What Is Gold Overlay?

By LeafTV Editor

Gold overlay is also called rolled gold or gold filled. It is a technique used chiefly to make jewelry by combining gold with another metal. Gold overlay jewelry is a cheaper option in comparison to pure gold jewelry, but it has the same luster and lasts as long as the real thing.

Gold necklace isolated on white
credit: PhanuwatNandee/iStock/GettyImages
What Is Gold Overlay



Gold overlay as a technique was developed by the early Bronze Age civilizations around the 6th century B.C. Many examples of artifacts using gold overlay were found in Ur in Mesopotamia and in the pyramids of Bronze Age Egypt. The Incas of South America also knew and practiced the technique of gold overlay. The technique has come down the ages. The Lydians who first introduced the gold coin, the Celts, the Greeks of Macedonia and the Romans used gold along with another metal to make coins and jewelry. With the increased influence of Byzantine in Europe after the Crusades, Gold overlay was chiefly used for coins all over Europe. Today it is used to produce cheaper jewelry.


A solid tube of gold--usually 10K or real gold bullion--is filled with another metal. The most suitable metals for gold overlaying are brass or copper. Gold can be filled with a base metal or combination of metals. The two metals are bonded together using heat or pressure. The alloy produced after bonding is rolled or drawn to a given thickness. The thickness needs to conform to industrial standards and federal law.


Gold overlay is often confused with gold plating. Gold overlay is done by forging a new alloy with a base metal like brass, copper or an alloy of copper. Gold plating is electroplating a metal usually nickel with gold. Gold overlay is durable and will remain beautiful for a lifetime if it is looked after carefully. Gold overlay jewelry is easy to take care of and almost impossible to break. Nickel found in gold plating is absent in gold overlay. People with sensitive skin usually have an allergic reaction to nickel while gold overlay jewelry is skin friendly and it is rare for people to develop an allergy to gold overlay jewelry. Gold overlay jewelry is jewelry made of a fusion of gold and a base metal. It is not likely to chip or fade easily. .


The federal government regulates gold overlay jewelry and expects each object to be stamped. Electroplated gold jewelry on the other hand do not have any regulations nor are they required to bear a stamp. Gold overlay jewelry must have a layer of gold that is 1/20th or 5% of the weight of the article under federal regulations. The article should be marked GF or 1/20th GF. Gold overlay jewelry is a 100 times heavier than electroplated gold jewelry, and this is its distinguishing feature. The jewelry must have the karat of gold stamped on it and marked as 14K gold overlay or 12KRGP.

Expert Insight

Gold overlay jewelry can last a lifetime if proper care is taken. Harsh chemicals, abrasives, lotions, or perfumes could damage the luster of gold overlay jewelry. Chlorine from swimming pools and salt water can also harm gold overlay jewelry. The jewelry must be cleaned with warm soapy water. The jewelry must be rinsed in warm clear water and wiped with a clean cotton cloth. Storing the jewelry in separate bags helps to preserve the gold sheen on the jewelry.