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.
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.