Is it gold-filled or gold-plated?

We originally published this last year but many have requested again.  Here it is…

With all of the different types of jewelry on the market these days and the influx of reclaimed pieces in the stores, it is sometimes difficult to identify the type of gold.  It is not wise to rely strictly on hallmarks or stamps because items manufactured outside of the US are not required to be marked like the US Department of Commerce requires in the US. 


Gold-filled means there is a thicker, solid coating of gold used. Newer gold-filled items have markings that indicate how much and what type of gold was used for the layer.  A marking that says for example: 1/20 12k GF means the piece is at least 12k gold by weight and contains 1/20th of gold.  It is not uncommon to see 1/8 14k gold-filled marks on older items which are sometimes marked RGP or Rolled Gold Plate. To be considered gold-filled, gold must constitute at lease 5% of the item’s total weight.

The benefits of gold-filled are:

  • Wears well – 5 to 10 times thicker than regular gold plating
  • Higher quality of gold compared to gold-plated
  • Does not tarnish



Gold-plated or overlay as it is sometimes called, means a layer of gold has been joined to the base metal through an electroplating or chemical process. The gold content is typically very low.  A hallmark for this type of gold might look similar to this:  14k HGE. This signifies 14k Heavy Gold Electroplate.

The benefits of gold-plated are:

  • Strong not soft like gold
  • Not as susceptible to nicks and dents

Source: Weisberg, Alfred M. (1997), “Gold Plating” Products Finishing Magazine

Lechtman. H. (2014) “A Pre-Columbian Technique for Electrochemical Replacment Plating of Gold and Silver on Copper Objects”

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