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What is Gold Plating and Should You Avoid It?

What is gold plated?

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While most people gravitate towards yellow gold, the high price of gold items can be an issue for some. In these situations, gold plated jewelry is a great alternative, offering the same look at a fraction of the cost. However, there’s a lot of confusion surrounding gold plated jewelry. What exactly is it? Is it real gold or fake? Should I buy or avoid gold plated jewelry? We’ve answered these questions and more in the article below.

What is Gold Plated Jewelry?

Gold plated jewelry set

Stylish gold plated jewelry by Amai Amara. Check Price Here.

Gold plated jewelry is made by taking a base metal, commonly brass, copper, or silver, and coating it with a thin sheet of liquid gold. This process was first discovered by Luigi Brugnatelli, an Italian chemist, in 1805. Post his invention, gold plating was commonly used for costume jewelry to replicate solid gold ornaments.

The process of gold plating requires several stages.

  • First of all, the ornament must be thoroughly cleaned, and all dirt and oil should be removed. The ornament can be cleaned by using ultrasonic, steam or electro- cleaning methods.
  • After the base metal has been cleaned, it’s coated with a layer of good quality nickel. The nickel acts as a buffer and protect the gold from the base metals. 
  • Once the nickel has been applied, the ornament is dipped into a container that has liquid gold.
  • To bind the base metals with the gold, a positive electrical charge is used.
  • Finally, the ornament is taken out and dried.

Identifying Gold Plated Jewelry

There are several ways to identify gold plated jewelry. First of all, gold plated jewelry can be judged on its price and weight. Gold plated jewelry is often lightweight and affordably priced, typically below $50. Secondly, plated jewelry appears much brighter and lustrous than solid gold, which has a slightly subtler warm color.

But to properly determine if an ornament is gold plated, you can examine the piece for a hallmark. There are different hallmarks for gold plated jewelry based on the exact type of plating. Some of these include:

  • GP (Gold Plated)
  • GEP (Gold Electroplated)
  • HE (Heavy Gold Electroplate)
  • HGP (Heavy Gold Plate)

The Pros of Gold Plated Jewelry

Stylish gold plated jewelry

Wide range of gold plated bracelets by Latuki. Check Price Here.

Gold plated jewelry has several advantages. Let’s take a closer look at some of them.

  • Affordability – Gold plated jewelry is an excellent option for those who want a luxurious look at an affordable price. Gold plated offers the look of gold, at less than half the price.
  • Designs – Gold plated jewelry comes in a variety of styles and designs. There are ample possibilities to make intricate and fashionable patterns at a low cost.
  • Finishing touch – Gold plated jewelry has a lustrous finishing touch. It’s brilliant color and sheen is much brighter than solid gold jewelry.

The Cons of Gold Plated Jewelry

Gold plated jewelry can pose some challenges and problems. Let’s take a look at some of the downsides of gold plated jewelry.

  • Tarnishing – Gold plated jewelry can tarnish after a period of time. Either the gold plating or the base metal beneath can tarnish and discolor. However, this can be prevented or slowed down by regular cleaning and polishing.
  • Water resistance – Solid gold ornaments can be worn while taking a bath or jumping into a pool. However, gold plated ornaments will easily wear off if they are constantly exposed to water. It’s best to take off any gold plated jewelry when swimming, showering or doing dishes.
  • Durability – Gold plated jewelry isn’t as durable as solid gold, or even gold filled jewelry. They only have about 0.05% of their weight in gold. Due to this reason, they are prone to scratching and flaking.
  • Value – Unlike gold filled jewelry, which has a higher percentage of gold, gold plated has a negligible amount of actual gold in its composition. Due to this, the value of gold plated jewelry is low and the re-sale value is also not significant. 

Resale Value of Gold Plated Jewelry

Gold plated jewelry has a low resale value, because there is only a very thin layer of gold applied to the piece. Most gold plated ornaments aren’t bought for resale purposes, but rather for wearing until they flake or break. Usually, jewelers and scrap dealers prefer not to extract the gold from plated jewelry, as the amount of gold is low, and the process isn’t worth it. Solid gold or gold filled ornaments are a better choice if you want to make a purchase that has a resale value.

Taking Care of Gold Plated Jewelry  

There are a few tips and pointers that can be followed when taking care of gold plated jewelry.

  • Avoiding chemicals – Gold plated jewelry can last for a much longer time, if they are removed when washing the dishes, doing laundry, applying cream, or wearing makeup. If the ornament is exposed to harsh chemicals, it can easily flake or wear off.
  • Avoiding water – As mentioned before, gold plated jewelry can easily lose its luster if exposed to water. It’s always better to remove the ornament before swimming or taking a bath.
  • Avoid rigorous cleaning – Gold plating needs very mild cleaning, and it’s best to use a soft cloth soaked in soap water or a gentle brush. Too much brushing or rubbing can make the gold flake.
  • Avoid wearing gold plated with other accessories – If a gold plated necklace is worn with other necklaces, the two can rub against each other and create friction. This friction will make the plated ornament flake and peel.  Therefore, gold plated jewelry lasts for a longer time if worn alone. 

Gold Plating vs. Gold Filled

14 gold filled ring

Gold filled moonstone ring by Keeping It Loki. Check Price Here.

Gold plated jewelry has a very thin layer of gold coated over a base metal. As mentioned before, the amount of gold used is less than .05% of the total weight of the piece. Due to this reason, gold plated jewelry is more affordable, but can also scratch and damage easily. Gold plated jewelry is more popular than gold filled due to its cost effectiveness and fashionable designs.

On the other hand, gold filled jewelry has several layers of gold sheets wrapped around the base metal. Gold filled jewelry lasts for a much longer time and is considerably more expensive than gold plating. It also holds better resale value.

Purchasing Gold Plated Jewelry

Gold plated jewelry can be found at any costume shop because the metal is highly popular. Most costume jewelry stores use gold plated metals for their affordable collections. You can also search online for gold plated chains, necklaces, rings, bracelets and other types of jewelry for an affordable and easily available option.