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Gold Filled vs Gold Plated – Understand the Differences

Gold Filled vs Gold Plated

Posted on 13, August, 2015

Last Modified on 31, August, 2023

Whether you're shopping for gold sign standoffs or looking for the perfect ring before getting down on one knee, it's important to understand what exactly you're purchasing. This article will answer the question "what's the difference between gold plated and gold filled?".

What is Gold Coating?

Difference Between Gold Plating & Gold Coating

Coated jewelry is made when a thin layer of a precious metal is added over the surface of another less-precious metal, which serves as the base. Common bases on for gold coatings are copper or silver. The precious metal coating is applied using a process called electro-chemical plating. This procedure can be used with gold, silver, copper, cadmium, chromium, platinum, and many other popular metals. Gold electro-plating, explained simply, is when an object is immersed into a basin of gold that is electrically charged to attract the gold coating to the desired base object. This process is often used with gold because it is inexpensive and simple to apply. A downside to gold coated jewelry is that the final product lacks value and durability because of its micro-thin layer of precious metal. If you are shopping for an important heirloom, like a gold wedding ring, this may not be the finish for you.

What Does Gold Plated Mean?

PVD, or physical vapor deposition, is another process for applying precious metals to jewelry, which is 10x durable than coatings and electro-plating. It's a process that consists of literally blasting a vaporized precious metal on top of a solid base metal to bond them together. When blasted, the vaporized metal first fills up the small cavities on the base metal, and then builds up around the rest of the metal base to protect the surface and prevent wear. Even though plating is more resistant to corrosion from say sea water or sweat, the metal plating can still be scratched. But the upside is that any wear can easily be fixed by replating, which is not expensive. Products with a PVD coating are in the mid to high price range.

What is Gold Filled?

Gold Filled Wedding Ring vs Gold Coated

Gold filled products consist of an actual layer of gold that is pressure bonded to another metal. Gold filling is one of the most valuable and tarnish resistant processes for creating gold jewelry and other items. If properly cared for, your gold filled product can last a lifetime and thanks to its durability, there's no need to worry about wear. Gold filled jewelry is actually an economical alternative to solid gold. This process uses a permanent bonding method that incorporates extremely high temperatures and pressure. The result is a much thicker layer of precious metal when compared to PVD and coating. Because this process requires more gold, these items are typically worth more. However, gold filled jewelry is actually an cheaper alternative to solid gold.

How to Determine Gold Purity Level

The higher karat of gold indicates a higher purity, with a maximum of 24 karat. For example, 12 karat gold means 12 parts gold, 12 parts some other metal such as silver or copper. While more valuable, the higher karats will be a little softer than lower karat golds, meaning that it can be less resistant to scrapes and scratches. One way to see the quality of your gold is to find a marking somewhere that indicates how much and what type of gold was used in the process. For instance, a marking of 1/20 14k G.F. means the jewelry consists of at least 1/20th of 14 Karat gold by weight. If there is no marking, the marking is unreadable, or if you want to make double check a piece's karats there are other ways to test the quality.

For example, a scratch test is another way to determine the quality of your gold. However, this does mean scratching rather deeply and an acid test is performed on the exposed material to determine the quality of your metal. If you don't want to scratch your item, bring it to a local store that has an X-ray fluorescence machine. Many stores may not have this type of equipment because it is quite expensive, but using a machine like this will allow for quality testing that does not damage your product.

Pros & Cons

Now that you know the difference between gold filled or gold plated, you may be wondering which the best choice is for you. There are certainly pros and cons for both types of finishes.

Type of Gold Pros Cons Rating
Gold Finish A great looking gold finish and perfect for indoor use. Most affordable pricing. There is no actual gold in the finish. Blemishes and scratches easily. Not for use outside. Can cause allergic reactions.
Gold Coating Can be used with many different elements and is easy to produce. Low manufacturing costs means more affordable prices. The amount of gold is minimal, which leads to a much lower value. This type of gold coating can also tarnish, chip and flake away.
Gold Plated (PVD) Uses hard metal base and is bonded with titanium nitride for a strong, long lasting bond. The plating can be scratched. The price range is a mid-higher range.
Gold Filled Gold-filled material has a much higher amount of gold in it and is worth much more. This is a durable piece that will not tarnish or chip. It is also safe for those with metal allergies. Gold-filled is much more expensive than gold plated material and will last longer; however, it does have a life span of about 10 to 30 years, unlike pure gold pieces which will last forever.

If you are looking for gold products for your trade show there are many alternatives such as brass or faux-gold. Because most trade shows are indoors or at least away from most harsh environments brass and faux-gold displays will work perfectly without the expensive price tag. Brass standoffs for posters and advertisements will really make your product stand out. Faux-gold stanchions will make your crowd control barriers classier and more professional than ever. View our entire catalog to see what other gold trade show and store furnishings we have.

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