What the heck is gold filled??!?

14k gold filled jewelry chain necklaces by delia langan jewelryDoes "gold filled" mean the metal is filled with gold?  Will the gold wear off of my gold filled jewelry eventually?  Can I get gold filled jewelry wet?  

These are all super common question that people have when it comes to "gold filled" or "gold fill."  We all know what gold is, some of us know what gold plate is . . . but what is gold filled?  The short answer is : gold filled is pretty great, and I'll tell you why. 
14k gold filled halo choker collar by delia langan jewelry

 Gold filled (usually labeled "GF" by jewelers) is a metal composed of a solid layer of gold that is bonded to a core base metal through heat and pressure.  Gold filled jewelry will not wear off over time, and if taken care of properly it can last a lifetime.  Gold fill is indistinguishable from solid gold but costs significantly less because of its base metal core.  It differs from gold plate in that gold plate consists of a thin, microscopic layer of gold that will wear off over time.  The gold on gold filled is around 15 times thicker than gold plated jewelry.

Unlike gold plate, it's safe to get your gold filled jewelry wet.  All of the jewelry here at delia langan jewelry uses 14k gold fill.  You can wear it to bed, in the shower, and while you exercise.  It's safe to swim in gold filled (though I generally suggest avoiding pools and hot tubs for any type of jewelry.  To read more on that topic click here). 

If I'm buying gold jewelry, how do I know which one it is?  The standard abbreviation for gold filled jewelry is denoted by "14k GF."  For rose gold filled you'll probably see the jewelry labeled "Rose GF."  Solid gold will be significantly more expensive than gold filled and gold plate, but it's not necessarily easy to tell the difference between gold filled and gold plate based on price.  A general rule of thumb is that if it's gold filled, they'll probably tell you or have it written in the description.  If it's plate it will be affordable but might just say "gold."

Despite its affordability and longevity, 14k gold filled has some major pitfalls from a jeweler's standpoint because it is extremely limiting in terms of what you can make and how easy it is to reproduce it.  Gold filled jewelry cannot be cast or machine manufactured, and therefore you're limited to jewelry that can only be made by hand through forging, light soldering, and wirework.  Gold, silver, and plated jewelry can be cast, manipulated, polished, and mass produced.  It is important to mention that jeweler choosing to use plate versus 14k gold fill isn't necessarily being cheap (some gold plate is very good!) they may just have an artistic vision for a design that isn't able to be produced in gold filled and want to make jewelry accessible at lower price points than solid gold.