Many jewelry items today are made from rolled gold, a technique which allows for the creation of affordable fashion or costume jewelry. While not as valuable as items made from solid gold, rolled gold gained hugely in popularity during the austere conditions following the Depression in the early 20th century.
Definition of Rolled Gold
The term rolled gold refers to a specific method of bonding gold to a base metal. It may also be referred to as gold-filled or gold overlay and must contain gold of at least 10 carats to comply with standards laid down by the Federal Trade Commission. In addition, the ratio of gold to base metal should be no less than 1/20th of the total weight. Deviations from this standard are allowed, but must be clearly marked on the item.
Rolled Gold vs. Gold Plated
Rolled gold shouldn’t be confused with items which are gold flashed or gold washed. These items have a very thin layer of gold and will be less durable than either rolled gold or gold plate.
Stamps which identify the purity, manufacturer and date are almost always found on gold jewelry. Some countries, such as the U.S. and Great Britain, have strict laws governing the markings of precious metals while others are more lax. Rolled gold items are usually marked with RGP or Plaque d’or Lamine and will indicate the ratio of gold to base metal if it deviates from the accepted standard.
Rolled Gold History
Back in 1742 Thomas Bolsover of Sheffield, England pioneered a method of plating one metal onto another. Known as Sheffield Plate, a fusion of silver and copper was rolled together to form a kind of sandwich with the copper between two sheets of silver. Later, in 1844, Thomas Lowe took the technique to the U.S., using gold instead of silver in the sandwich, he created a new and inexpensive form of jewelry.
Care of Rolled Gold Jewelry
With proper care your rolled gold will last a lifetime and beyond. You should avoid immersing it in harsh chemicals such as chlorine in swimming pools, and should remove jewelry before washing to minimize contact with soap. A soft cloth can be used to gently wipe away any surface dirt and renew the shine, or for more difficult-to-reach areas an overnight soak in a little dish washing liquid, followed by a good rinse in clean water, will help keep your jewelry sparkling like new.