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Difference Between Solid Gold vs. Gold-Filled vs. Gold-Plated Jewelry

August 16 2022 – Sidney Seiber

The Great War with a 14 karat Yellow Gold Band

The Great War with a 14 karat Yellow Gold Band

When shopping for your wedding band, a torrent of new terms spins your way all at once. Rose Gold, karats, hypoallergenic, and tarnishing; what could it all possibly mean, and is it all that important? You're getting married because you love somebody, not because you've been dreaming your whole life of wearing some fancy ring.

While your love is the main focus of the wedding day, it's important to not skip over essential details, especially your wedding band. Your wedding band is something you will wear every day of your life, and if it is a Rustic & Main ring, it also tells your story. 

Before you jump the gun and buy the ring with the cheapest price tag, it's important to learn the difference between solid gold, gold-filled and gold-plated jewelry before you buy a gold wedding band.

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What is solid gold?

Solid gold is a mixture of pure gold and other metal alloys. This fact can be surprising to people since they think solid equates to wholly gold.
Pure, 24 karat gold isn't typically used in gold jewelry for two reasons. First, it's a very weak metal, and second, it is almost orange, which seems to be less attractive to most modern ring buyers. 

Benefits of Solid Gold

When choosing between plated, filled, or solid gold, solid gold will always be the best option. It's durable because it will not lose its vibrant color over time. Being golden through and through makes solid gold very wearable since you don't have to worry that wear and tear will reveal a base metal. Solid gold, especially gold like 14 karat gold and 18 karat gold, does not tarnish much because pure gold does not easily react with oxygen. Because solid gold is a mix of pure gold and other alloys, there is potential for some tarnishing over the years, but it is minimal compared to other metals like silver. It's also hypoallergenic, making it safer for people with a metal allergy to wear and enjoy. Solid gold can also be an investment because gold doesn't diminish in value over time. In fact, gold has been shown to increase in value. In the last 21 years, gold has gone from $454.02 an ounce in May 2001 to $1,790.42 per ounce in August 2022. 

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Types of Gold

As you shop for rings, you probably notice gold comes in just about every shade of the rainbow, with the most common types being yellow gold, white gold, and rose gold

How do jewelers find or create this vast color palette with this precious metal? Could a prospector strike it rich with a rose gold nugget that he found out in the wild, or are some scientists soaking gold in vats of bleach to provide jewelers with white gold?  

The truth is that the color of a piece of gold jewelry depends on the types and proportions of alloys mixed into the solid gold. But the color isn't the only effect these alloys have on the final glittering product. The types and levels of these alloys in your solid gold jewelry can make it subject to tarnishing or even cause allergic reactions if you have metal sensitivity. Here are some important things you should know about your shades of gold before you say I do to your gold wedding band.

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Yellow Gold

Yellow gold is truly a classic choice for a wedding band. It looks good universally on every skin tone, especially on complexions with warmer undertones. Its vibrant, warm color is a gorgeous backdrop for the settings or inlays in your ring, adding a touch of class to the design of the whole band. 

 Most people would associate yellow gold with the purest shade of gold, but it is not necessarily true. The purity of gold is measured in karats, with 24 karat being the purest form of gold. Yellow gold, white gold, and rose gold are all available in 18 karat gold (meaning that the gold is 18 parts pure gold and six parts other alloys). The higher karat gold will always have a more yellow cast due to the nature of gold, but the other alloys give each shade of gold its unique hue. 

Solid yellow gold is a blend of pure gold, silver, zinc, and copper. Since the strengthening alloys' colors are a mix of cool-tones and warm tones, they have less of an effect on the color of yellow gold, and the buttery tones of the pure gold can take the stage in this shade.  

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While yellow gold tends to be a softer metal that is more subject to scratches and scuffs, the nature of the gold will prevent it from tarnishing over time. It is also the most hypoallergenic for people with metal sensitivities, but people with alloy allergies should remember to wear jewelry of a high karat value.

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White Gold


White gold is a gorgeous cool tone metal. It's usually a happy medium for people who don't want to pay the price of platinum but don't want to deal with the maintenance of silver. The cooler coloring of this metal comes from mixing gold with cool-toned metals like platinum, zinc, nickel, cadmium, and

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People with a nickel allergy might want to avoid white gold or make sure it's mixed with other metals like platinum. It tends to be more durable than yellow gold, resisting dents and scratches more easily.

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Rose Gold

Rose gold exudes a delicate, romantic beauty, unlike any other gold. This gold has had many names, including pink gold and red gold, but it was originally called "Russian gold." 

The gold's nickname comes from Carl Faberge, the famed Russian jeweler who popularized Russian gold's use in fine jewelry when he used the metal in his legendary Faberge Eggs

rose-gold-ring-inlaid-with-weathered-whiskey-barrel-The-Speakeasy-in-rose-gold

The reddish color of this gold is a result of pure gold mixed with copper. Like yellow gold and white gold, rose gold has a more yellow hue as it increases in karats. But, while white and yellow gold metal become paler as the metal grade is lower, rose gold becomes a more vibrant reddish color as the gold decreases in karats. Because of the natural strength of copper, rose gold is the most durable metal among these golds. One should remember that lower grades of rose gold can tarnish over the years since copper is a metal that easily oxidizes.

It can also be important for people allergic to copper to avoid rose gold in lower karats as it could spur an allergic reaction.  
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What is gold-filled jewelry?

Gold-filled jewelry has a layer of gold that contributes to at least 5% of the total weight of the piece. Jewelers create gold-filled pieces through a process where a base metal, like jeweler's brass or sometimes sterling silver, is sandwiched between two layers of gold and hammered into metal sheets. 

Since gold is a soft metal, the jewelry's gold coating will eventually wear down if not cared for, which exposes the tarnishable metal underneath. While gold-filled pieces are more durable than gold-plated jewelry, they still require much care if you want them to last a lifetime. Scratches and scuffs will not simply add character as they would with a solid gold band but will instead lead to the grey, filmy tarnish forming on the surface of your jewelry. 

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Gold-filled pieces can be great for dearly-cared for keepsakes, enjoyed for their sentimental value, or for staple jewelry to class up a work outfit, but it's not the best option for your fine jewelry like your wedding band.

 

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What is gold-plated jewelry?

"Gold-plating" refers to a process where a base metal (like jeweler's brass) is negatively charged by an electric current and dipped into a solution, positively charged by gold ions. The positively charged gold ions bond to the negatively charged base metal and create a thin layer of gold on the surface of the jewelry. 

This process allows a minimal amount of gold usage, meaning most gold-plated pieces are less than 1% of gold. This ratio makes the value of this jewelry a fraction of the cost of solid gold. Therefore, the price tag is significantly cheaper. 

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While gold-plated jewelry can be an amazing option for trendy pieces or costume jewelry, you definitely want to save up and invest in a solid gold ring before buying a gold-plated ring that will turn your hand green.

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Why Solid Gold Is Worth The Investment

Solid gold is like a good friend; it's golden through and through, and its value never diminishes. Unlike gold-plated or gold-filled jewelry, solid gold will never tarnish, is hypoallergenic, and carries value. People should be aware that the quality of gold is determined by its karat, not its color. Remember the color of gold can affect its durability and value, and people with higher metal sensitives should avoid lower grades of gold. 

This summer, Rustic & Main started offering gold as a ring base option for custom rings. We have seen customers come up with some amazing designs, using our materials and even some of their own! Rustic & Main’s goal is to tell a story with each of our rings, so we love working with sentimental materials because it makes your custom ring have an even deeper connection with you. 

Rustic & Main sources our gold from Stuller, a brand established in 1970. We are proud to work with a like-minded business that believes in an Earth First Commitment and that every business should operate with social responsibility in mind. Stuller is certified through the Responsible Jewellery Council, which holds each company accountable for protecting the human rights of those involved in the jewelry supply chain.

Now, we are offering a line of our most popular ring designs (plus a few unique designs) set in gold bands! Get whiskey barrel, naturally shed elk antler, historic woods, and many more materials all set in our glittering gold. We offer yellow, white, and rose gold ring bases in grades 14 karat and 10 karats. Learn more about our new gold collection today! 

Tagged: ring stories, sustainable wedding rings, USS California, wedding band materials, wedding ring allergies, wedding ring materials