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Gold-Fill... Gold Plated... you may have heard these terms but do you know what the difference is?
In a nutshell, Gold Plated and Gold-Fill are very different processes of adding gold to the outer layer of a base metal.
Our base metal is what's called jewelers brass. Brass is an alloy of tin and copper, and the jewelers brass has a higher content of tin which makes it more resistant to tarnish. When polished the color is comparable to 18K gold, but is a fraction of the price.
GOLD FILL is when gold is added to the outside of a base metal via pressure.
GOLD PLATED is when gold is added to the outside of metal via electroplating.
The diagram below is from Halstead bead company (ref.) and is a really nice visual demonstration of how Gold Fill (on the left) is done via pressure, and Gold Plating (on the right) is done via electroplating. Let's dive in a little more.
"To make gold-filled pieces, the core metal is sandwiched between two layers of gold alloy which is then heated and passed through a roller several times - a process that both bonds the metals together and thins the sheet out." To be called Gold-Fill an items gold is required to be at least 5% of the make up of the item. [ref.] - Halstead Bead)
Because of the nature of this process only jewelry parts that are machine manufactured such as wire and sheet metal can be Gold-Filled.
Gold Plating is a process of adding gold to the outside of a base metal - in our case, jewelers brass - similar to Gold Fill, however this process is done by electroplating. Electroplating is "when an electric current is used to negatively charge the base metal and positively charge a solution containing gold ions. The positive gold ions are attracted to the negative charge of the core metal, slowly forming a layer of gold on top of the core."[ref.] - Halstead Bead)
We use BOTH gold plated items and gold filled items in our jewelry collections.
GOLD FILL: Ear wires & Chain
GOLD PLATED: Pendants, rings + earrings parts
Wearing pure gold is amazing but it's simply not in everyones budget. Gold plating is a great way to wear effortless gold jewelry, at a fraction of the cost.
The positive aspects of buying gold plated items versus brass or pure gold are many! But here's just a few:
We outsource this process to a plating company and we adhere to their recommendations below. All of our parts are plated with a thick plating of 1 micron. (40 millionths). Rings are plated with 3 microns because of the wear on the items. The only exception being our earrings which we plate with 1 micron vs. their recommendation of .5 micron.
They recommend the following thicknesses (ref.)
They also note these differences in the types of Gold Plating terminology, per Federal Regulations.
GOLD FLASH OR GOLD WASH
Electroplating of gold thickness of less than 7 millionths of an inch.
GOLD ELECTROPLATE: Electroplating of gold a minimum thickness of 7 millionths of an inch. Can also be marked G.E.P.
GOLD PLATE: A gold coating, deposited by any means, a minimum thickness of 20 millionths of an inch. Can also be marked G.P.
HEAVY GOLD ELECTROPLATE: Electroplating of gold a minimum thickness of 100 millionths of and inch (2.5 microns).
VERMEIL (pronounced VER-MAY): Sterling silver electroplated with gold a minimum thickness of 100 millionths of an inch (2.5 microns).
Gold plating is a great way to wear effortless gold jewelry, with out the cost of pure gold. I wear gold plated pieces for weeks at a time and they still look amazing years later.
I hope that by sharing our processes you become a more informed buyer and that it gives you confidence in making the right decision for yourself. I take pride in how my work is created, cast, plated and arrive to you - but also in how you they become a part of your daily jewelry choices.
We whipped up a little video to show you some of my own well loved jewelry pieces so you can see what to expect as you wear your jewelry.
Check it out!