Much of the retail gold jewellery is not made from pure gold. Instead, gold is placed over other types of metal to provide jewellery with a gold look. Gold-filled and gold-plated jewellery differ regarding the amount of gold used and the application process. Gold-filled and gold-plated jewellery also differs in how long it lasts. Jewellery makers should understand how the processes used for both gold plating and gold filling affects the types of materials used by many artisans.
Gold-filling jewellery is jewellery containing pure gold equal to 1/20th of its entire weight. Gold is often mixed with copper or brass. Gold-plated jewellery also combines gold with copper, brass or other base metals, however, only a very tiny amount of gold is used. The gold or gold-coloured metal used in gold-plated jewellery equals seven-millionths of an inch.
Gold plating involves pressing a small amount of carat gold over the base metal through an electrochemical process. In some cases, the metal used in gold plating is not real gold, but only provides a gold colour.
Vermeil is the process by which gold is bonded to a base metal to create gold-filled jewellery. Vermeil involves a thick sheet gold being mechanically bonded with the base metal. Gold-filled jewellery often is marked with a number that indicates the relationship between the weight of carat gold and the weight of the base metal.
Gold-plated and gold-filled jewellery also differ in terms of wear and tear. The colouring on gold-plated jewellery tends to wear off more easily than gold-filled jewellery. Gold-plated jewellery reacts to salts in human skin and pollutants in the air, breaking down more quickly than its filled counterparts.
Jewellery makers and artisans should be aware of the differences between gold-plated and gold-filled jewellery as it pertains directly to their work. Understanding how gold-plated and gold-filled jewellery relates to one another helps artists enhance their material choices.