FAQ: What does Gold Filled Mean?

The term Gold filled is commonly misunderstood in the antique jewelry industry. Actually, gold filled jewelry is much more valuable than jewelry that is gold plated. When something is gold filled, it has a thick sheet of gold applied to a base metal, 50 to 100,000 times thicker than gold plating, and in order for something to be considered Gold Filled, it must have a gold content of at least 1/20th the total weight of the item.

Antique Victorian Gold Filled Crescent Locket, c. 1890
Antique Victorian Gold Filled Crescent Locket, c. 1890

During the mid to late Victorian period, gold filled jewelry was very common and was manufactured in large numbers. The scarcity of gold and the rise of commodities through the industrial revolution drove this demand. These pieces are so durable that the gold can last anywhere from 5 – 30 years depending on the wear. Pricewise, antique gold filled jewelry (which tends to bare the thickest sheets of gold and thus larger have gold content) price out similar to that of our common day 10k solid gold.

Also known as: Rolled Gold, GF, 1/20 12K GF.

 Things to Remember:

    Antique Gold GF Civil War Black Enamel Sterling Star Screw Back Earrings, c. 1860
  • Solid Gold: Pure gold is mixed with alloys to create solid gold with different karat values: 10k having the least amount of gold – 20k having the highest. Gold is very soft, so alloys are added to add strength.
  • Gold Filled: Solid gold is rolled out into a sheet and then applied to a base metal through heat – applying a thick plate of gold.
  • Electroplated Gold: A thin layer of solid gold added to a base metal through the use of electricity, slightly thicker than gold plate.
  • Gold Plate: A thin layer of solid gold added to jewelry, usually in 12K – can be rubbed off easily.
  • Gold Vermeil: A light gilt of gold on a piece of jewelry, usually done with 14k yellow gold on sterling silver.

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