Sunday, 1 February 2009

GOLD - Rolled? Filled? Plated?

I had many emails from my customers regarding the difference between various types of gold finish on jewelry items. It is quite confusing when the pieces are described as "gold plated", "rolled gold", "gold filled" or "gold washed". I will try to explain it all so customers know what they are buying. In my Ebay shop I have some "rolled gold" bangles so let's start with this one.

Rolled gold is a very thin sheet of gold that is laminated to a lesser metal (most often brass). The two layers of metal are heated under pressure to fuse them together. Jewelry made from rolled gold wear very well over time. It is a very economical substitute for solid gold as it looks and feels just like solid gold. Rolled gold pieces are marked "rolled gold", "RG" or"RGP". Sometimes, there may also be a mark "10 mc", "20 mc" or "50 mc". The "mc" stands for "micron" and indicates thickness of the layer of gold. There may also be an indication of the quality of gold e.g. "9 ct RG", "14 ct RG" or even "22 ct RG". Please do not confuse solid gold with rolled. If in any doubt, always ask the seller for clarification.

Gold-filled is composed of a solid layer of gold bonded with heat and pressure to a base metal, very often brass. High quality gold filled pieces have the look, luster, and beauty of 14 ct gold. The minimum layer of gold in an item stamped "GF" must equal at least 1/20 the weight of the total item. You may also come across items marked "1/20" or "1/50". "1/20 12kt GF" is the most common stamp you will find on gold filled jewelry. 10kt and 14kt are also quite common. Gold filled or rolled gold items, even with daily wear, can last 5 - 30 years but will eventually wear through.

Gold-plated metal has a very thin layer of gold on the surface, usually applied by the process of electroplating. Gold plated items are often marked "GEP", "gold electroplate", "gold plated", or "electro-plaquƩ d'or". Because the layer of gold is very thin it will wear off much quicker.


"Gold washed" are metals that have an extremely thin electroplating of gold (less than 0.175 microns thick). This will wear away much quicker than gold plate, gold-filled, or rolled gold . The gold is applied by either dipping or burnishing the metal, but it is not plated.

Gold coloured or electro-plated metals but not real gold.

I hope you will find this information of use when buying vintage or antique jewelry.



  1. Hi Elizabeth

    Congratulations on your new blog!

    I too love vintage jewellery although I know very little about it. I buy because I like, not because of worth or value.

    Thank you for clarifying these different gold 'standards'. Could I ask where 'pinchbeck' comes? Does is contain any gold or is it just a goldtone alloy?

    Many thanks

  2. Hi Clair

    Thank you very much for your comment and my apology for responding with such a delay. I am very happy to hear you found the information useful.

    It is best buying anything just because you like it. However, it is also nice to buy right and possibly have a little investment.

    Pinchbeck – alas, it has no gold in at all. It is just an alloy of zinc and copper invented in the 18th century by a London clockmaker as an inexpensive substitute for gold. It has a brassy gold colour and sometimes it is referred to as “fool’s gold”. I think we can easily guess why.

    Take care