Home » Jewelry Trends » 13 Things You Need to Know About Gold Plating
January 18, 2023
January 18, 2023
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Gold plated jewelryoffers a budget-friendly option to buying pure gold jewelry. It gives you thelook and the style without the high price tag that comes with gold, and isideal for jewelry you don’t plan to wear on a daily basis.
Gold plating comesin varying levels of quality, largely depending on the thickness and purity ofthe gold coating, the base metal used for the piece and the quality ofcraftsmanship. Once plated, it’s almost impossible to tell real gold from goldplated jewelry just by looking at it.
As with all things,there are drawback to choosing gold plated jewelry. Tarnishing, fading andreplating are common issues you’ll encounter.
Not sure if goldplated jewelry is for you?
We’ve got youcovered. In this guide, we outline 13 things you need to know about goldplating before you buy.
What is gold plating?
Gold plating is aprocess where a thin layer of gold is bonded onto a base metal. Plating isquite common in the jewelry world, with gold and rhodium being two popular types. This process wasinvented by an Italian chemist, Luigi Brugnatelli in 1805, the first person toplate 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?
What’s the gold electroplating process?
Plating jewelrywith gold is an easy process but requires several steps. The piece of jewelry must first be cleanedthoroughly and removed of all pollutants. This is very important as dirt and oilon the base metal will keep the gold layer from bonding correctly. Steamcleaning, ultrasonic cleaning and electrocleaning are some methods to clean thebase metal in order to produce the best results.
Next, a thin layerof high-quality nickel is plated onto the base metal. This is to protect thegold 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 thebase metal from contaminating the goldliquid in the containers used for the plating process.
For the finallayer, the jewelry is dipped in the containers with gold and a positiveelectrical charge is used to fuse the gold onto the base metal. Once the goldplating thickness has been achieved to satisfaction, the jewelry is hung todry. Check thiscomprehensive video if you want to see the gold plating process in action.
Gold plating can bedone on most metals, such as nickel, brass, stainless steel, silver and copper.Modern industrial metals such as tungsten and titanium are also frequently goldplated. Of these, silver and copper are the most commonly used.
Is gold plated real gold?
Yes, gold plating isreal gold but because of how little gold is used, such jewelry doesn’t hold thevalue of gold.
The purity of thegold used in gold plating ranges just like solid gold. The lowest purity isusually 10K and the highest is 24K gold. When it comes to gold plating, themain difference in these types of gold is the color it produces rather than inthe 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.
How thick should gold plating be?
Gold plating canrange in thickness between .17 to 2.5 microns.
Plating with athickness of around .17 is called goldelectroplated or goldwash/flashed. This is an extremelythin layer (about 0.05% of gold) and is only recommended for jewelry piecesthat are sheltered from heavy wear and tear, like pendants and earrings. Thisthickness of plating wears off quite quickly.
The ideal thicknessfor gold plating is around .5 to 1.0 microns. While this might sound like athin layer, it’s sufficient even for jewelry pieces that are exposed to roughwear, like rings and bracelets.
Plating at aroundthe 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 themain benefit is that the plating lasts longer when it’s thicker.
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.
Like I mentionedabove, there is very little actual gold in gold-plated pieces. It’s true thatthe higher the karatage, the more actual gold the piece contains. However, thisstill totals to an insignificant amount of gold overall and doesn’t add muchvalue to the piece. Gold plating often has little to no resale value and shouldnot be thought of in monetary terms. Gold-filled is a much better option in terms of actual goldcontent.
Doesgold platingfade 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?
The problem isoften not with the plating itself but with the base metal which is prone tocorroding and oxidizing. Over time, the molecules of the base metal eventuallymove into the gold layer, affecting its appearance. If the gold plating is verythin, 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, whichkeeps the base metals from affecting the appearance of the gold. If this isdone during the plating process, the gold is unlikely to tarnish or face.
How long does gold plating last?
Gold plating ismeant to be permanent, but like all types of plating, it doesn’t handle roughexposure well. Gold plating wears out over time and can flake off, exposing thebase metal underneath. It also loses its luster and fades with time. Ingeneral, plating can last for up to two years with proper care.
The best way todeal with tarnished pieces is to have the piece replated when required. Howoften you need to do this depends on the thickness of the plating, the qualityof the piece, the color of the base metal and how much wear and tear the piecesustains.
How do I look after and restore gold plated jewelry?
By taking propercare of gold-plated jewelry, you can extend its life and keep it bright andbeautiful. Here are some steps to take:
- Keep gold plated jewelry away from chemicals, oils and makeup. It’s agood idea to always put on your plated jewelry last, after applying makeup,hairspray and perfumes. When doing chores, take off gold plated jewelry as thechemicals in soaps, detergents and cleaners can impact the plating.
- It’s a good idea to keep your hands clean when handling gold platedjewelry so try to wash them before putting on and taking off your jewelry.
- Don’t expose gold plated jewelry to chlorinated or salty water. Thismeans taking off the jewelry before swimming in pools, hot tubs or the sea.
- Body oils and sweat can impact gold plating. To counter this, wipe thejewelry down or clean it frequently to get rid of these pollutants.
- Cleaning your gold-plated jewelry regularly is important to prolong its life. Use a mild liquid soap or a professional jewelry cleaning solution like this one and warm water when doing this. Avoid any harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners. Avoid brushing or rubbing the plated jewelry, as this can make it flake, exposing the metal below.
- Keep gold plated jewelry from rubbing and friction as this will cause thepiece to wear down quickly and to flake off. This can happen when you layergold plated jewelry and they rub against each other. It’s best to wear thepiece of jewelry by itself.
How do I know if my jewelry is gold plated?
Your jeweler should indicate that the gold is plated. However, here aresome ways to identify for yourself:
- When it comes togold plated pieces, the price is usually a giveaway. Gold plated jewelry isoften very affordable and hardly ever goes above the $50 mark.
- Look for ahallmark. 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 bestamped. You’ll find many pieces that bear no hallmarks at all.
- Gold plated jewelryare often coated with 22K or 24K gold, which gives it a very bright goldenlook. Solid gold jewelry is usually much less golden in color because thepurity levels are commonly under 18K.
- If your jewelry hasuneven color tone or if there’s some flaking off in the piece, you can assumethat it’s plated.
Check this video which outlines how to tell real gold from fake.
Is gold plate hypoallergenic?
This depends on thethickness of the gold and whether the piece contains metals that causeallergies, like nickel, zinc and cobalt.
In general, goldplating is not hypoallergenic and can cause skin reactions for people withmetal 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 comesinto contact with your skin, causing reactions.
Before you buy goldplated jewelry, check the metal alloys in the piece. Avoid metal allergens ifyou have metal allergies.
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.
We also recommend checking on Etsy for more unique, handmade items.
The term 14-karat gold plated means that an item has a thin layer of 14-karat gold applied over a base metal like copper or brass. Fourteen-carat gold refers to metal that is 58.5% pure gold and 41.5% alloy. An alloy could be silver, zinc, copper or another metal.What is the difference between gold dipped and gold plated? ›
Gold dipped is a process in which a plater dips a piece of metal in gold, creating a very thin layer of gold on the surface of the metal. Gold plating is a process where a very thin layer of gold is applied to the surface of another piece of metal using an electrical current.Will a magnet stick to gold plating? ›
It can still be a low-purity solid gold alloy that contains magnetic metals. On the other hand, a piece may be gold plated, but it will not attach to a magnet because its core metal is non-magnetic.What type of gold won't tarnish? ›
For example, 24-karat gold is 100% gold and, therefore, will not tarnish at all. 18-karat gold is 75% gold and 25% other metals, and it will take much longer to tarnish than 14-karat gold, which is only 58% pure gold. So if you want gold that won't tarnish, go for the highest karat level possible.What is better gold 14 or 24? ›
Pure gold is notated as 24K – this is the highest karat level for gold meaning it is 100% pure gold. 18K gold is 75% purity level, 14K is 58.3% purity level, and 10K is 41.7% purity level. As you can see, the higher the karat number, the more pure gold comprises the metal.What is the downside of gold plated? ›
Tarnishing: The main con with gold plating, rather than using real gold, is tarnishing. Tarnishing is likely to occur over a long period of time due to wear and tear, causing the metal underneath the gold plating beginning to show through.How can you tell gold plated from real gold? ›
If you cut deep enough that you expose underlying metal, you can assume that it is plated. If it appears to be made of a uniform composition throughout, then it is probably solid gold.
Gold-filled jewelry has 100x more gold alloy than gold plated and because that layer is so much thicker, it means gold-filled jewelry lasts longer and stands up to wear and tear better than gold plated. All it would take is one small scratch on a gold-plated piece to expose the jeweler's brass underneath.Are gold plated items worth anything? ›
Gold Plated Jewellery Is Lower In Value
The cost of refining the plated item is higher than refining a solid gold item (10K to 24K); thus, refining it isn't worth it. Gold-filled jewellery may have some value, so It may be worth selling that on.
If you think that it's only worthwhile to pawn Rolex watches and diamond rings, think again! The answer is yes; you can absolutely pawn gold plated jewellery, but it depends on the base metal.
1. 24 Karat Gold. 24k gold is the purest karatage, measuring 99.9% pure yellow gold. This metal is the shiniest, yellowest, and most expensive of all the different types of gold.What does it mean when gold turns pink? ›
The copper in the gold oxidised and turned it pink/copper and this could not be altered except for re melting and using borax.What gold doesn't turn black? ›
The simple answer is that 24-karat gold is the only type of gold that doesn't tarnish. This is the most traditional form of gold, and it is what primarily comes to people's minds when they think of "gold." 24-karat gold is also the priciest type because it does not contain any other mixed metals.Is 14k gold plated any good? ›
The thin layer of 14K gold on a plated piece of jewelry, however, is not nearly so long lasting. Exposure to water, scratches and fluctuations in body chemistry will cause the coating to quickly tarnish and wear off.
Gold-plated jewelry has a much more limited resale value than solid gold pieces. The thin layer of gold covering the base metal can wear away over time, exposing the metal beneath. The base metal can tarnish, causing the piece to degrade in appearance. Gold-plated jewelry is rarely hypoallergenic.Is 14k gold plated real or fake? ›
Drop the gold into a jug of water to see if it sinks.
Real gold is a dense metal, so it falls directly to the bottom of the jug. Imitation gold is much lighter and floats. Real gold also doesn't rust or tarnish when wet, so if you see a discoloration, you probably have plated gold.
Gold Plated Jewellery Is Lower In Value
Because the gold coating, or layer, on the object's exterior is so thin, there are only a few microns of gold in the plating. The cost of refining the plated item is higher than refining a solid gold item (10K to 24K); thus, refining it isn't worth it.