Often at shows, customers ask a lot of the same questions. It dawned on us that maybe we can help you to understand the materials and components we use. When we say we use gold-filled silver to make our jewelry - we really mean we have done the work and research to know that we can offer a quality product for the price you pay.
Basically, gold-filled is constructed in two or three layers. The core metal we use is sterling silver. 14k Gold is then bonded (rolled) to the surface of the silver core with heat and pressure. The bonded raw material is then sold as sheet or wire to jewelry manufacturers for use in designs.
Technical mumbo-jumbo: Gold-filled is legally required to contain 5% or 1/20 gold by weight. This 5% is then described by the karatage of the gold alloy. Most gold-filled is 12kt or 14kt gold-filled. It is most accurately labeled with the karatage, the “/” symbol, and then 20 to reflect this construction. Products are identified as 14/20 Gold-filled or 12/20 Gold-Filled; alternatively, 14kt Gold-Filled or 12kt Gold-Filled are also acceptable.
Is gold-filled the same as gold plate?
No, gold plating is a miniscule layer of solid gold applied to a brass base. While plating is totally acceptable for low impact jewelry (pendants, earrings, etc), we do not like using it for pieces that come in contact with your skin. The plating does not compose any measurable proportion of the product’s total weight. It is estimated to be 0.05% or less of the metal product. Gold plating can wear off rather quickly if mishandled and expose the brass base product. It may not stand up to heat, water or wear over time. By comparison, gold-filled contains 5% gold by weight; moreover, all the gold is on the surface which offers product protection from tarnish and wear.
Can gold-filled tarnish?
Yes it can, but it takes a rare set of circumstances. Gold-filled is usually a lifetime product because the gold layer bonded to the brass core is quite thick. However, in rare instances of extreme sulfide exposure the gold-filled can blacken. Usually, gold filled just requires light surface cleaning with an untreated cloth or mild soapy water. That's why it's the wonder material all jewellers like to work with.
Make sense? Do you own any gold-fill? What other questions do you have? We would be happy to help you understand!