What Is 14k Gold Fill?

 


We choose to work with 14k gold-filled because it allows us to offer top-of-the-line quality at an affordable price.  The thick outer layer of gold makes it highly durable and safe for people with allergies or sensitive skin.  We get a lot of questions about gold-filled and what it actually is.  So we've compiled a list of Q&A below on some topics that we hope you find helpful!  

 
 
 

what is 14K GOLD-FILLED?

 “Gold-filled” is a USA industry standard that legally requires 1/20th, or 5% pure gold by weight.  It’s a strictly regulated process that involves pressure bonding multiple layers of solid 14k gold with extreme heat over a core of high quality jeweler’s brass resulting in a durable, quality real gold product.


Q: IS "GOLD-filled" the same as "gold fill"? 

A: Yes, they are the same thing.  The terms are often used interchangeably, although "gold-filled" is officially preferred.  Also, if there is no indication of karats (i.e., 14k gold-filled or 10k gold-filled), you can probably assume "gold-filled" in the United States means 14k gold-filled since it makes up 95% of gold-filled products. 


Q: IS gold-fill actually "filled with gold"

A: Actually, all the gold is on the outside, so yep, it’s strange.  I’m not sure why the industry decided on “gold-filled” to identify this kind of jewelry—it’s confusing, since it really has nothing to do with being filled with gold.  The only thing you need to know is that the term refers to a thick outer layer of durable, pressure-bonded, real, solid gold...on the outside.  No filling.


Q: IS GOLD-FILLED jewelry real gold?

A: The gold in 14k gold-filled is definitely real. There’s a thick layer of real, solid 14k gold on the outside of a brass core.  The 14k gold that’s on the outside of gold-filled is the same gold as you would get from a solid 14k piece.  


Q: How much Real Gold IS in Gold Fill?

A: Gold-filled jewelry is required to have a minimum of 1/20th (5%) gold by weight.  The 5% gold in gold-filled jewelry may not sound like a lot, but it’s all on the outside and it's plenty to keep your jewelry looking great for many years.


Q: IS "ROSE GOLD-FILLED" DIFFERENT?

A: If you see "rose gold-filled," you can assume we mean "14k rose gold-filled", rather than yellow gold.  The difference is just in the color, not in the quality or durability.  Both 14k yellow gold and 14k rose gold alloys contain the same amount of 14-karat solid gold.  It’s the combination of metals that are added to the pure 24k gold that changes the color - the pure gold part is constant.  Learn more about how 14k can be different colors in this post here.


Q: How are gold-filled items marked?

A: 14/20 GF or 14k GF mark may be present on gold-filled pieces.  Often, handmade gold-filled pieces from smaller companies won't be marked, however.  For example, we don’t mark our rings and some of our other pieces, but we do have a mark on our chains (at the clasp).

 

FILLED VS. PLATED


Q: What's the difference between gold-filled and gold plated?

A: There’s a lot more gold in gold-filled and the gold is attached in a way that’s much more durable.  Also, the standards for 14k gold-fill are strictly regulated, while the standards for "gold plated" encompass a broad range of thicknesses, so you can't be sure how much gold is in the plated layer.  


Q: Is Gold-filled Better than plated?

A: Yes.  If you'd like to understand why, we explore the two processes in more depth in another post here.


COMPARATIVE ILLUSTRATION:

 

Quality of 14k Gold-Fill


Q: Is 14k Gold-Filled Good Quality?

A: Gold-fill is absolutely your best option after solid gold for quality and durability.  It will not flake off or turn your skin green and offers a great option for people with sensitive skin.  We only use the best USA made gold-filled components and stand behind our product’s quality.  Gold-filled jewelry can stay beautiful for a lifetime, especially with a little care.


Q: Is Gold-Filled Jewelry Durable?  How long does it last?

A: After solid options, Gold-filled jewelry is certainly your best quality for gold pieces.  In theory, gold fill items can last a lifetime.  Indeed, some gold-fill jewelry still exists from the Victorian era (over 100 years old).  In practice, actually longevity will depend on how you care for it and a variety of other factors.  We'll go into more depth on the factors that influence the life of your gold-filled jewelry in our "Caring for Your 14k Jewelry" post. 


Q: Does GOLD-FILLED Tarnish?

A: 14k GF materials are not supposed to tarnish for a long time.  It's possible for gold-fill to tarnish under certain circumstances, but it should not tarnish easily.  You might like to check out a post we did dedicated to exploring the phenomenon of tarnishing and how to prevent it posted here.


Q: Does It Contain Nickel?

A: No.  None of our jewelry contains nickel.


Q: Is Gold-Filled Jewelry okay for people with Sensitive Skin?

A: Yes.  99.9% of people find they have no sensitivity to gold-filled jewelry.  Because the outside of the piece is solid 14k gold, it interacts with your skin in the same way solid 14k gold would.  If you do not have any sensitivities to solid gold, you will find gold-filled agrees well with your skin.


Q: Will it turn my skin green?

A: No.  There are very rare instances where certain people's body chemistry reacts with the 14k gold to leave a green residue on the skin, but this happens in approximately 0.001% of people, so it should not be a concern.  Body chemistry is a fascinating thing, and often times it's actually medications present in the system that can react with the gold.


Q: Will it Flake off?

A: No.  With gold-filled jewelry, the process involves mechanically bonding the gold to the core through extreme pressure and heat.  It results in a resilient exterior that’s not prone to flaking or cracking.  Flaking is more common with certain types of gold plating.


Q: Does it Rust?

A: Nope.  Rust isn't possible with the metals present in gold-filled material.

 
 

Caring for 14K GOLD-FILLED JEWELRY


Q: DO I HAVE TO TAKE IT OFF TO SHOWER?

A: Not if you use mild soaps.  It can actually be good for cleaning gold-fill jewelry to shower with it on.  BUT, MAKE SURE that your shampoos and soaps are gentle as certain chemicals can negatively impact the look of the gold.  If you're not sure, take your jewelry off to shower.  I personally shower with my jewelry on all the time, but I just use Dove soap and natural shampoo (for a happy ocean).


Q: CAN I SLEEP IN MY GOLD-FILL JEWELRY?

A: Yes, but it won't last as long.  Sleeping in your jewelry won’t damage the gold-filled surfaces, but for delicate pieces such as dainty chains on necklaces or bracelets, snagging on the fabric of your sheets or nightclothes can be an issue.  If you can remember to take your pieces off before bed, they'll thank you by staying bright longer.  It's also nice if you can to give them a wipe down after a day's wear just to get body oils off the surface.


Q: HOW DO I TAKE CARE OF IT?

A: The best care you can give your pieces is to clean them gently with water, mild soap, and a soft cloth (eyeglass chamois work great!) and only polish them when they really need it. It also helps to avoid exposure to lotions or wash them off your jewelry immediately, especially gold-fill chain, which can capture bits of lotion in all the nooks and crannies. For more care tips, see the care cards we include with each piece from Layered & Long and GLDN Jewelry. 

More details on Care can be found in "Honest 411: 14k GF Jewelry Care".

 

Why Aren’t All OUR Items Gold-Filled?

While all our chains are 14k gold-filled, some of our shaped charms, (like our stars, tusks or anchor) are plated gold rather than gold-filled because more complicated “molded” designs must be cast - a process that is incompatible with gold-filled material.


Why can’t you cast gold-filled?  

The casting process involves pouring liquid metal into a mold.  If you melted down gold-filled material, the gold would no longer be only concentrated on the outside and you’d end up with something more like 2k gold, instead of 14k gold on the outside of a brass core.  The only way to make gold-filled requires massive amounts of pressure and heat.  Like, massive.  Not something that you’d be able to do outside a dedicated factory.
 

What’s the solution?  

Well, we just make sure there’s as much gold as we can get onto the shaped charms that aren’t able to be made with gold-filled and we use 14k GF material for everything else.  We will often also add an additional layer of protection over any gold-plated components to increase durability.  We figure that this way, you can have the shaped charm that you want at the best gold quality possible (apart from a solid 14k option).

 


 

Have more questions about gold-filled jewelry? Feel free to ask them in the comments. We love to help, and if we don’t know the answer ourselves, we’ll do our best to find it for you!