a gold bracelet with a pink stone in the center

Solid Gold vs. Gold Filled Jewelry: Shine On Without Breaking the Bank

a gold bracelet with a pink stone in the center

It’s no wonder why gold jewelry has maintained its popularity over hundreds of years—it’s elegant, timeless, and holds its value extraordinarily well. But when it comes to picking the perfect piece for your lifestyle, navigating the world of gold options might seem complicated.

Two terms you’ll often encounter when buying jewelry are “solid gold” and “gold-filled”—and while they sound similar, they’re not created equal. So, how do you choose the right one for you? Let’s break down the bling.

a gold and diamond necklace with a circular design

Solid Gold: The Real Deal

Solid gold jewelry is exactly what it sounds like: jewelry crafted entirely from gold. This luxurious option boasts several advantages:

  • Eternal Elegance: Solid gold is durable and can last a lifetime (or several!). With proper care, it can even become a cherished heirloom.
  • Investment Potential: The value of gold can fluctuate, but solid gold pieces hold their worth quite well. Solid gold jewelry can also be recycled and turned into something new, making it the most eco-friendly and sustainable option.
  • Hypoallergenic: Pure gold is unlikely to cause skin irritation, making it an ideal option for those with sensitive skin.
  • Versatility: Solid gold comes in various karats (the measure of gold purity), from the rich, bright yellow glow of 24k to the more affordable 14k or 10k. This allows for a range of colors and price points.

But there’s a catch – solid gold comes with a solid price tag. It’s the most expensive option when it comes to gold jewelry. It’s also worth noting that 24k gold is quite soft and can bend quite easily.

Here are some of our favorite solid gold options that can easily become instant heirlooms:

A yellow gold ring featuring an emerald center stone and two diamonds

Gold Fill: Shine on a Budget

Gold-filled jewelry is made by pressure bonding a layer of karat gold to the surface of another metal – usually brass—and offers a fantastic alternative to solid gold.

The history of gold-filled jewelry is fascinating. The process was created in 1817 to save people money after the price of gold skyrocketed in the early 1800s, and you’ll find many gold-filled pieces that were made in the years following major wars or economic turmoil (think Civil War, WWI and WWII, the Great Depression). It’s actually rare to find any solid gold pieces from the late 1930s to the 1950, with many vintage and antique pieces being gold-filled instead. Our own selection of gold-filled jewelry is largely from the Victorian era.

Here’s what you need to know about this durable and budget-friendly option:

  • Affordable Luxury: Gold filled features a layer of gold bonded to a base metal like brass or sterling silver. This gives you the look and feel of solid gold at a fraction of the cost. It’s important to note that gold fill is not the same as gold-plated jewelry—in fact, gold fill pieces contain approximately 100x the amount of gold in a gold-plated piece. 
  • Durability with Limits: While not quite as indestructible as solid gold, gold fill is surprisingly long-lasting. The gold layer can last for years even with everyday wear.
  • Hypoallergenic: Similar to solid gold, gold fill is a great choice for those with sensitive skin.
A gold heart-shaped locket featuring an intricate floral motif

Unlike solid gold, however, gold fill jewelry won’t last forever. Over time, the gold layer can eventually wear away, revealing the base metal underneath. Additionally, the resale value of gold-filled pieces is minimal compared to solid gold, and neither gold filled nor gold plated jewelry can be recycled without sending to a specialized refinery to separate the gold from the other metals.

As gold-filled jewelry became a popular option in the wake of WWI, WWII and the Great Depression, we have an impressive collection of vintage and antique gold-filled pieces. Here are a few of our favorites!

A gold-filled bangle bracelet with black enamel and seed pearls

So, Which Should You Choose?

Here’s a quick guide to help you decide:

  • Go for Solid Gold if: You want a timeless heirloom piece, value investment potential, or have sensitive skin and prefer a hypoallergenic option.
  • Choose Gold Fill if: You’re on a budget but still desire the look and feel of gold or are looking for a trendy design.

Ultimately, the best choice depends on your needs and budget. Both solid gold and gold fill jewelry are great options that can add a touch of luxury to your life!