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Working with gold-filled vs. sterling


I currently work in sterling and am looking to offer most of my
products in gold-filled due to customer interest and keeping the
price point lower. I have questions about working with gold filled
vs. sterling though.

  1. I currently use 2 different sized micro torches and a pencil
    torch (all butane) which work fine for what I am doing. Will these
    get hot enough for the gold filled?

  2. Can gold filled be pickled just as silver? Any tumbling or
    finishing tips to avoid removing the gold layer?

Thank you in advance!
Carin Jones, owner/designer
Jonesing for Jewelry

Hi Carin -

I can speak to the sterling/18K bimetal that is commercially
available. The gold is five percent of the weight and technically

I use the same torches for this material as I use for regular and
de-ox sterling. If you are joining two pieces, you do need to use
gold solder to avoid a silver solder line. If you don’t care about
the line, silver solder works - just use medium or easy.

I pickle the material just as I do sterling, but I protect the gold
when soldering with a traditional gold-working material - boric acid
powder in alcohol. This is a dangerous, highly flammable material
that works perfectly. Just be sure to close the alcohol jar before
you bring the torch anywhere near. I try to always heat the metal
from the sterling side.

In order to preserve the gold material, I always tumble it in a
medium fine abrasive. If you use a regular buff, be very careful -
you remove comparatively much more material with the buff.

The little experience that I have with gold-filled base metal was
unsatisfactory. More practice might generate better results - it
just seemed like the base metal wanted to melt (torch was probably
too hot) and when it did, it burned off the gold. I tried this
material early on in my jewelry career and it might work better now
that I have more experience.

Judy Hoch