A piece of jewelry may look like solid gold, but it might actually be gold filled. Let’s see how gold-filled items are different from solid-gold ones and how you can tell them apart.
What Is Gold-Filled Jewelry?
Gold-filled jewelry is made by wrapping a very thin sheet of gold around a base made of another material such as nickel or brass. Heat is used to attach the gold coating on top of the non-gold core.
Gold-filled items are similar to gold-plated pieces in that they are not solid gold; gold-plated jewelry, however, has a much thinner gold coating.
Solid gold jewelry, in contrast, is made entirely of one material – usually, an alloy that contains gold mixed with other metals to make the compound harder and more durable.
Gold Filled or Solid Gold: Look at the Gold Markings
Solid gold pieces are usually stamped with their karat number only. For example, an 18-karat item should have a stamp such as “18K”, “18kt”, or “18KP”.
In Europe, you may see karats expressed as a decimal, percentage, or parts per thousand: Thus, an 18K piece may be stamped with a marking such as “0.75” or “750” since 18 karats imply 75% gold content (18 divided by 24, which is the maximum number of karats possible).
Gold-filled jewelry should also have markings indicating its karat number. However, such pieces usually have additional letters and numbers stamped that indicate that they are not solid gold.
The most common identifier of gold-filled items is the sign “GF” after the karat number.
As an example, “1/10 22K GF” is a marking which tells you that the item is gold filled and its gold layer is made of 22-karat gold; the fraction “1/10” before the karat number means that one tenth of the item’s weight is gold.
Sometimes, instead of the stamp “GF” you may see the letters “RGP”, standing for “rolled gold plate.” This type of jewelry is made in the same way as gold-filled pieces, but its gold layer is much thinner.
Note: Although a simple karat number stamp such as “14K”, without any additional letters, should mean that the piece is solid gold, there may be some vendors that could sell gold-filled jewelry that is not identified as such by the letters “GF”.
What If There Are No Markings?
Sometimes, a gold piece may not have any markings. It is not a good idea to purchase such jewelry in the first place.
Nevertheless, its gold content can be found out by doing an acid test, which involves scratching the surface of the item to get a gold filing and putting the sample in acid to determine its karat.
The problem with acid testing is that in order to find out if an item is gold filled, you will need to scratch it relatively deep in order to see whether there is another material below the top gold layer.
If you don’t want to leave visible scratches on the jewelry, then this method is not recommended.
Sometimes, gold-filled pieces are sold with a warranty that states how long the top gold layer will last before wearing out.
If there is any indication that he vendor guarantees that the piece’s gold surface will be good for a limited number of years, it is likely that the piece is not solid gold (although this is also not a perfect sign).