gold jewelry. The truth is: gold-filled and gold-plated jewelry isn’t necessarily “real gold” jewelry. 

Pure gold is made of 100% gold with no other materials. Although gold-fill and gold-plated jewelry contains real gold, by technical standards, it’s not entirely real gold. 

Gold nugget rings made with real pure gold. Sterling silver eagle ring and sterling silver frog ring.
See more gold nugget jewelry here.

However, as mentioned earlier, pure gold is very soft. This makes it hard to wear often since it scratches so easily. Additionally, if you’ve ever seen real gold nuggets, you’ll notice the colour is more orange than what we traditionally consider gold-coloured. 

Sterling silver bear paw pendant with real gold nuggets.
These pieces use real gold nuggets which appear much more orange than yellow in person.

For all intents and purposes, gold-filled and gold-plated jewelry is made with real gold. Purchasing gold-fill or plated jewelry is a far more practical perspective.  

About Gold Vermeil 

Gold vermeil is sterling silver plated with gold. Sterling silver is often higher quality than materials like brass but still has the same durability as gold-plated jewelry. Gold vermeil is created using electroplating just like normal other gold-plated jewelry. In the US, jewelry needs to contain at least 2.5 microns thick of gold that’s 10k or higher. Gold vermeil may also be referred to as “silver gilt.”

Also Read: 2022 Jewelry Trends To Inspire You

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