Gold jewelry can add elegance and class to any outfit! However, gold jewelry is unfortunately very expensive. Gold plated jewelry is the solution to this problem: gold plated jewelry gives the outward appearance of gold jewelry, without the crazy cost! Gold plated jewelry is a good substitute for solid gold jewelry because it is difficult to tell the difference between the two and gold plated jewelry is nowhere near as expensive!
Did you just realize that the gold necklace you bought a while ago is only gold plated and not solid gold? Or perhaps it is gold filled, rather than gold plated, and you’re not really sure what the difference is. If you want to know the difference between gold filled and gold plated, check out this other blog post we wrote a while ago. Or maybe you’re wondering, “What is vermeil?” There’s a lot of different terms associated with what appears to be gold jewelry.
If you’re certain that your jewelry is gold plated, and are looking for the pros and cons of gold plated jewelry, how to clean tarnished gold plated jewelry, or if you’re wondering can you wear gold plated jewelry in the shower, we’ve got some answers for you!
What is Gold Plated Jewelry?
So, first of all, what even is gold plated jewelry? In general, the process of plating is when a piece of jewelry made from a certain metal or alloy is covered with a layer of another metal. For example, a ring in which the base metal is copper or silver, but that has a thin layer of gold on the outer surface, would be considered a gold plated item of jewelry.
Are there other kinds of plated jewelry?
Yes! For example, white gold is an alloy of yellow gold and a white metal, usually palladium. Since the white gold alloy usually appears a little yellowish, it is usually plated with rhodium to give it a bright, white appearance on the outside, giving white gold its whitish appearance! After some time, however, the white rhodium appearance will wear away, exposing the yellowish metal alloy underneath.
But what does gold plated mean?
Gold plated is a form of jewelry plating, but specifically with gold as the layer on the outside. The thickness of the gold layer on the outside of gold plated jewelry can vary greatly; however, the Federal Trade commission labels gold plated items at .5 microns and “heavy gold plated” items at 2.5 microns. Coatings that are thinner than .5 microns are often mislabeled as gold plated, though these are technically considered “gold electroplate” at .175 microns, or “gold flashed” or “gold washed” if the coating is less than .175 microns. All of the above coatings are technically “electroplated,” but the FTC classifies them with different labels depending on the thickness of the coating.
To gold plate something, the item is dipped into a solution that contains gold or a gold-colored alloy. The item is then shot with an electric current and the resulting electrochemical reaction deposits a thin layer of gold to the outside of the base metal.
Examples of Gold Plated Jewelry
Is Gold Plated Jewelry Fake?
One of the most common questions when it comes to gold plated jewelry is: “does gold plated mean fake?” The answer to this question is dependent on your definition of fake.
The gold layer on the outside of the jewelry item is real gold. However, since the entire piece of jewelry is composed of a base metal or metal alloy that is not gold, gold plated jewelry is commonly referred to as fake gold. The gold on the surface is real gold of varying fineness (10K to 24K), but the center of the item is not gold.
What is Vermeil?
Vermeil is a specific kind of gold plating. The process of creating a vermeil piece of jewelry involves coating sterling silver with a thin layer of gold that is at least 10 karats and 2.5 microns thick. To be legally called “vermeil,” the item must have a gold thickness of 2.5 microns and the coating must be over a sterling silver base. However, it is common for people to call any gold plated jewelry item with a sterling silver base metal as vermeil.
In real vermeil, the gold plated layer can contain different layers of gold fineness. For instance, the gold fineness can be between 10K and 24K, and the choice of gold fineness determines the color of the gold vermeil piece: a 10K vermeil piece would be a lighter, more subtle yellow tone, whereas a 24K vermeil piece would have an intense, deep yellow color.
But how do I identify what is vermeil and what isn’t?
To know what is considered vermeil and what isn’t, you have to know the base metal, gold thickness, and gold quality of an item of jewelry. There is a quicker way to identify whether your item of jewelry is vermeil or not: look for a “925” stamp on your item of jewelry. This stamp, or marking, means that the underlying base metal of the jewelry item is 92.5% silver, or sterling silver. So, when you see a gold piece that has this stamp on the outside, you can be sure it is a vermeil piece.
How to Tell if Your Jewelry is Real Gold or Plated
Pros of Gold Plated Jewelry
#1 Gold plated jewelry items are affordable.
Gold plated jewelry items are the most inexpensive when comparing them to gold filled or solid gold jewelry items. They typically range between $5 to $50. Because gold plated items are so affordable, more people have begun to buy and wear them!
#2 Looks like real gold!
To the untrained eye, you can’t tell that it is not real gold!
#3 They make great decoration.
The plating process allows the item to look like solid gold, while being more affordable. Therefore, gold plated jewelry can bring the perfect touch of brilliance and decoration to any outfit!
#4 They are easy to make and there are more design possibilities.
Gold plated jewelry items are best for “of the moment” trends. By having a gold plated jewelry item of a particular style, you can be a part of the trend, without worrying that you’ve made a huge investment into something that will not last long. Thus, gold plated jewelry has a lot of design possibilities and can be used for a lot of different occasions.
#5 Gold plated items are very strong and durable.
Gold plated jewelry items are stronger than solid gold items and will last longer. Gold is a very soft and malleable metal; the higher the karat, the softer and more malleable the item is. Thus, 24K is too soft and it is impossible to make a jewelry item entirely of 24K. Gold has to either be alloyed with other metals or plated over other base metals for the item to be strong enough to form and shape into jewelry. Thus, a gold plated item, with a thin coating of gold on the outside, is a great way to have the appearance of gold, while having a strong and durable item of jewelry. Gold plated jewelry can handle the abuse of everyday wear more so than solid gold.
Cons of Gold Plated Jewelry
#1 It will tarnish!
If you’re wondering, “does gold plated jewelry tarnish?” the answer is yes, it does! Gold plated jewelry items will definitely tarnish over time, though solid gold items will not tarnish at all. Gold plated items have a base metal underneath the gold plate, like copper or silver, which makes the jewelry piece stronger and less likely to bend, though these jewelry metals tarnish. In a gold plated jewelry item, the metal beneath the gold plate will eventually come to the surface and become discolored, so it will need to be polished frequently to keep its shine. The reason that gold plated jewelry tarnishes is because the molecules of the base metals eventually transfer into the thin layer of gold, causing the gold layer to break down.
#2 The plating can be scratched or chipped.
After a few weeks of wearing your gold plated jewelry item, the gold plate is likely to start chipping, wearing, or flaking off. The reason for this is because the gold layer is so thin and not very durable itself. Gold is a very soft metal and can easily be scratched unless alloyed with other metals to make it stronger.
#3 The amount of gold is minimal and can lead to a lower value.
The layer of gold on gold plated items is the least amount of gold when compared to gold filled or solid gold items. Thus, the gold plate is very thin and susceptible to flaking off. Since the gold content is so low in gold plated items, the value is low.
#4 Can’t wear gold plated items in water.
If you’re wondering, “can you wear gold plated jewelry in the shower,” the answer is no, you cannot. Showering with gold plated jewelry or immersing the item under water for long periods of time can cause the gold layer to completely wear off.
Is Gold Plated Jewelry Worth Anything?
If you’re looking to resell your gold plated jewelry item and want to know if it is worth anything, the truth is that gold plated jewelry items are not worth much. The reason for this is that the coating, or layer, of gold on the outside of the item is so thin that there are only a few microns of gold in the plating. The cost to refine the plated item is higher than the cost of a solid gold item (10K to 24K), so there really isn’t any value in refining it. Gold filled jewelry might have some value and might be worth something, however!
Watch Battery Buyers says that you can expect to get $15 to $20 per pound of real gold plated items, sometimes more. If the item is “flash gold plated,” however, the value is basically zero, since these items begin to flake and chip within minutes of handling.
If you’re wondering how to take care of gold plated jewelry so that it doesn’t tarnish, chip, or wear, we’ve got some pointers for you! Following a care regime for your gold plated jewelry is essential to making your jewelry last longer. It can be difficult to know exactly how long does gold plated jewelry last or how to clean tarnished gold plated jewelry, but we can help! If you want to keep the brightness and luster of the gold plating, there are a few care regimes you can follow:
(For other kinds of jewelry, check out our Complete Guide: How To Clean Jewelry!)
How to Make Gold Plated Jewelry Gold Again
To make your gold plated jewelry gold again, you can have the item re-plated. The process is simple and inexpensive! So, if you want to make your jewelry look like gold, but don’t want to spend so much for a solid gold piece, you can take your jewelry item in to a jewelry shop and have them re-plate the item for you! You can also check out this step-by-step guide of how gold plating is done!
We hope that helped clarify whether gold plated jewelry is right for you! Feel free to comment your thoughts in the comments section below!
Gold Plated Jewelry
Our Top Ten Favorite Gold Plated Jewelry!
Star Coin Necklace, 18k Gold Plated
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- November 30, 2018
- Jared R