14K gold-fill. Most of you have heard it by now, but how many of you know what it is? Well, let me begin by telling you that gold-fill is the first choice for my personal jewelry. Why? Because I like the color of gold and get tired of cleaning tarnish off brass. It’s also a fraction of the cost of solid gold, yet doesn’t wear off like gold-plated pieces. So what IS gold-fill? It’s usually brass at the core, which is then covered by a layer of gold. This layer is MUCH thicker than gold-plated jewelry and should not wear off with proper care. I have had gold-filled jewelry for years and the gold layer remains intact. And while 14K gold does tarnish over time, it does so at a *much* slower rate than brass and sterling silver, so you rarely have to polish it.
Ok, so you might be wondering, if gold-fill is so great, why is gold-filled jewelry so hard to find? Well, gold-fill is a VERY tricky metal to work with. If you don’t heat the piece enough, the solder doesn’t flow. If you overheat it, the brass core bleeds through the gold layer and creates a stain on the surface. With other metals, if you accidentally scratch the piece, you can usually file or sand it. With gold-fill, you have to start over because any filing or sanding will remove the gold layer. For these reasons, most jewelers avoid gold-fill. I used to have a love/hate relationship with it, but I could never stay mad at it for long. It looks too darn good! These days it’s all love, and I don’t see myself stopping.