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Gold plated jewelry
offers a budget-friendly option to buying pure gold jewelry. It gives you the
look and the style without the high price tag that comes with gold, and is
ideal for jewelry you don’t plan to wear on a daily basis.
Gold plating comes
in varying levels of quality, largely depending on the thickness and purity of
the gold coating, the base metal used for the piece and the quality of
craftsmanship. Once plated, it’s almost impossible to tell real gold from gold
plated jewelry just by looking at it.
As with all things,
there are drawback to choosing gold plated jewelry. Tarnishing, fading and
replating are common issues you’ll encounter.
Not sure if gold
plated jewelry is for you?
We’ve got you
covered. In this guide, we outline 13 things you need to know about gold
plating before you buy.
1- What is gold plating?
Gold plating is a
process where a thin layer of gold is bonded onto a base metal. Plating is
quite common in the jewelry world, with gold and rhodium being two popular types. This process was
invented by an Italian chemist, Luigi Brugnatelli in 1805, the first person to
plate a thin coat of gold onto silver.
Gold plating is
commonly used for costume jewelry or to mimic more expensive pieces. It is
almost impossible to tell apart expensive pieces of gold jewelry from
inexpensive gold plated imitations.
Compare the two
chains below. One is 14K gold plated and worth a few dollars. The other is 14K
solid gold and costs over $7,000. Can you tell which is which?
2- What’s the gold electroplating process?
with gold is an easy process but requires several steps. The piece of jewelry must first be cleaned
thoroughly and removed of all pollutants. This is very important as dirt and oil
on the base metal will keep the gold layer from bonding correctly. Steam
cleaning, ultrasonic cleaning and electrocleaning are some methods to clean the
base metal in order to produce the best results.
Next, a thin layer
of high-quality nickel is plated onto the base metal. This is to protect the
gold layer from any being impacted by the base metal. As we’ll discuss below,
these metals tend to leech into the gold layer. The nickel layer also keeps the
base metal from contaminating the gold
liquid in the containers used for the plating process.
For the final
layer, the jewelry is dipped in the containers with gold and a positive
electrical charge is used to fuse the gold onto the base metal. Once the gold
plating thickness has been achieved to satisfaction, the jewelry is hung to
comprehensive video if you want to see the gold plating process in action.
3- What metals can be gold plated?
Gold plated tungsten ring. See it here.
Gold plating can be
done on most metals, such as nickel, brass, stainless steel, silver and copper.
Modern industrial metals such as tungsten and titanium are also frequently gold
plated. Of these, silver and copper are the most commonly used.
4- Is gold plated real gold?
Yes, gold plating is
real gold but because of how little gold is used, such jewelry doesn’t hold the
value of gold.
The purity of the
gold used in gold plating ranges just like solid gold. The lowest purity is
usually 10K and the highest is 24K gold. When it comes to gold plating, the
main difference in these types of gold is the color it produces rather than in
the value. The higher the purity of the gold, the more gold-like the color is.
However, the value doesn’t change much because of how little gold is used,
regardless of the purity levels.
5- How thick should gold plating be?
Gold plating can
range in thickness between .17 to 2.5 microns.
Plating with a
thickness of around .17 is called gold
electroplated or gold
wash/flashed. This is an extremely
thin layer (about 0.05% of gold) and is only recommended for jewelry pieces
that are sheltered from heavy wear and tear, like pendants and earrings. This
thickness of plating wears off quite quickly.
The ideal thickness
for gold plating is around .5 to 1.0 microns. While this might sound like a
thin layer, it’s sufficient even for jewelry pieces that are exposed to rough
wear, like rings and bracelets.
Plating at around
the 2.5-micron mark is quite thick and known as heavy gold plated. However,
even this amount of gold plating is still very thin in terms of value and the
main benefit is that the plating lasts longer when it’s thicker.
6- Is gold plate jewelry worth anything?
Because the gold plating on most jewelry is very thin, it can be difficult to recover any of the gold. For gold refineries, it’s often not worth the attempt to extract the gold from plated jewelry and the profit margins are very low.
Gold plated jewelry uses real gold but isn’t very valuable. Sourced from Etsy.
Like I mentioned
above, there is very little actual gold in gold-plated pieces. It’s true that
the higher the karatage, the more actual gold the piece contains. However, this
still totals to an insignificant amount of gold overall and doesn’t add much
value to the piece. Gold plating often has little to no resale value and should
not be thought of in monetary terms. Gold-filled is a much better option in terms of actual gold
7- Does gold plating fade and tarnish?
Gold plating can fade
and tarnish over time, losing its initial luster and brightness. This is common
and can happen regardless of the quality of the piece. However, many people
wonder why gold-plated jewelry tarnishes. After all, isn’t gold an inert metal
that doesn’t rust or corrode?
Tarnished gold-plated chain.
The problem is
often not with the plating itself but with the base metal which is prone to
corroding and oxidizing. Over time, the molecules of the base metal eventually
move into the gold layer, affecting its appearance. If the gold plating is very
thin, it will discolor and start to look like tarnish quickly.
As mentioned above,
this leeching can be avoided if the jewelry is first plated with nickel, which
keeps the base metals from affecting the appearance of the gold. If this is
done during the plating process, the gold is unlikely to tarnish or face.
8- How long does gold plating last?
Gold plating is
meant to be permanent, but like all types of plating, it doesn’t handle rough
exposure well. Gold plating wears out over time and can flake off, exposing the
base metal underneath. It also loses its luster and fades with time. In
general, plating can last for up to two years with proper care.
The best way to
deal with tarnished pieces is to have the piece replated when required. How
often you need to do this depends on the thickness of the plating, the quality
of the piece, the color of the base metal and how much wear and tear the piece
9- How do I look after and restore gold plated jewelry?
By taking proper
care of gold-plated jewelry, you can extend its life and keep it bright and
beautiful. Here are some steps to take:
good idea to always put on your plated jewelry last, after applying makeup,
hairspray and perfumes. When doing chores, take off gold plated jewelry as the
chemicals in soaps, detergents and cleaners can impact the plating.
jewelry so try to wash them before putting on and taking off your jewelry.
means taking off the jewelry before swimming in pools, hot tubs or the sea.
jewelry down or clean it frequently to get rid of these pollutants.
piece to wear down quickly and to flake off. This can happen when you layer
gold plated jewelry and they rub against each other. It’s best to wear the
piece of jewelry by itself.
10- How do I know if my jewelry is gold plated?
Your jeweler should indicate that the gold is plated. However, here are
some ways to identify for yourself:
gold plated pieces, the price is usually a giveaway. Gold plated jewelry is
often very affordable and hardly ever goes above the $50 mark.
hallmark. The most commonly used stamps for gold plated jewelry are:
GP – gold plated
GEP – gold electroplated
HGE – heavy gold electroplate
HGP – heavy gold plate
However, there is no hard and fast rule that gold plated jewelry must be
stamped. You’ll find many pieces that bear no hallmarks at all.
are often coated with 22K or 24K gold, which gives it a very bright golden
look. Solid gold jewelry is usually much less golden in color because the
purity levels are commonly under 18K.
uneven color tone or if there’s some flaking off in the piece, you can assume
that it’s plated.
Check this video which outlines how to tell real gold from fake.
11- Is gold plate hypoallergenic?
This depends on the
thickness of the gold and whether the piece contains metals that cause
allergies, like nickel, zinc and cobalt.
In general, gold
plating is not hypoallergenic and can cause skin reactions for people with
metal allergies. This is because of the nickel content that is in the piece.
When the gold layer wears down or flakes off, the nickel in the jewelry comes
into contact with your skin, causing reactions.
Before you buy gold
plated jewelry, check the metal alloys in the piece. Avoid metal allergens if
you have metal allergies.
12- Should I use a home gold plating kit?
Home gold plating kits like this one are usually fun and easy to use. They’re a good way to understand the gold plating process and to try gold plating some pieces of your own. If you have a lot of gold plated jewelry, this might be a good way to keep them perpetually shiny and lustrous.
13- Where can I buy gold plated jewelry?
Your best bet to find gold plated jewelry is to check at costume jewelry stores. These are affordable jewelry options and there’s bound to be several physical stores near you. However, if you’re searching online, Amazon has an excellent collection of gold-plated jewelry. These affordable and come in a range of styles.
Check on Etsy for unique finds. See this here.
We also recommend checking on Etsy for more unique, handmade items.