If you're in the market to purchase gold jewelry, whether for yourself or for someone else, you'll want to take some things into consideration...
While solid gold is the most expensive and the highest in quality and purity, gold fill is your best option after solid gold for quality and durability. Gold filled jewelry is less expensive, but still a valuable alternative to solid gold.
Another alternative is gold vermeil (pronounced 'ver-mey') which some people prefer as it is an all-precious metal option. Vermeil is an overlay of gold over a base of sterling silver. Like gold fill, it is a less expensive but valuable alternative to solid gold. However, it does require more care than gold fill and the gold will eventually patina into a darker color.
In contrast there is gold plated or electroplated jewelry which is significantly cheaper than solid gold and allows for gold appearing jewelry to be more affordable and accessible to the greater public. It's a base metal that has been dipped in a thin layer of gold.
Gold fill which is also known as 'rolled gold', is an actual layer of gold pressure bonded to another metal (usually brass or copper). Gold fill is not actually filled with gold, and is not to be confused with gold plating as gold fill literally has 100% more gold than gold plating.
Although the layer of gold in gold filled pieces varies depending on the manufacturer, it is in all cases significantly thicker than regular gold plating. It's usually made with 14k gold and is quite durable. With reasonable care it will not peel, flake, rust or rub off as it will with electroplated jewelry and should last a lifetime.
Gold fill is tarnish resistant, and while it's possible for gold-fill to tarnish under certain circumstances, it is shouldn't do so easily.
Gold fill is a great option for those with skin sensitivities. Anyone who can wear gold can wear gold filled without worries of any allergic reaction to the jewelry. In fact, 99.9% of people find they have no sensitivity to gold-filled jewelry. Since the outside of the piece is solid 14k gold, it interacts with your skin in the same way solid 14k gold would. If you don't have any sensitivities to solid gold, you'll find gold fill agrees with your skin.
Gold fill won't discolor your skin. While there are rare instances where some people's body chemistry reacts with the 14k gold that leave a green residue on the skin, this only happens in approximately 0.001% of people, so it shouldn't be a concern. Often this is caused by medications present in the system that can react with gold.
I choose to work mostly with gold fill since it allows me to produce affordable, higher end jewelry. That said, I'm looking forward to expanding my solid gold line!
A Comparative Illustration of Gold:
So solid gold, despite its higher price tag is great for romantic gifts for a truly special someone. It also makes for a great investment as solid gold retains its value and forever will hold its allure in the world of jewelry. Gold fill is also a great option for that special someone as it offers all the same characteristics as solid gold such as strength, durability and beauty, but at a fraction of the cost!