Gold Plated, Gold Filled, and Solid Gold Jewelry: What's the difference, and what's best for you?

Gold Plated vs Gold Filled and Solid Gold: What's the difference between these types of gold jewelry, and which ones will you find on this site?


You've probably seen the term "gold filled" on jewelry and wondered if it's better for you than gold plated, or maybe you hesitated to invest in new earrings because you're not sure what will cause a reaction. In this article, I'll tell you the difference in the types of "gold" used to make earrings, and what types of metals are used at Topaz & Pearl Jewelry.  Just a quick note that everybody has a unique body chemistry, so this general guide is meant to educate and empower informed purchasing, but is not a guarantee of any outcome, and if you have concerns about your sensitivity I would recommend a chat with your dermatologist.  

1) What is gold plated jewelry?

This is the type of "gold" you'll see really often in costume jewelry.  Gold plating (sometimes called "electroplating") is an economical way to make gold-looking jewelry.  It is mostly base metal with a thin layer of gold on top.  The base metal underneath the gold can be a range of metals and is most commonly an alloy (a.k.a. a mix of metals).  When it comes to ear wires, if the base metal is an alloy containing high-allergen metals (nickel, cadmium, etc) allergic reactions are inevitable for those with sensitivities.  If you're sensitive, you may be able to wear your gold plated earrings for a while but over time, your skin oils will cause the gold layer to wear off and expose the base metal underneath. 

2) Is gold filled jewelry better?

The name "gold filled" may give you the impression that the piece is filled with gold, but that is a misnomer.  Gold filled means that the piece is at least 5% gold by weight.  The core of the piece is jeweler's brass with a thick gold layer on the outside. This outer layer is at least 100 times thicker than gold plating, depending on the size of the piece.  This durable gold layer will not wear off under most circumstances and is even safe for those ladies who like to wear their jewelry round-the-clock, including in the shower.  14 karat gold is most commonly used to make gold filled options, and you'll see it written one of two ways: "14k gold filled" or "14/20".  The 14/20 symbolizes that the piece is 1/20th 14k gold by weight.  Gold filled is my chosen option for earrings because it is hypoallergenic.  Gold filled pieces offer a high-quality gold finish at a more affordable price point than solid gold. 

3) What's the difference between gold filled and solid gold jewelry?

Solid gold is reserved for fine jewelry and is exactly as it sounds, the piece has no base metal core.  The purity of the gold is determined by the karat. 24 karat is pure gold which is very soft, so it is commonly mixed with other metals in order to make it more durable or to alter the color.  Each karat step (22 karats, 18 karats, 14 karats, etc) symbolizes the addition of metal to the gold to harden it and subsequently lowers the price.  The lower the karat, the lower the percentage of gold in the piece.  The type of metal added varies but is commonly silver, nickel, copper, or zinc, all of which affect the color of the gold.  For example, more copper is added to make rose gold while nickel is commonly added to produce white gold.  No matter the karat rating, all solid gold pieces carry a significantly higher price tag than both gold plated and gold filled jewelry.


What types of gold can you find at Topaz & Pearl?

My top priority is to bring you the most high-quality jewelry at an accessible price point.  When making ear posts, ear wires, or any part of the earrings that will touch your ear, I always use nickel-free 14k gold filled (or in the case of non-gold pieces, I use sterling silver or niobium).  I use gold plated components only in charms or pieces that hang away from the body.  The gold plated pieces that I use have a high quality base metal such as jewlers brass, thick plating, and are often coated in an anti-tarnish solution to extend wearability.  Before I introduce any new earrings to my line, I wear them for extended periods to make sure they hold up well to the elements. I strive to achieve the perfect mix of high quality, affordable materials to make your earrings enjoyable for years to come.

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