14k Gold-Filled Jewelry Quality & Care Guide | GLDN
It’s simple: we’re confident we offer the absolute top quality 14k gold-filled jewelry available. We also know that gold-filled is second only to solid solid gold in terms of quality (making it your best, most affordable option for gold jewelry). But you’re probably wondering: does gold-filled jewelry tarnish? How long will gold-filled jewelry last? We're not afraid to be totally honest about its longevity and performance—because we want what’s best for you!
First of all, what is gold filled jewelry?
Unlike solid gold jewelry, gold-filled jewelry isn’t an alloy, and isn’t one solid metal all the way through—it’s actually a layered material (like a sparkly cake!). The middle layer is a jeweler’s brass core, and the outer layer is gold (typically 14k). The gold on the outside is mechanically bonded to the brass core with heat and pressure so it’s more resistant to fading or tarnishing than gold-plated jewelry. To legally be considered “gold-filled,” a piece of jewelry has to be 5% (or 1/20th) gold by weight.
What are the benefits of buying gold filled jewelry?
Gold-filled jewelry is a great compromise between cost and quality. Not to speak for everyone, but we all love solid gold jewelry—it’s a great investment, it never tarnishes and can be passed down to future generations. But it’s expensive.
Gold-filled jewelry, on the other hand, is much more affordable and offers many of the same benefits as solid gold! It looks the same, it can be worn pretty much 24/7 (as long as you keep it away from harsh chemicals and beauty products) and it’s typically great for those with sensitive skin. Plus, when compared to gold-plated jewelry, gold-filled jewelry contains much more gold and won’t turn your skin green!
Now you’re probably wondering: does gold-filled tarnish? Let’s discuss.
Does Gold-filled Jewelry tarnish?
Other people might tell you that gold-filled will never tarnish and lasts forever. That’s definitely feasible in theory, but it’s rather optimistic. Our 14k gold-filled jewelry can absolutely last you a lifetime (after all, we only use the best quality 14k gold!) but can and will are different things. The fact is, there are a variety of things that can affect your jewelry—your lifestyle, how often you wear it and how often you clean it have massive effects on the longevity of 14k gold-filled pieces. So, does 14k gold-filled tarnish? It can—but there are small steps you can take to prevent it. Our goal is to offer advice based on the realities of daily life, so you can learn how to make your gold-filled jewelry last a lifetime!
How long can gold filled jewelry last?
How long 14k gold-filled jewelry can last depends on three things:
- What touches it: water, chlorine, chemicals from beauty products, etc.
- How often you clean it
- How you store it: more airflow = more chance for oxidization
Read on as we dive into these 3 factors and share reliable knowledge and care tips to help your gold-filled jewelry last as long as possible. If you're a master caretaker, your 14k gold-filled jewelry might even last you a lifetime
Caring for 14k gold-filled jewelry, PART 1:
Know what causes tarnish:
Does 14k gold-filled tarnish? It can—but you can also prevent it from happening (and make it last beautifully for many years). But we’ve found that the wrong chemicals, when left on the surface of your pieces, can cause the gold to darken more quickly than it should. There are chemicals in a lot of things (even your own body chemistry!), and it’s important to be aware of the factors that could potentially tarnish your 14k gold-filled pieces. We’ve included a list below of some of the worst and most common factors that cause tarnish. You’ll notice a rating beside each—the more bold Xs, the harder it is on your jewelry. XXXXX is the worst!
Pools & Hot Tubs:
Just don’t do it. Pools and hot tubs are a nasty chemical bath that’ll ruin your gold jewelry. The chemicals used to kill bacteria in pools create a harsh environment for jewelry, and they’re even more concentrated in hot tubs!Tarnish Rating: XXXXX
Saltwater + gold-filled jewelry = not great. Salty water can trigger a corrosion process that’ll eventually wear down and weaken your gold-filled pieces, creating tarnish and possibly even breaking thin chains! If your gold-filled pieces accidentally come in contact with salt water, don’t sweat it—just gently rinse your piece(s) with clean, non-chlorinated water and pat to dry.Tarnish Rating: XXXX
The dreaded body chemistry is a bit of a wild card—and makes answering “does 14k gold filled tarnish?” a lot trickier. The simple fact that people’s hormones are different and a variety of things may come out of their pores makes this a difficult factor to nail down. But it’s a real thing that can cause gold to tarnish more quickly for some people.
Unfortunately, unless you have experience with 14k gold-filled and know how it works with your skin, the only way to know is to try it. For 90% of people, it’s a love match. For the other 10%, pieces might not be quite as sparkly after a few months.Tarnish Rating: X to XXXXX (it’s very individual)
Science time: sweating is how our body rids itself of excess fats, fatty acids and amino acids (the more you know)! This means there are a lot of chemicals in your sweat, and depending on your personal body chemistry (or medications you may be taking), it could be hard on your pieces. We recommend removing your gold-filled jewelry before a workout just to be safe.Tarnish Rating: XX to XXXXX (depending on body chemistry)
Beauty & Cleaning Products:
Does gold-filled jewelry last? It does…but certain beauty products can affect its longevity. Perfumes, hairspray, lotions—and worst of all, sunscreen (!)—can tarnish your gold-filled jewelry like no other. We always recommend putting on your jewelry after any of these beauty products, and take it off for certain activities that warrant heavy sunscreen use.
Here are a list of some common products and their tarnish ratings:
- Sunscreen: XXXXX
- Perfume: XXXX
- Unscented Lotion: XX
- Perfumed Lotion: XXXX
- Cleaning Products with Bleach: XXXXX
- Mild Dish Soap (if rinsed off): all good!
- Nail Polish Remover: XXXXX
- Hairspray: XXXX
I have been wearing some of my 14k gold-filled necklaces for over two years now and they're still gold and lovely. A few chains aren't as sparkly as they were brand new, but it's not as noticeable against my skin (vs. on white paper, for example).
Truthfully, I’m not the best at taking care of things like this, although I'm pretty good at taking my pieces off to sleep (most of the time) and am careful to not get products on them like perfume, sunscreen and hairspray. I do shower with them on because I think it helps clean them, but I know my shampoo and soaps are mild enough (so be careful about that detail)!
Overall, to give an idea of how well the necklaces have lasted after a year (with reasonable care), I'd say they're at about 80% awesomeness vs. 100% when they were new.
Notes: I wore one of my bar necklaces for a week straight in Maui without taking it off to swim, and it doesn’t look great now—thanks to a cocktail of sunscreen, sweat and saltwater. The bar still looks nice, but the dainty chain has darkened substantially. (Just imagine if I’d worn it in the hot tub, too!)
Caring for 14k gold-filled jewelry, PART 2:
Day-to-Day MaintenenceTo keep your gold-filled jewelry sparkly and shiny, gently remove makeup and oils from your pieces with a soft cloth (like a flannel or lens cloth) after each wear. If your pieces contacted sunscreen, saltwater or sweat, we recommend giving them a quick rinse in clean, lukewarm water and immediately drying them with a soft cloth. Removing your jewelry before sleep will do wonders in helping it last longer, too!
Does gold-filled jewelry tarnish? It can, but it’s way less likely with a deep cleaning every month or two! If you know your gold-filled jewelry contacts sunscreen, sweat or any other chemical-heavy product, it's best to give it a nice, deep clean ASAP.
- Grab a bowl of warm water with a drop of gentle soap (I use Dove) or mild dish soap.
- Let the piece soak for about a minute.
- Give it a scrub with an ultrasoft toothbrush, really getting into the chain where dirt and products like to build up.
- Rinse it in lukewarm water a few times to make sure all the soap is removed.
- Gently dry it afterward with a soft cloth; make sure it’s 100% dry before storing it!
Caring for Gold-Filled Jewelry With Gemstones
Nothing can dull a gemstone’s shine like beauty and cleaning products! To keep your gemstone jewelry sparkling like new (and help prevent damaging precious stones), we recommend these easy tips.
- Avoid wearing your gemstones in water.
- Remove your jewelry when doing strenuous activities or exercising.
- Avoid contact with beauty products, perfumes, or other chemicals.
- To clean them, wipe with a soft cotton cloth.
Caring for Gold-Filled Jewelry With Pearls
The lustrous gems of the sea, pearls are the only gemstone that originates from a living thing—and every pearl is one-of-a-kind! It’s especially important to clean and protect your pearls from damage since they are a bit more finicky than other gemstones. Here’s what we recommend to keep your pearls glowing for years.
- Don’t wear your pearls in water! Though they come from the sea, pearls hate being submerged in water.
- Remove them when you swim, shower, sleep, or exercise.
- Avoid contact with detergents, skincare products, and soaps—these can seriously dull the shine of your pearls.
- Clean your pearls with a soft cotton cloth.
- Do not store in airtight containers; this could cause the pearls to crack!
Caring for 14k gold-filled jewelry, PART 3:
The number one way to store your gold-filled jewelry so it lasts is in something airtight. (Less airflow = less chance for any chemical reactions that cause tarnish!)
- Store it clean after your day-to-day maintenance (see above).
- Ideally, use a little ziplock bag—they're compact, airtight and don't contain any chemicals that cause tarnish. If you’re traveling (and want more protection for your piece), place the bag in a small, hard container. We know ziplocks aren’t as aesthetic as some other options, but they’re simple, inexpensive and effective!
- Store in a low humidity environment.
Can you wear gold-filled jewelry everyday?
The answer = a resounding yes. Made by mechanically bonding a thick layer of 14k gold to a base metal, 14k gold-filled jewelry looks and wears just like solid gold without the price tag. The layer of gold in gold-filled jewelry is much thicker than you’d find in gold-plated or gold vermeil jewelry, making it less likely to fade over time.
So, will gold-filled tarnish? It can if it constantly comes into contact with sweat, chemicals and chlorine, but by following the care instructions above, you can wear your beloved jewelry every day (and keep it looking shiny and new). ✨
We hope this was helpful! Please feel free to contact us with any questions you might have! For more information, you may find one of these other posts helpful: What is 14k Gold Fill or Gold-Filled vs. Gold-Plated Jewelry.