What Is the Difference Between Gold-filled and Gold-plated?

By Beth Cone

When purchasing gold jewelry, less costly options exist that give the look of gold without the hefty price. Gold-plated and gold-filled jewelry are two options that feature a base metal and a layer of gold, which gives the appearance of gold but not the price tag.

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Gold-filled Jewelry

Gold-filled jewelry uses a technique in which thin layers of gold are bonded by heat and pressure to a brass center. Several layers of a core metal are surrounded by at least 10k gold. Jewelers usually note the ratio of gold to base metals. United States requirements state that gold-filled jewelry must contain no less than 1/20 its weight in gold.

Gold-plated Jewelry

Gold-plated jewelry has a thin molecule of gold overlaying a base metal such as zinc, copper or nickel. This thin layer is not 14k and usually wears off the base within a short period of time. Jewelry makers utilize an electrochemical process to bind the thin layer of gold to the base metal. Gold-plated jewelry may contain varying thicknesses of gold.

Pros and Cons of Gold-filled Jewelry

Gold-filled jewelry lasts much longer than gold-plated jewelry. The gold used is at least 10k gold, unlike gold-plated jewelry, which contains less than 10k gold. The bonding process and layers make the jewelry more durable. If you plan to wear a jewelry piece frequently, you should choose gold-filled over gold-plated. The only drawback is that gold-filled jewelry will be more costly initially.

Pros and Cons of Gold-plated Jewelry

The thin layer of gold-plated jewelry is soft and easily scratched. Therefore, jewelers such as Gem Fashion do not recommend wearing gold-plated jewelry on a frequent basis. Skin oils and the environment eventually wear off the gold layer. However, gold-plated jewelry is less expensive than gold-filled jewelry.


Gold jewelry has been popular since the days of ancient Egypt and Greece. Rolled or filled gold experienced popularity during the Victorian era because the gold-filled jewelry was more affordable for the middle class. During the Edwardian era, the popularity of smaller pieces made gold-filled jewelry less popular. A resurgence in popularity occurred during the Retro or Retro Modern period of the 1930s. When the U.S. Department of Commerce began restricting gold-filled jewelry to jewelry with at least 20 percent gold, gold-plated jewelry gained popularity.