What's the Difference Between Gold-plated and Gold-filled Jewelry?

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What's the Difference Between Gold-plated and Gold-filled Jewelry?
If you are looking to buy jewelry and other products, such as gold antiques, you may not realize how many different types there are on the market. The main two types of gold jewelry that you may see as you shop aregold-plated items and gold-filled items. Though they may sound like the same kind of jewelry, there are actually several differences. By knowing what these differences are, you will be in a much better position to make an informed purchasing decision. This way, you can be sure that you will be getting a good value for your money when you buy gold jewelry.

What Does Gold-Plated Mean?

If you have ever purchased jewelry in the past, you may have seen the term gold-plated. Also called gold-plate, this is a method of covering another type of metal with a very thin, almost microscopic, film of pure gold by electroplating it. Some businesses refer to gold-plated jewelry as gold-overlay; however, these are essentially the same things.

Among the biggest benefits of gold-plated items is the fact that it is fairly strong. Gold is a soft metal, and it is easily susceptible to nicks, dents, and bending. Gold-plating can lend an attractive finish to a piece that must be sturdy and durable. The downside is that the gold finish on gold-plated items can begin to chip and wear away over time. Additionally, some items may be prone to tarnishing.

What Does Gold-Filled Mean?

Gold-filled jewelry is much more valuable than gold-plated. In fact, there is almost 100 percent more gold in gold-filled items than is found in gold-plated items. Just as gold-plated jewelry is plated with gold, gold-filled jewelry is as well, but there is a big difference between the ways these products are made.

Gold-filled items have a much thicker layer of gold on them, and the gold is a much higher quality. In fact, it is just a step down from solid gold when it comes to quality and value. Speaking of solid gold, pure gold is very soft and is not a good choice for jewelry; that is why an alloy is almost always used for gold jewelry items, even in jewelry pieces worth an incredible amount of money.

Gold-filled items also use a gold alloy, which can be very strong depending on the karat of the gold that is used. Remember that the lower karats of gold tend to be a bit stronger, 14 karat gold being an example. A higher karat of gold indicates a higher purity, and while that means the gold piece itself is more valuable, the metal will be a little softer. As a frame of reference, keep in mind that 24 karat gold is pure gold and, thus, the softest form of gold available. Buyers who are looking for a more durable jewelry piece may want to opt for a lower karat.

You won't need to worry about gold-filled jewelry tarnishing, and even if you have an allergy to certain metals, you won't have to worry about allergies from metals such as nickel. You can't say the same about gold-plated jewelry.

Finding Out if an Item is Plated or Filled

You may think it's fairly easy to find out if a piece of jewelry is gold-filled or gold-plated. Unfortunately, it isn't that easy. Some people will rely on stamps, markers, and other identifiers on the gold item, something that the US Department of Commerce requires; however, this only applies to gold-filled items made in the US. If this stamp is present, it will indicate how much pure gold is in the jewelry. For instance, the minimum amount in order to be considered gold-filled is 20 percent. This item would have a stamp that looks like 1/20. You may also see 1/50, which would indicate that the item is 50 percent pure gold. This may seem like a fool proof way to figure it out, but it's not.

Why? Well first of all, this marking process is only done in the US. Jewelry made of gold is made throughout the world, and this is not a standard that other countries follow. As with any product, gold jewelry comes from all over the place, so unless you know for sure it is from the US, you may not see this stamp. On top of this, other countries and manufacturers may stamp their jewelry, but you may not know what it means, or it could be stamped to gold-plated jewelry in order to get more money for it.

There are two fool proof ways to test an item to ensure it is gold-filled instead of jewelry that is gold-plated, but both require you to see a professional. The first is to have the piece electronically tested with a device that can tell you how thick the gold is on a piece of jewelry. This is a wonderful method, but not all jewelers will offer it as the machine is very expensive. The traditional way of testing for gold is to do an acid test. With this test, a small amount of acid will be put on the jewelry and will indicate gold plating as it will dissolve the plating right off. Only a small amount of the plating will dissolve, but you will definitely know what type of jewelry you have.

Gold-Plated Jewelry or Gold-Filled Jewelry?

Now that you know about the differences between jewelry that is gold-filled or gold-plated, you may be wondering which is the best choice for you. There are certainly pros and cons for both types of jewelry.

Type of Gold Jewelry

Pros of This Type

Cons of This Type

Gold-Filled Jewelry

Gold-filled jewelry has a much higher amount of gold in it and is much more valuable. This is a durable piece that will not tarnish or chip. It is also safe for those with metal allergies.

Gold-filled jewelry is more expensive than plated jewelry and will last longer; however, it does have a life span of about 10 to 30 years, unlike pure gold pieces which will last forever.

Gold-Plated Jewelry

Gold-plated jewelry is very affordable and looks just like real gold. The piece will be very strong and durable in most cases as the gold will be plated over a stronger metal.

The amount of gold is minimal in this type of jewelry, and this leads to a much lower value. This type of jewelry can also tarnish, chip and flake away.

Buying Gold-Plated or Gold-Filled Jewelry on eBay

If you are looking to buy gold-filled or gold-plated jewelry for yourself or as a gift, buying on eBay is a great choice. There are thousands of pieces from around the world that are gold-filled and gold-plated available from sellers on the site; however, before you jump at the chance to buy gold-plated or gold-filled items, it is important that you keep a few things in mind.

First of all, if you are looking for gold-filled items, you will want to make sure that you are actually getting gold-filled and not gold-plated, which will be less valuable. One way to do this is to make sure that you are working with a seller who is trustworthy. The best way to figure this out is to only buy gold items on eBay from a seller who has a very high feedback rating and several hundred reviews. This way, you can be sure that they are selling the items they say they are and not trying to switch out gold-filled with gold plated jewelry.

You may also want to contact the seller on eBay and ask them for proof that the items for sale are gold-filled as opposed to gold-plated. You can contact them directly right on the description page. Additionally, take a look at the country of origin, if possible, as well as the pictures that are posted of the item.

Finally, take a look at the shipping information, any insurance that you may want to purchase for more expensive items and the return policy, just in case.


You can easily get the look of pure gold at a lower price when you choose to buy gold-plated or gold-filled jewelry fromeBay, whether you are searching for gold rings,gold pendants,gold bracelets, or gold brooches. Now that you know the differences between the two, it is possible for you to make a much more informed decision when it comes to your purchase. Based on quality, price and value, you will easily be able to find the piece of gold jewelry that best fits in with your budget.

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