Ever wonder how long gold plating lasts on jewelry?
Then you're in the right place!
In this Learning guide, I'll answer the following questions:
- Is gold plating better than solid gold?
- Is gold plating expensive or cheap?
- How to make gold plating last longer?
What Is Gold Plating?
Gold plating is probably the most popular solid gold alternative for those looking for affordable gold jewelry. During the plating process, a jeweler electroplates a thin layer of gold around the base metal of the piece of jewelry.
Electroplating is essentially bonding the molecules of the base metals to another metal by means of an electric current. The most popular metals that jewelers plate gold over is sterling silver, surgical or regular stainless steel, copper.
The gold plate is real gold, and it may be 10K, 14K, or 18K. You won't usually find gold plating higher than that. Pure gold (24K) is very soft and malleable, so a thin layer of that wouldn't fare too well for everyday wear.
Even though gold plating is real, it doesn't make the piece of jewelry expensive. Legally, the layer of gold must be .5 microns thick. It can be thicker than .5, but this is the standard that most retailers follow. No, the cost of gold plated jewelry lies in the base metal beneath the gold alloy.
- Real gold plating
- Cheap prices
- Gold plating prevents tarnish
- Gold plating fades
- Cost of replating usually exceeds its worth
How Long Does Gold Plating Last?
A lot of people get this wacky idea in their head that if a product is good, it'll last a lifetime. While this assumption is true in many cases, it's not often true in the jewelry industry. Most jewelry is made with natural materials, as in natural gemstones and precious metals.
Gold in its purest form can't be made into commercial jewelry sold in retail stores.
Its softness makes it prone to dents, scratches, and nicks. You still can find 24K gold sold in countries outside of the US and online, if you're determined to go pure gold. Just know that it's very fragile. You might have difficulty finding 24K gold plated jewelry because of these reasons.
When you plate a thin layer of gold over another metal, the plating will eventually wear off, due to a number of different reasons, like body chemistry, environment, and care. The quality of gold and the thickness of the gold can also make a difference.
Just because the minimum of plated gold is .5 microns, doesn't mean that every piece of gold plated jewelry is that thick. The thicker the plating is, the longer it will last.
So, if you really want to make an effort to make plated jewelry last longer, you may ask how many microns thick it is. Chances are, most plated jewelry descriptions won't go that in-depth for a cheaper piece of jewelry.
If you're wanting the best quality plated gold jewelry, you should consider finding a gold plating business that will custom create plated items. That way, you can ensure you have the highest quality in gold plating.
Gold plated jewelry prices vary. But we can, however, give an approximate estimate. On average, most gold plated jewelry will last up to years with regular wear.
4 Tips To Make Gold Plating Last Longer
So, you know that gold plating will fade, but you can extend its lifetime by the following 4 Tips to help make your gold plated jewelry last longer.
1. Wear When Appropriate
The biggest and best way to keep your gold plated jewelry lasting longer is to make sure you are wearing it only when necessary. Don't wear gold plated jewelry when you go into the shower and make sure you remove before going into chlorinated pools as well.
Put on your plated jewelry after you've finished getting ready. That means after doing makeup, applying lotion, and spritzing on perfume. If you're going to do physical activity, make sure you remove it too.
Maybe your gold plated earring studs don't cause any issues when you're doing your morning jog. But while they're not causing you any issues, it's you who's causing issues to them. The sweat and dirt will break down that gold plating faster.
If you just can't resist wearing your gold plated jewelry with every outfit, you should consider buying multiple pieces so you have some choices and each gets less wear.l
Assuming you're not wearing your gold plated piece everyday, you should always clean it when you're ready to put it up for the night.
You shouldn't buy any kind of commercial grade jewelry cleaner for your gold plated jewelry. Solid gold jewelry can be cleaned in jewelry cleaner solution, but plated jewelry can be tricky. Because the base metals are different, a chemical solution might be safe for the gold, but corrode the metal underneath.
To clean gold plated jewelry, you should use a soft cloth around its surface, wiping off any dirt or debris. You can let it soak in water just for a few minutes, but be weary if your plating has already started to fade. If your base metal is sterling silver, the moisture may cause the metal to tarnish, so make sure it's dried well.
Use a soft-bristled toothbrush with a little bit of dish soap and gently brush the item. Make sure to get between cracks and crevices, especially on rings.
3. Store It Safely
Even though you didn't spend a fortune on your gold plated piece, you probably want to keep wearing it for as long as it lasts. To help keep it in its best condition, you should have a place to store all your gold plated jewelry. A jewelry box is a great option.
You don't have to store your plated jewelry in a jewelry box. A velvet drawstring bag works too. Really, you should store your pieces where it won't be touching other pieces and where it can't scratch up on any surfaces.
This is especially important for people with other plated pieces or large collections of various jewelry. When stored with other jewelry, sterling silver gets tarnished. If you have gold plated sterling silver jewelry that has faded already, it can tarnish other pieces as well.
4. Buy a lower gold karat
There's really not a huge price tag difference between 10K, 14K, 18K or 24K plated jewelry. All of them are expensive. The higher the gold karat, the less durable the gold is.
Remember, pure gold is soft.
It'll be more like likely to wear down faster. 10K plated gold jewelry will be difficult to find because it contains little gold. It also isn't as yellow since it has less gold content than 14K or 18K. 14K gold plated jewelry would be the best option for lower karat gold.
Is Gold Plating Expensive Or Cheap?
In general, you can find most gold plated jewelry under $50 for a small ring. Most gold plate jewelry is plated over cheaper base metals like stainless steel, which is in abundance.
Pieces that are plated over a precious metal like sterling silver tend to be more expensive. Other factors that might increase cost are if it contains gemstones or has an engraving option, like on name necklaces or medical bracelets.
Should I Buy Gold Plated Jewelry?
It depends. Why are you thinking about buying it? If you have an office event or your daughter wants to sport some gold jewelry to her school dance, gold plated jewelry is a great option for a one time thing.
You already know that everyday wear will cause the plating to fade faster. But, everybody has had at least one gold plated chain at some point.
Because gold plated jewelry has a low price, it makes it easy to acquire a jewelry collection without too much damage on your wallet. If you're going to buy gold plated jewelry, you should buy it for fashion.
Have a bunch of pieces to switch between, that way if they break, you've got multiple back ups.
Gold plated jewelry also makes great trainer jewelry for children. You can give your child the look of solid gold jewelry without the stress of it being lost or damaged. Just make sure you're buying pieces appropriate for your child's age.
Be careful using gold plated jewelry if you have sensitive skin. You could get an allergic reaction from the base metal once the gold plating has started to wear off.
For the most part, gold plating isn't usually over nickel. It used to be, but once it became the most common metal allergy, many jewelry manufacturers stopped using nickel.
When buying gold plated jewelry, make sure to check the description of the piece to know the base metal. Unnamed metal alloys are the most common to cause reactions because it's just a mess of metals that have been plated.
Both stainless steel and silver jewelry are considered hypoallergenic. Gold plated steel and gold plated silver would be great options for those with metal allergies.
You should also know that pieces described as nickel-free aren't hypoallergenic, they just don't contain any nickel. There are still other metal allergens, like copper or cobalt rings.
That being said, if you're looking for an engagement ring or wedding band, gold plated pieces aren't the best to go for. You already know that gold plating fades due to various environment facts, most credit due to the oils in our skin.
Well, we can't control the body chemistry, and it's also a lot more potent in our hands. Our hands touch things throughout the day, like water, lotions, food, dust or all the above. All of these things dirty up that gold and cause it to fade.
Where To Buy Gold Plated Jewelry
Our top pick for all your gold plated needs is to purchase online at Amazon.com. Amazon has endless results with different designs and styles. Just be careful and read every description thoroughly.
The problem with Amazon is that a lot of the off-brand jewelry is ranked by keyword. Which, in web design speak, means that they can input a bunch of search related terms in the title of the product just so they pop up in your search.
You should also check out the reviews of the item. I only look at 4 & 5 star reviews for any kind of item. Make sure to check out the most recent reviews because only the top reviews are displayed automatically.
You'll notice with many Amazon products, it'll look like it has great reviews, but the last 12 people that bought it all gave bad reviews.
But overall, Amazon will be the best place to find gold plated jewelry for any preference or style.
What's The Best Metal For Gold Plated Jewelry?
If you're going to buy gold plated jewelry, you should choose sterling silver as your base metal. This is also known as gold vermeil, or vermeil jewelry. Gold plated over sterling silver will be more expensive than other base metals, but it will last longer.
It can also be sized easily, where as other base metals like steel can't be sized. Once the plating wears off, the silver will show underneath and be vulnerable to tarnishing, so make sure you find a jeweler that does micron plating.
Gold Plated And Gold Filled Jewelry: What's The Difference?
Gold filled and gold plated items are very similar to each other. The difference is the thickness of the gold. For a piece of gold jewelry to qualify as gold filled, the piece must be made of at least 5% or 1/20 real quality gold. A 14K gold filled ring may be stamped as 1/20 14KGF for 14 karat gold filled. Gold filled jewelry is also used in costume jewelry trends.