Solid Gold, Gold Filled and Gold Plated Jewellery - Explaining The Differences

July 05, 2023 6 min read

Solid Gold Jewellery

Solid gold jewellery, as the name suggests, is crafted from pure gold, which is measured in karats e.g. 24K, 18K, 9K. The karat value indicates the proportion of gold in the piece, with 24K being the purest form. Pure 24K gold is relatively soft and malleable, so it is often alloyed with other metals like silver, copper, or zinc to enhance its strength and durability. Solid gold jewellery is highly prized for its purity, lustre, and timeless appeal.

a cross section of solid gold wire


High Purity and Value: Solid gold jewellery contains a higher percentage of gold compared to gold-plated or gold-filled pieces. As a result, it has a more substantial intrinsic value. The purity and value of solid gold make it a valuable asset and an attractive option for investment as it can gain in value over time.

Durability: Solid gold jewellery is less prone to tarnishing. The alloyed metals lend strength to the gold, ensuring that the piece remains solid and intact for generations, if proper care is taken.

Hypoallergenic: Pure gold is generally hypoallergenic, making it an excellent choice for people with sensitive skin or metal allergies. Because solid gold jewellery contains minimal or no nickel (or other allergenic metals), it reduces the risk of skin reactions.


Higher Cost: The main drawback of solid gold jewellery is its higher cost compared to gold-plated or gold-filled alternatives. The purity and percentage of gold come with a premium price, making solid gold pieces much more expensive.

Softness (for 24K gold): While solid gold jewellery with lower karat values (e.g. 18K, 9K) is more durable due to the added alloy metals, pure 24K gold can still be relatively soft. As a result, 24K gold jewellery may be more susceptible to scratches and dents.

Limited Design Versatility: The purity of solid gold can limit design possibilities, especially when compared to gold-plated jewellery. The addition of alloy metals is essential for enhancing strength, but it may also impose certain restrictions on intricate designs.

In summary, solid gold jewellery is made from pure gold or gold alloys, offering high purity and intrinsic value. It is durable, hypoallergenic and has a timeless appeal. However, the higher cost, especially for pure 24K gold, can be a significant consideration for buyers. Additionally, the softness of pure gold and limited design versatility may influence the choice of karat value for a particular jewellery piece. Despite its drawbacks, solid gold jewellery remains a symbol of luxury, elegance and a worthwhile investment for the future.

Gold-Filled or Gold Bonded Jewellery

Gold-filled (also known as gold-bonded or rolled gold) jewellery is a type of jewellery that consists of a thick layer of real gold which is mechanically bonded to a base metal core. This bonding process involves layering gold alloy over the base metal through heat and pressure. The gold content in gold-filled jewellery is typically a much higher percentage compared to gold-plated items, making it a more durable and valuable option. The term "14/20" or "12/20" is often used to describe gold-filled jewellery, indicating that it contains 1/20 or 1/10 of 14K or 18K gold by weight.

a cross section of gold-filled wire


Durability and Value: Gold-filled jewellery offers better durability than gold-plated items due to its thicker layer of gold. The mechanical bonding ensures that the gold layer is less likely to wear off or tarnish over time, making it a long-lasting option. Additionally, the higher gold content gives it more intrinsic value compared to gold-plated jewellery.

More Affordable Than Solid Gold: Gold-filled jewellery provides a middle-ground option between solid gold and gold-plated jewellery in terms of cost. It allows individuals to enjoy the look and feel of solid gold jewellery without paying the full price associated with solid gold pieces. This affordability makes it an attractive choice for those seeking higher-quality jewellery on a budget.

Hypoallergenic: Gold-filled jewellery is generally considered hypoallergenic, as the thick layer of gold reduces the likelihood of base metals coming into contact with the skin. People with metal sensitivities or allergies can often wear gold-filled jewellery comfortably without any adverse reaction.


Not Solid Gold: Despite its higher gold content, gold-filled jewellery is still not pure gold. The gold layer is relatively thick, but it is not the same as solid gold. As a result, gold-filled jewellery may not have the same intrinsic value as solid gold jewellery.

Wear over Time: While more durable than gold-plated jewellery, the gold layer in gold-filled pieces can wear off with extensive use or exposure to harsh chemicals. Over time, the base metal may become visible, affecting the overall appearance of the jewellery.

Limited Repair Options: Repairing gold-filled jewellery can be more challenging compared to solid gold pieces. Since it involves a layer of gold bonded to a base metal, not all jewellers may be experienced in repairing or resizing gold-filled jewellery without damaging the solid gold layer.

In summary, gold-filled jewellery provides a cost-effective and durable option for those seeking a higher-quality alternative to gold-plated jewellery. With its thick layer of real gold, it offers better value and increased longevity. Gold-filled jewellery is a viable choice for individuals who desire the look of solid gold without the full cost of solid gold items and is generally well-tolerated by those with metal sensitivities.

Gold Plated Jewellery

Gold plated jewellery is a type of jewellery that is made from a base metal, such as brass or copper, and then coated with a very thin layer of gold. The process of gold plating involves electroplating the base metal with a layer of gold, which adheres to the surface. The thickness of the gold layer can vary, but it is typically much thinner than gold-filled jewellery. Gold plating allows jewellery makers to create pieces that have the appearance of solid gold at a more affordable price point.

a cross section of gold plated wire


Cost-Effective: One of the significant advantages of gold plated jewellery is its affordability. Since only a thin layer of gold is used, it is more budget-friendly compared to gold-filled or solid gold jewellery. This makes it an attractive option for those who desire the look of gold without the high cost.

Aesthetically Appealing: Gold plating provides a lustrous, gold-like appearance to the jewellery piece, offering a similar aesthetic to solid gold. The shine and elegance of gold can be achieved without paying the premium price associated with pure gold items.

Versatility: Gold plated jewellery can be designed in a wide array of styles and designs due to its base metal composition. This versatility allows for creativity in crafting various intricate patterns and designs.


Durability: The thin layer of gold in gold plated jewellery means it is more susceptible to wear and tear compared to solid gold or gold-filled items. Over time, the gold plating will wear off, revealing the base metal underneath. Therefore, to keep your jewellery looking at its best this gold-plating will need to be reapplied from time to time.

Allergies and Skin Reactions: Some individuals may experience allergic reactions or skin irritations when wearing gold plated jewellery, especially if the base metal used in the plating contains allergenic substances like nickel.

Limited Value Retention: Gold plated jewellery does not retain its value well compared to gold-filled or solid gold pieces. While solid gold jewellery retains value based on its gold content, gold plated items have little to no intrinsic value beyond their aesthetic appeal.

In summary, gold plated jewellery is a cost-effective option for individuals who want the appearance of gold without the high price tag. It offers an aesthetically appealing alternative to solid gold jewellery with greater versatility in design. However, its durability is compromised due to the thin gold layer, and it may cause skin reactions in some individuals. Moreover, gold plated jewellery lacks any real value retention, making it more of a fashion choice rather than a long-term investment.

So, which material is best?

The best material depends on individual preferences and budget; solid gold is the most valuable and long-lasting but also the most expensive. Gold-plated is the most affordable option but is not long-lasting or valuable. Gold-filled provides a middle-ground option between solid gold and gold-plated jewellery in terms of cost. It allows individuals to enjoy the look, feel and longevity of solid gold jewellery without paying the full price associated with solid gold pieces.  

At Pretty Serendipity we use both solid gold and gold-filled materials in our jewellery. We don't use gold-plating due to its miniscule gold content, lack of intrinsic value and its tendency to wear-off over time.

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