Since my market is mainly low-end, I use sterling silver and 14k
goldfill almost exclusively. Many people are familiar with it
because it is offered at places like Mervyn's dept. store, and other
mid-to-low-end dept. stores. I am, occasionally, asked to explain
the difference between goldfill, solid 14k, and plated gold, so be
prepared with the answer. Goldfill is a bonded process where a thin
sheet of gold is bonded, through heat and pressure, to a core of base
metal, usually bronze or brass. The resulting product has a karat
weight of 1/20th gold; thus, the marking 14/20. It is also available
in 12k, so be sure which one you're getting.
I believe that T.B. Hagstoz carries white as well as yellow
14k goldfill wears quite well in bracelets, pendants, and necklace
findings. Many of my pieces are still being worn after 18 years, and
look just fine. Even wire rings when worn constantly can last for
2-4 years, or longer, without losing their gold layer. The gold does
not chip off, but as with any metal, even solid 14k, it wears through
over time. The cut edge of the sheet or wire will be base metal, so
this end must be concealed so that it does not touch the skin.
You can order in dead soft, half-hard, or full hard; again through
TB Hagstoz. Rio Grande carries some, also, but not as many choices as
Hagstoz. Annealing, I believe, can be done, but one must be very
careful. If it gets too hot, the base metal can effect the gold
layer. It's best to order in the hardness you want.
I have encountered customers who have been told by "expert jewelers"
that it is the same as "solid" 10k gold. Obviously, this is not so.
It is 14k gold that you see; therefor, it is a match to solid 14k in
color, 10k gold is not. My math isn't great, but it seems to me that
the source of this comment is referring to the actual amount of 24k
gold in the finished product.
For those who want the look of 14k gold, but cannot afford solid
gold jewelry, goldfill is a wonderful alternative. It is not,
however, for those who suffer from metal sensitivities.