5 Things You May Not Know About Gold-Filled

5 Things You May Not Know About Gold Filled
Learn the ins and outs of gold-filled for jewelry making.

Watch our Halstead Jewelry Minute Gold-filled 101 video for detailed information on gold-filled material construction, gold layer alloy components and more. The video has different content than the text below so be sure to check it out!

A lot of new jewelers have some misconceptions about gold-filled jewelry supplies. If you are selling gold-filled items it is important to understand the product so you can accurately describe it to customers and handle it properly. Here are five common questions we get about gold-filled. But, first a little bit of information about the material.

Gold-filled Construction

Gold-filled is constructed in two or three layers. The core metal is usually jewelers’ brass; though in the past, sterling silver was sometimes used instead. Single clad gold-filled has all the gold content in a single layer on one side. Double clad gold-filled splits the gold content into surface layers on both sides of the material. The gold alloy is then bonded to one or both surfaces of the brass core with heat and pressure. The bonded raw material is then sold as sheet or wire to jewelry manufacturers for use in designs.

Gold-filled is legally required to contain 5% or 1/20 gold by weight. This 5% is then described by the karatage of the gold alloy. Most gold-filled is 12kt or 14kt gold-filled. It is most accurately labeled with the karatage, the “/” symbol, and then 20 to reflect this construction. Products are identified as 14/20 Gold-filled or 12/20 Gold-Filled; alternatively, 14kt Gold-Filled or 12kt Gold-Filled are also acceptable.

Halstead: Gold-Filled Items

1. Why can’t you stock more of your cast charms in gold-filled?
Gold-filled cannot be cast. This is a major limitation in the types of products that can be manufactured in gold-filled. Products must be made from sheet, tube or wire that retain the layers constructed in brass and gold. Casting by definition is melting the metal material which would alloy the layers into one big melted mess.

2. Why don’t you stock gold-filled solder?
First, there is no such thing as gold-filled solder. Your best bet is to color match the solder joint to the surface metal by using 14kt gold solder. Second, we do not recommend soldering gold-filled without specific equipment and specialized training on gold-filled soldering.

Most gold filled soldering at the manufacturing level is done with laser welders that make precision joints. If you attempt to solder gold-filled with a torch and normal gold or brazing solder you will alloy the gold surface layer of gold-filled with the brass beneath it and leave a dark solder joint that will be markedly different than the neighboring gold. The exposed brass joint will quickly tarnish to black and be even more distinct. The only way to repair it at this point is to plate the entire item in gold to cover the joint and match color all over the piece. Similarly, you should not sand or file gold-filled since you will remove the gold portion of the product and decrease the surface layer integrity.

3. I need the gold item XYZ…
OK, this one isn’t a question but it raises an important issue. Some jewelry designers will refer to gold-filled items as just “gold.” It is not gold and it is illegal to call gold-filled items gold, which implies they are a solid alloy with much higher pure gold content. Gold-filled is a unique material and must be clearly distinguished from solid gold by professionals in the industry. “Gold” is not an acceptable short hand and it can get you in legal trouble for fraud. Don’t get in this bad habit.

4. Is gold-filled the same as gold plate?
No, gold plating is a miniscule layer of solid gold applied to a brass base. The plating does not compose any measurable proportion of the product’s total weight. It is estimated to be 0.05% or less of the metal product. Gold plating will wear off rather quickly and expose the brass base product. It does not stand up to heat, water or wear over time. By comparison, gold-filled contains 5% gold by weight; moreover, all the gold is on the surface which offers product protection from tarnish and wear. Read more on gold-filled vs. gold plated.

5. Can gold-filled tarnish?
Yes it can, but it takes a rare set of circumstances. Gold-filled is usually a lifetime product because the gold layer bonded to the brass core is quite thick. However, in rare instances of extreme sulfide exposure the gold-filled can blacken. This has only occurred a handful of times over our decades of gold-filled use. Foreign transit through extremely polluted shipping docks in a few countries has caused the product to blacken on several occasions.

The only domestic cases we have had were products stored in nail salons with high levels of chemical sulfide fumes and due to a fire where the structure was filled with smoke and all the gold-filled in the building turned black. These are extreme conditions that are unlikely to happen to most end users. However, it has made me think twice about breathing the air in nail salons.  Usually, gold filled just requires light surface cleaning with an untreated cloth or mild soapy water.

6. Can you be allergic to gold-filled?

Individuals who have skin reactions with gold alloys will also react to the gold alloy layer on the surface of gold-filled. Some people’s body chemistry will cause their skin to blacken or develop a rash when they wear certain metals. I am one of those people and on certain days, my fingers will turn black all around my 14kt wedding band. Rarely, an individual’s body chemistry may darken the metal as well.

Gold-filled is a reasonably priced, quality alternative to solid gold. Most gold-filled items are made in the USA. We offer a wide selection of gold filled chain, charms and findings to outfit your jewelry studio with plenty of materials for gold-filled jewelry design.

Further Reading

Cleaning Gold-Filled Jewelry

9 Golden Metals Used in Jewelry

 

Shop Gold-Filled Now!


Follow on Bloglovin

More from Hilary Halstead Scott

Safety First. Fashion Second.

How to avoid setting your hair on fire and other helpful, humorous...
Read More

70 Comments

  • Very interesting, and I appreciate it, but I’m confused. I see many pieces on Etsy that have been fabricated by soldering gold-filled wire. I’ve been considered doing it, and now I’m discouraged. How do those metalsmiths do it?

    • Very carefully! It is best to use a laser welder and/or solder filled wire to avoid creating a dark scorched joint as described in the blog. Look for specific instruction on soldering gold filled to avoid burning off the gold layer. Standard soldering techniques with a torch should not be used. Otherwise, the end product may look okay for a little while but exposed brass will blacken more quickly than the surrounding gold.

  • Thank you for the article, when working with GF pieces and they get scratched what is the best way to repair them?

  • I have a piece of wire and I cannot determine if it is gold-filled or brass. I go to extremes of labeling and bagging to separate the two types but this piece got away. How can I tell the difference?

    • Try using flush cutters or a jewelers saw to make a clean, fresh cut and then look at the cross section under magnification. You should be able to see the gold layer on the surface if the material is gold-filled.

  • A lot of the gold-filled chain that I’ve bought over the past year has darkened. I was shocked. As long as it’s sealed in plastic and not worn, its fine.. but as soon as its left out on display or worn, it goes dark.. looks like an ugly brass. What is going on? 🙁 Can I clean this? I am really disappointed in gold-filled now, and want to focus more on sterling until I can figure it out.

      • Hi,
        I am in the same situation, all the gold filled that I bought in the past year has tarnished, but the one that I bought 2 years ago from another supplier is in perfect condition. Can these be clean at all? The supplier recommended to clean with regular jewelry cleaner , but not luck. Any suggestion on how to clean?

    • That is PRECISELY my concern! I bought myself a gold-filled cubic zicornia and sapphire ring as a special present for graduating Law school last year. It has been 13 months since I purchased it, and I have had no problem with the cz or the sapphire, but the gold-filling now resembles gold-plating and my ring is changing colour. I’m so heartbroken! Not so much about the money, but about the sentimental value I attached to that ring.

  • Can you explain why gold-filled cannot be resoldered or repaired? It doesn’t rework like gold or silver. Most jewellers won’t repair a gold-filled piece.

    Thank you!

    • Since gold filled is a layered product soldering will melt the gold and brass at the point where heat is applied. This can either burn off the surface gold or alloy it into the brass core. Either way you end up with exposed brass on the surface of the jewelry piece that will quickly blacken and contrast with the surrounding gold. Once brass from the gold filled is exposed the only solution is to plate over the entire jewelry piece to re-cover the brass and even out coloration. Depending on the construction of the jewelry and the presence of stones or beads, plating may not be possible. Moreover, plating is rarely done in house at jewelry stores so this is a service they would have to outsource at great expense.

  • Hi, how can you get scratches out of a gold fill pendant? A home remedy would be perfect but if not what are others ways to do so?

  • hi, I’m searching for a partner to cover my 925 silver jewelry (which were made already) with gold filled layer. Can you please advice? Big thanks!!

    • Hi Lydia,

      You cannot add a gold-filled layer. Gold-filled is a complete composite material, not a plating. Please see our other blogs on the material definition and specifications.

      You can however add gold plating over sterling silver. Any plating provider can help you with this service. They will want to know the gold color and thickness from you as well as the gram weight of the pieces you are plating. Red Sky Plating in New Mexico will do small lots but there are many other providers on East & West coasts of the USA who can do comparable work. Best of luck!

  • Hi. i have a question regarding its tarnishing. You said that under rare circumstances does it tarnish. How come my nevklace that I got from you guys tarnished the blacken so quickly (in 2 months).

    • Hi Sally, Thanks for your inquiry. I can’t possibly answer that question without knowing where the item was stored, where it was shipped to, what chemicals were in close proximity to the item, if any…etc. Normally gold-filled items are hard to tarnish but it will happen under extreme circumstances.

    • Hi Jada,

      That’s a great question. Beeswax or Renaissance Wax will slow down the tarnishing process but they will not prevent it permanently. However, it should only be noticeable on pretty thick pieces of wire. 20ga and smaller are usually fine.

      Hope that helps!

    • Thanks for the question Carla!

      Melting just brings all of the metals to a liquid state but if you were to smelt it using chemicals then you could separate the gold. This is a dangerous process that uses acids so I would suggest sending it to a company that can scrap gold-filled items for you.

    • Gold-filled should stand up very well, however conditions do exist where it will tarnish. Chemical sulfides and heavy toxins in the air will tarnish it, so just be careful where you wear it and it should be fine.

  • Hi! If I cut a gold filled name plate (say 30 x 7mm rectangular) from a 20 gauge gold filled sheet, will the cut ends with an exposed brass tarnish or turn people’s skin green?

    • Thanks for the question, Mike!
      You can slow down the tarnishing with Renaissance or Beeswax, and it should be fine for awhile. As for the ends turning people’s skin green, the cut ends of a nameplate shouldn’t be close to their skin, so I think you will be fine there. Hope that helps!

  • I was wondering about this article’s assertion about rarity of tarnishing of gold-filled materials. My understanding is that any grade of gold with lower karat rating than 24kt (=100% gold) is alloyed with some amount of copper which is definitely tarnishable. It stands to reason, then, that gold-filled material that uses 14kt or 12kt would tarnish over time. The question is, how readily?
    FYI, I’ve had bad experiences with gold-filled chains purchased on Etsy, which tarnished very fast (after 1 week of use). In all fairness, I should note that the chain was rolo chain and it’s possible that the link was single-clad, so maybe the non-gold side of the chain was what tarnished so quickly. Also, I did not wash or wipe the chain regularly. It’s also possible that the chains I purchased were possibly low quality or fake gold-filled chains, though. There seem to be many fake gold-filled chains being sold on Etsy and ebay, so much so that I’m considering just sticking with Rio Grande where I buy most of my jewelry supplies anyway. Anyhow could you please give me an idea how long a chain (cable chain, let’s say) from your site will stay shiny if it’s washed and cleaned with soapy water and a soft cloth? Would you be willing to guarantee it?

    • It sounds as if you received fake gold-filled chain on Etsy. True gold-filled chain should last for years as long as it is taken care of. It’s impossible to give you an idea of how long a chain would last or a guarantee because we simply don’t know what conditions it would be in and how it would be cared for. You should buy all your gold-filled chain from a reputable source though, since there are many fakes being sold out there.

  • Hello,very interesting watch,thank you. So if you cant solder gold filled,hoe do you securely close jump rings etc? thank you Andrea

  • I got white gold wire I bought first time am trying to make my own personal j jewelry I burn it it turn gold and went back to sliver is it sliver or white gold

  • I just started to use gold filled and I have no experience. For some reason after polishing my ring it turned into silver. Any idea why?

    • Hi, Justyna. We will need more information before answering your question. I suspect it may be the polishing compound that you used reacting badly to the brass. Can you send us a detailed explanation of all that you used when you attempted to polish the ring? Thanks!

  • DOES ANYONE KNOW IF MOST COMPANIES THAT MAKE GOLD FILLED JEWELRY SOLDER THEIR JUMP RINGS? OR DO THEY JUST LEAVE THEM OPEN? HOW SOFT ARE THE JUMP RINGS, ESPECIALLY VERY FINE ONES? JUST WONDERING IF CHARMS, ETC. WILL FALL OFF EASILY WITHOUT SOLDERING.

    • Hi, Jack. Gold-filled jump rings come both open and closed. The gauge of the jump ring is useful to know especially if you’re hanging a heavy charm to it. You can purchase hard snap jump rings to provide extra protection.
      Hope that helps!

    • Hi, Lisa. Gold-filled pieces should be marked, but if it’s not you should take it to a professional jeweler to have it tested.

  • I bought a 14k gold filled mairner chain and in between the chain links i can see the base metal. Is the chain just gold plated? It is stamped14kB, gold bonded. Idk if it was gold filled but they had to file it in those areas to make the chain. Or if it was just dunked in gold plating?

    • Hi Tim. I would suggest contacting the vendor you purchased the chain from. They would be able to tell you the process used on that specific one.

  • how long should gold filled keep its gold appearance? will it eventually wear off? I wonder about things such as toggle closures …where there will rubbing. TY!

    • Hi Lori. Gold-filled can last for years as long as it is cared for. The gold layer is thick so gentle rubbing shouldn’t wear it out even by the closures. If it does need to be cleaned, use a soft toothbrush and soap to gently clean it.

    • Hi Alvina, I’ve never heard of that happening before. Try using mild soapy water with a child’s soft toothbrush to gently clean it. Hope that helps!

  • Pertaining to gold filled does the 5% requirement only pertain to GF made in the US? What about other countries like China… can they put less and still call it GF?

    • In the United States, we are regulated by the FTC which states that GF jewelry must contain 5% gold alloy by weight, therefore, it is illegal to claim that a piece of jewelry is GF which does not meet that percentage. The gold layer should be 12 karat or higher and the karatage must be disclosed. In China, they are regulated by AQSIQ which is not as strict as to the percentage of gold found in a gold-filled jewelry. If you were to purchase gold-filled jewelry from another country, you should get a certificate from the manufacturer to prove the gold content in the piece. Also, If you wanted to turn around and sell it here, legally you can not call it gold-filled if it doesn’t meet the FTC requirements. You should always buy all your gold-filled components from a reputable source to be safe.

  • Thank you so much for this information re gold-filled and how to avoid blackening. I am a beginner, with $6,000 in inventory, and $25 in sales so far! I have made many mistakes in purchases, so this was crucial information for me. I am learning the hard (and expensive) way. Will keep up with the blogs and try to keep the mistakes to a minimum.

  • Will stamping a gold filled blank expose the brass underneath the gold layer? I am worried that stamping will start to tarnish.

  • Dear Erica,
    Thank you for so much information. Greatly appreciated. I am also allergic to different metals and must wear at least 14kt gold. I am a beginner and purchased gold filled wire to practice making fittings and jewelry as gifts. What would be an appropriate gauge for stringing beads of 8mm – 10mm? Thank you.

  • Hello Hilary!

    I am planning on metal stamping gold-filled blanks and creating jewelry out of it. Do you think it is legal/ethical to stamp gold-filled and then marketed it as gold-filled? In essence, does stamping the gold-filled blank cause it to loose enough gold that it should no longer be considered gold-filled?

    Thank You,

    Whitney

    • Hi Whitney,

      That’s a great question! When you stamp gold-filled it compresses it instead of removing the gold-filled. You’re not losing the gold in the process like you would if you were sanding it away.

      Hope that helps!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *