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  • What’s in a Chain (pun intended): The difference between gold-plated and gold-filled chain
  • Post author
    Stacy Mikulik

What’s in a Chain (pun intended): The difference between gold-plated and gold-filled chain

What’s in a Chain (pun intended): The difference between gold-plated and gold-filled chain

One of the compliments I’ve heard over and over again since grace + hudson launched is, “It’s even prettier in person!” Why thank you, thank you! That is primarily due to the fact that I use sterling silver and 14k gold-filled chain in most of my designs. Some of you have asked what gold-filled means so here's a little guide and a few tips to keep in mind when purchasing gold jewelry.

Gold-plated vs. Gold-filled

Gold-plated chain is made of a base metal (often brass) and is dipped in gold. The layer of gold is very thin. That’s why it sometimes rubs off. Gold-plated chain typically weighs less than gold-filled chain and therefore feels lighter or “cheaper” too.

Gold-filled chain, on the other hand, has a nicer feel and weight to it because it must contain 1/20th solid gold by weight. Think of it this way, imagine cutting a necklace chain in half and looking at the the circular tube that composes the chain. If the chain is gold-filled, you’ll see a base metal at the core (such as brass) and a thick layer of gold surrounding it that is virtually impossible to penetrate. It's also generally safe to wear if you've got a mild allergy to jewelry metals (people with severe allergies should still stick to solid gold). The chain may become dirty and need to be cleaned, just like anything else worn over a lifetime, but the gold will never peel off because the layer is so thick. 

Tips to keep in mind when purchasing gold jewelry

1. Pay close attention to the item description. When shopping for jewelry online, retailers will often describe their chain as “14k gold-plated.” The tendency is to see “14k” and pass right by the “gold-plated” part and that’s exactly why retailers do it. Some retailers even price gold-plated jewelry near or above $100 even though it probably cost the equivalent of your morning coffee to make (read: never pay $100 for a piece that's entirely gold-plated).

2. Gold-filled settings don't exist. It is impossible to set a stone in gold-fill. That’s because gold-fill only comes in tubes (i.e. chain and earring wires) and flat sheets. So if you see an item description that says “pendant set in gold-fill” or “gold-filled pendant setting” the retailer is not being honest with you. Pendants will always be in a solid gold or gold-plated setting. Unless we're talking engagement jewelry, it's okay to purchase jewelry with gold-plated pendants because pendants just aren't man-handled the way necklace chain is taken on and off every day. 

3. 24k Magic. Solid 24k gold jewelry is best if you want to wear it everywhere (sleeping, sweating, swimming, showering) for a lifetime. But the cost is extremely expensive. Even a dainty solid gold necklace will cost you north of $200 and likely much more. If that's not in your budget, gold-filled chain is the moderately-priced happy medium between gold-plated chain and expensive solid gold chain.

Happy shopping!

  • Post author
    Stacy Mikulik

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