What is Gold-Fill Jewelry?

a close up picture of a pile of yellow 14k gold fill hoop earrings on a gray background
14k Yellow Gold Fill Hoop Earrings
What is gold-fill in fancy lettering

Introduction to Gold Fill Jewelry

Gold-fill is a high-quality, more affordable alternative to solid gold. Gold-fill jewelry is made of a thick solid layer of gold that is bonded to a base of another metal such as brass, copper, or sterling silver. This thick layer of gold keeps gold-fill jewelry from losing its color and shine, allowing it to last for many years. 

Understanding Gold Fill: Composition and Characteristics

Gold-fill jewelry is made by bonding a thick layer of gold to a base metal core, usually through a mechanical process such as heat and pressure. In the United States, the outer layer of gold must make up at least 5% of its weight to qualify as gold fill. This process creates jewelry that has the appearance and durability of solid gold at a more affordable price point.

Gold-filled jewelry is available in both 14k yellow gold and 14k rose gold. 

a side profile view of a girl with brown hair wearing a brown hat. She has a pair of 2 inch yellow gold fill earrings in her her ear piercing.
14k Yellow Gold-Fill, 2 Inch Hoop Earrings
the words "frequently asked questions" in fancy writing

Debunking Common Myths About Gold Fill

Despite its rising popularity, misconceptions about gold fill jewelry persist. Misconceptions include confusion about gold plate, gold vermeil, tarnish, allergies, lifespan, and affordability. Let's dive deeper into each of these topics. 

Is gold-fill the same as gold-plated?

No, gold-fill is not the same as gold plated. Gold-plated jewelry is made when a base metal, such as brass or copper is very thinly coated with a layer of gold. The process for plating gold is far less standardized so the amount of gold used can vary. Usually, gold-plated jewelry has less than .05% gold content. That means that with a required 5% gold weight, gold-fill has nearly 100 times the amount of gold as gold plated! 

a close up picture of a stack of 14k yellow gold fill and sterling silver rings with glittery white opals on them
Opal Rings in 14k Yellow Gold-Fill and Solid Sterling Silver

Is gold-filled the same as gold vermeil?

Gold vermeil is a type of gold plating that is also referred to as "heavy gold plating." It is made when solid 925 sterling silver is coated in at least 2.5 microns of gold. 

See our Material Guide below for a brief comparison of gold plating, gold vermeil, gold-fill, and solid gold.

Material Guide: A diagram of the differences between gold plating, gold vermeil, gold fill and solid gold.
Sunlight Silver Jewelry

At Sunlight Silver Jewelry, we always use gold-filled or solid gold for anything that stays in constant contact with your skin. This includes our hoop earrings, ear wires, and gold extenders. Occasionally, we do use some charms that are made of gold vermeil (for example on our Little Charmer Hoop Earrings), but vermeil is only used in places where it does not have consistent contact with skin. We never use any gold or silver-plated metals. We always list the metal types used in the product description for each of our items. 

a close up picture of a girls ear. the ear has a small 14k rose gold fill hoop earring in the piercing. The girl has brown hair, dark skin and a white hat on.
14K Rose Gold-Fill Hoop Earrings

Does gold-filled jewelry tarnish?

Due to the solid shell of real gold, gold-fill jewelry is very durable. However, in some situations, it can tarnish, just like solid gold.  Tarnish is caused by exposure to air, skin, chemicals, and oils. Exposure to harsh chemicals from hairspray, perfume, and lotions may tarnish your gold-fill jewelry and should always be avoided. 

As with all jewelry, proper care will extend the life of your gold-fill jewelry. Try to minimize exposure to any chemicals by putting on your jewelry last, or avoiding wearing it during certain activities such as swimming, when you anticipate sweating a lot, or when using products such as sunscreen, lotion, perfume, cleaning products containing bleach, or nail polish remover.

A pair of white keshi pearl earrings hanging from a glass dish. There is a white seashell and  piece of coral off to the side. They sit on a blue background
Keshi Pearl and 14k Yellow Gold-Fill Earrings

How long does gold-filled jewelry last?

As long as gold-fill items are well cared for, they can last beautifully for many years. The expected lifetime of a piece of gold-fill jewelry is between 10 and 30 years. Gold-plated pieces may last a few months to a year, while solid gold lasts a lifetime or more. 

Does gold-fill cause reactions with sensitive skin?

Whether or not you would have a reaction to gold-fill depends on your sensitivities. Jewelry made with gold-fill is less likely to cause reactions with sensitive skin because of the thick layer of real gold. It is nickel-free and a hypoallergenic metal (relatively unlikely to cause an allergic reaction).

If gold-fill items turn green, it is typically a reaction between the metal in the gold-fill item and substances like lotions perfumes, or even body chemistry. There are some people with a body chemistry that reacts to gold, causing oxidation which leaves a green color on their skin. This is related to the pH levels in their bodies.

a profile view of a girls head showing her ear with a small gold fill hoop earring in the piercing. The girl has blond hair
14k Yellow Gold-Fill Hoop Earrings

Is gold-filled affordable?

With the price of gold consistently close to or over $2000 per ounce (compared with around $24 per ounce for silver), gold-filled jewelry is a wonderful way for you to bring a real, beautiful golden glow to your jewelry collection, without the staggering price of a solid gold piece.

Gold-filled jewelry pieces are priced just slightly higher than solid sterling silver and are a great way to get a quality piece of jewelry that will last for years. 

the words "caring for gold-fill jewelry" in fancy lettering

How to Help Your Gold-Filled Jewelry Last for Years to Come.

There are three main things to consider when caring for your gold-fill jewelry: what touches it, what stays on it for long periods of time, and how you store it.

Keep Your Jewelry Away From Harsh Chemicals

It is important to be aware of which chemicals can cause tarnish on your pieces. Sunscreen, perfumes, lotions, cleaning products with bleach, nail polish remover, and hairspray can all be harsh on gold-fill. If you choose to shower with your pieces on, be careful with shampoos and soaps. Make sure they are mild enough to not cause a reaction. Be sure to rinse your jewelry well so no residue remains on it.

a pair of 14k yellow gold fill T bar stud earrings on a gray background
T-Bar Stud Earrings in 14k Yellow Gold-Fill

Cleaning Your Gold-Fill Jewelry

For day-to-day maintenance, gently remove any makeup or oils that may have rubbed off from your skin onto your jewelry by wiping with a soft cloth. We include a soft polishing cloth with all orders over $20. If you have been extra sweaty or you used lotions, you may want to rinse the jewelry in lukewarm water and dry with a soft cloth. Taking your jewelry off when you sleep can also extend its life.

If you know your jewelry was exposed to a strong substance for a prolonged amount of time, you may want to consider deep cleaning it. To do so, get a bowl of warm water with a touch of gentle soap, such as Dawn dish detergent. Let the piece soak for about a minute. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush, gently give it a scrub, making sure to focus on areas that might collect dirt and grime. Rinse in lukewarm water to remove all soap. Dry well afterward and store in an air-tight container, such as the small ziplock bags we ship our products in. Then store in a low-humidity environment.

Storing Your Gold-Fill Jewelry

Storing your clean jewelry in an airtight container or jewelry box is the best way to care for it and ensure a long life.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.