Quite simply, there is a lot more gold in 14K gold fill than there is in a 14K gold plated piece.
A 14K gold fill piece is created by wrapping an actual layer of 14K gold around a jeweler's brass core (typically 90% copper and 10% zinc). By law, that layer of gold has to be 1/20th gold by weight - meaning that if you melt a piece of jewelry down, 5% of what is in the melting pot has to be gold. Because of the materials involved you can always be sure that 14K gold fill is also a nickel free material.
A gold plated piece is created by dipping a specially prepared metal object into chemical solution. A chemical reaction then occurs so that a very thin layer of gold sticks to the surface of the metal, creating the visual appearance of gold. Because virtually any metal can be plated, there are no guarantees that a 14K gold plated item is nickel free.
This difference in construction leads us to the second reason why 14K gold fill is better...
Because the layer of 14K gold on a 14K gold filled piece of jewelry is so much thicker, properly cared for* 14K gold filled jewelry will stand up to being worn every day for a lifetime. 14K gold fill jewelry is best when you are looking for a piece of jewelry that is long lasting, whether it's for a gift which will delight the recipient for years to come or for a core wardrobe piece that will be worn nearly every day to work. Creating pieces that will make you look good for years to come is the focus of my work, which is why I personally love working with 14K gold fill so much.
The thin layer of 14K gold on a plated piece of jewelry, however, is not nearly so long lasting. Exposure to water, scratches and fluctuations in body chemistry will cause the coating to quickly tarnish and wear off. Best case scenario, with plenty of attention and good care, a plated piece might last up to 2 years before it'll need to be re-plated again. So plating is a good option for trendy pieces that you are only looking forward to wearing a few times before retiring from your jewelry box.
Because 14K gold filled jewelry is so long-lasting, we get to the final reason why it's better...
Lastly, 14K gold fill is better because of the value it provides. I will admit that 14K gold also wins the first two categories. Since it's solid 14K gold there is no question about how it's constructed and how durable it is. But it looses out to 14K gold fill when it comes to cost and peace of mind. With 14K gold fill you can get the look, the wear and the care of 14K gold jewelry at just a fraction of the cost - 8.7% of the cost to be exact in the example below!
Many of my customers tell me they are also much more relaxed about wearing 14K gold fill jewelry, making it their jewelry of choice for travel. If it gets lost or stolen it is still sad, but it isn't the nerve-wracking financial disaster it could be. They are also more apt to wear 14K gold fill jewelry every day without worry. It's so much easier just to grab your favorite bracelet and go when you don't have to remove it from the safe first!
So there you have it - the three reasons why I think that 14K gold fill makes the perfect choice for jewelry wear. Did I miss any reasons? Let me know in the comments below!
*Make sure that any jewelry cleaner you use is rated for use with 14K gold jewelry. Also follow the same precautions as you would for any 14K gold jewelry, like not wearing your jewelry in hot tubs or any other high chlorine environments.
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