In a perfect world, I would be able to use 14K gold beads, chains, and pendants in my work. But the reality is that 14K gold is cost prohibitive. And yet just like all the other metals – silver, copper, and brass – gold is a beautiful addition to beaded pieces. With 14K gold out of the question, where did that leave me? It left me doing some research. I wanted to be able to provide high quality jewelry that included gold, and if I couldn’t find a solution then I’d have to stick with silver metals (sterling, stainless steel, and pewter), copper, and brass.
The other options for gold are either gold-filled or gold-plated. What’s the difference? Actually, quite a lot. There are three significant differences between these two types.
First, let’s consider the manufacturing process for making gold-filled and gold-plated products. Gold-filled items are made by sandwiching a base metal – jeweler’s brass is most commonly used – in gold alloy (14K gold is an alloy), which is then heated and rolled. This process bonds the gold alloy to the base metal. Gold-plated products, on the other hand, are made by a completely different process. The base metal is given a negative charge by using an electric current. Then it is submerged in a solution containing positively charged gold ions. The positively charged gold ions are attracted to the negatively charged base metal which slowly forms a layer of gold on the base metal surface.
Due to the difference in manufacturing process, the amount of gold contained in each of these types is markedly different. In gold-filled items, gold constitutes 5% of the item’s weight as required by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). The layer of gold on a gold-filled items is generally 5 to 10 times thicker than the layer of gold on a gold-plated item. The gold in a gold-plated item is .05% – 100 times less.
Finally, this results in the extended durability of gold-filled jewelry. Depending on wear and care of the jewelry made from gold-filled parts, you can expect your gold-filled jewelry to last decades. It’s conceivable that a well-cared for gold-filled jewelry piece may last a lifetime. Gold-plated, not so much. It’s vulnerable to heat, water, and simple wear.
So why did I choose to write this blog? It’s to let my customers know that all gold elements in my jewelry are gold-filled; not gold plated. You can expect decades of use from my pieces.
And if for some reason I do use a component that is gold-plated, the listing will specifically state it.
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