A rose by any other name… Technically, the metals - gold and
brass - may be bonded together. Plating is also a bond… but that
is not the important distinction between gold plate, gold fill, and
true carat gold.
I have been working in jewelry for the entirety of my adult life,
and at age 55, have seen may occasions where 1/20 12k gold filled
material is passed off as legitimate precious metal jewelry by
retailers and crafters. It is not. At shows where real precious
metal is a minimum requirement for sale, gold plate and gold fill
are routinely excluded as candidates for the venue, and for good
At best, before the process of working the metal begins, gold filled
material consists of at best one part fine gold, and 39 parts base
metal. As the metal is worked and polished, inevitably some, or in
many cases I have seen much of the “gold” layer has been stripped
away before the jewelry ever gets into the hands of the retail
Regardless of whether an item is made with gold fill, or plated, if
the jewelry is regularly worn over a period of time, whatever gold
is present is worn away from the surfaces receiving the most wear.
This discussion began as a dialog regarding the value and efficacy
of electronic gold testers, and has apparently morphed into a hair
splitting session about the relative value of gold plate, or gold
fill based upon the process used to apply the negligible amount of
precious metal necessary to create the illusion of enhanced value.
If attempts to pass of gold fill, gold plate, and base metals as
legitimate carat gold did not take place, there would be no market
for items like electronic gold testers.
When one attempts to make the distinction between gold filled and
gold plate, it is usually an attempt to legitimize the nature of one
of the materials as being of higher value than a similar material
upon which a negligible amount of gold has been applied by another
For me there is little distinction. I don’t believe either process
offers the consumer real value.
If you have any doubts about this, I recommend that you submit
samples of finished gold fill jewelry of any type to a refiner,
along with a similar volume of carat gold. Have the samples assayed
in separate melts to discover the value of the precious metal
present in the individual melts, and get back to me about the
enhanced value created by the process employed to produce gold fill.
This is a subject about which I feel very strongly. In my opinion
when offered as a high value material, gold fill and gold plate are
to carat gold as snake oil is to real medicine.
M. M. Rogers Design