There are certain outfits and looks that simply require gold jewelry. Anything else looks wrong, and yet, the cost of gold can make those necessary gold pieces prohibitive. That’s when gold-filled jewelry and gold-filled findings come to the rescue. The beauty of gold-fill is that it is indeed real gold on the surface. It’s real gold that you see and touch and feel against your skin. But beneath the surface layer of gold are layers of other less expensive metals—usually brass or copper-- that allows gold-fill to be an affordable alternative to carat-gold. In the gold-fill process, the layer of gold, 14 carat or higher, is bonded to the base metal in a process involving heat and pressure.
Nearly any type of finding—from clasps to jump rings to bails to earring wires to chains to spacers to head pins—can be found in gold-fill. Gold-filled findings work particularly well with garnets, pearls, red coral, black onyx, peridot, creamy agates, crystal beads, and enamel findings and beads. A simple string of pearls with a gold-filled clasp guarantees a classic and classy necklace, perfect for the office or a formal night on the town. An informal summer combination that comes back every year is gold-filled findings (often chains) with white enamel beads or white enamel chain. One contemporary jewelry maker, who sells her work on Etsy, has a line of gold-filled Bridesmaid jewelry that combines delicate gold-filled chains and charms with pearls and stones like red coral or blue chalcedony.
Today’s high-fashion jewelry designers create many of their most popular pieces in gold filled, which retails for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars. But gold-filled jewelry and findings are hardly new. If you browse sites that sell antique and vintage jewelry, you’ll find gorgeous—and pricey—gold-filled pieces from the Victorian and Art Nouveau periods. The Victorians combined gold-filled settings with black onyx for their mourning jewelry. They also used gold filled findings in delicate decorative pieces, for example with cameos that were made of carved shell or Wedgewood. In both the Victorian and Art Nouveau periods, gold filled settings were often paired with brightly colored crystals, rhinestones, and glass cabochons. Though they were considered inexpensive costume jewelry at the time they were made, these gold filled jewels are now collector’s pieces. Later in the twentieth-century, gold filled findings began to be used in “better” pieces, that is jewelry that didn’t look like costume jewelry. In these pieces, the gold-filled findings usually set off semi-precious gems like coral, blue topaz, chalcedony, amethyst, and chrysoprase.
Gold-filled pieces are remarkably durable. They tend to last for years and will not peel, the way plated pieces may. They almost never tarnish and can be cleaned with a solution of gentle soap and warm water.
Beautiful and affordable, gold filled findings will give any piece that rich, classic touch of gold.