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Gold Fill - Gilt without Guilt


by The Jewel Whisperer November 21, 2015

If you ever wondered what Gold Filled really is, read on. Many think Gold Fill or Gold Filled is the same as plated jewelry. Well, it's not, it's so much better!

Antique Victorian Bangle Bracelets in Gold Filled

Gold filled has an actual layer of karat gold on the outside. It can be melted for gold content and recovery. It lasts a long time, some of the bracelets on the image above are over 100 years old. Best of all, most people who have allergies to plated jewelry have no issues when wearing Gold Filled jewelry.

The Gold is bonded by heat and pressure. Two sheets of karat gold (sometimes a single one) and one sheet of brass or copper are arranged as a sandwich with the non-precious metal at the center. The three sheets are heated and passed through a milling machine which resembles a pasta maker. The heat and pressure create a permanent bond between the three sheets. In the old days, it was also called rolled gold as it was rolled through the mill.

How gold fill is made

Back of Krementz Jewelry insert pamphlet describing the process.

There are different marks for gold fill which depend on the actual gold content. The smaller the fraction number the more gold it contains. Some are 1/5, 1/10 or 1/20 and the outer layer can be 10k, 12k, 14k and even 18k as in some Art Deco wrist watches. Marks will be 1/10 10k, for example, with the most common being 1/20 12k. That means the thickness is 1/20 12k. It doesn't sound like much but it is a huge difference when you consider that the gold layer on most plated jewelry is measured in Microns, which a thousandth of a millimeter.

Other marks are 10k GF, 14k GF and 18k GF. Some older pieces will have marks that read Gold Shell (generally one of the thickest layers of Gold) or Rolled Gold.

On antique pocket watch cases you will see "Warranted 15 Years" for 10k Gold Fill or "Warranted 20 Years" for 14k Gold Fill.

Krementz Gold Filled insert pamphlet

As you can see on this insert from Krementz above they used the term "Gold Overlay". Krementz pieces are often gold filled. They were so proud of their technique they often did not mark their jewelry as gold filled. They felt the quality of their pieces would speak for itself. These pamphlets were included with the jewelry which was sold at fine jewelry stores and beautifully boxed.

In the late 1800's and early 1900's there were no government mandate gold or gold filled marks. Many beautiful pieces of gold filled jewelry from that time are not marked at all. There are ways to tell if a piece of old jewelry has a good chance of being gold filled without acid testing. That will be another post at a later date.

We carefully test all jewelry to determine it's content.

Gold filled has the look and richness of solid gold at a fraction of the cost. Go ahead, stack it up!

Stacked Victorian & Edwardian Gold Fill Bangles

Browse Gold Filled in our collections.




The Jewel Whisperer
The Jewel Whisperer

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