Gold is known to add an air of class, luxury, and elegance to outfits. The metallic shine and overall beauty of gold make it almost irresistible. However, pure gold jewelry is not cheap. How then can lovers of luxurious items get this precious metal without breaking the bank? The answer is not far-fetched: Gold-plated jewelry! It is a great substitute that gives the outward appearance of gold and is much more affordable. It may not be the exact same, but a gold-plated chain will serve the same purpose as a gold chain.
Different people own or have owned gold-plated jewelry but may know next to nothing about it. There are so many things to know like how it is made, the dos and don’ts, pros and cons, etc. So, before skimming through new arrivals from your favorite jewelry store, here are Ten (10) things you need to know about gold-plated jewelry.
What Does Gold-Plated Mean?
Gold-plated jewelry is made when one metal or alloy is coated with a layer of gold. The thickness of the gold layer and its purity determines the level of quality of the gold-plated jewelry. Other factors like the craftsmanship quality and the kind of metal or alloy (aka base metal) play a part in determining the quality and cost of the jewelry. Now, once the bracelet or chain is plated, it is near impossible to tell it apart from real gold by just looking at it. Real gold is used, and regardless of the thickness, the purity is what determines the color of the piece of jewelry. For example, 10K is the lowest gold purity while 24K gold is the highest. So, 24K will give the most gold-like color.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Labels
The thickness of the gold coat can vary from .175 to 2.5 microns. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has the following labels for pieces of jewelry with the following gold-plated thickness.
- .175 to <.5 microns- gold electroplate, gold flashed, or gold washed items.
- .5 microns- Gold plated items.
- 2.5 microns- Heavy gold-plated items.
What Metals can be Made into Gold-plated Jewelry?
Most gold-plated jewelry can have its base metal as brass, nickel, silver, stainless steel, and copper. Metals like titanium and tungsten (modern industrial metals) can also be gold-plated, but copper and silver are very common for use in gold-plated jewelry.
There are other kinds of plated jewelry like white gold, used majorly for chains and pendants. It has a whitish appearance. White gold is made as an alloy of yellow gold and palladium (this is common, but any other white metal can be used). This alloy is somewhat yellowish and is then rhodium-plated for its brilliant finish.
Reselling Your Gold-Plated Jewelry
If you plan to buy gold jewelry to resell, don’t go for gold-plated jewelry. The truth is the gold-plating is usually thin. This makes it pretty tasking to recover any gold after purification. It is not impossible, but at the end of the day, it really isn’t worth it. If gold refineries even try to attempt to recover the gold, the gold recovered as well as the profit margins are well below desirable.
Therefore, unlike pure gold chains, gold-plated jewelry has little to no resale value. You should not purchase with the mindset of making a massive profit but for your personal use.
Gold-plated Jewelry Tends to be Strong and Durable.
Gold becomes softer as the purity increases. It is pretty soft and malleable. This means that a solid pure gold block of pure gold would not be as strong as the gold-plated jewelry items. For example, 24K gold is the purest gold and hence the softest. It makes it impossible to create jewelry from 24K only.
To improve its strength and durability, gold has to be plated over strong base metals or be used in an alloy form with other metals. So your gold-plated jewelry is the perfect blend between the shape and structure created by the base metal and the luster and shine provided by the gold. You get a more durable item that can easily be used for everyday wear.
Tarnish, Fade and Replate
Gold-plated jewelry can fade and tarnish, and this makes it lose the brightness and luster it initially had. It may require replating over time. This seems weird because gold is an inert metal which means it is not susceptible to rust and corrosion; hence, many people wonder why this happens.
The actual issue is not usually the gold but the base metal. The underlying metal is not inert and will oxidize and corrode. With time, leeching, i.e., when corroded or oxidized molecules evade the gold layer and affect its appearance, occurs. A thin gold layer would discolor and tarnish quicker than a thicker one. However, there is an iota of hope. Non-tarnish gold-plated jewelry can be achieved if the base metal receives nickel-plating initially before the gold layer.
How Long Does Gold-Plating Last?
Gold-plating is usually made with the intention of permanence; however, when handled too roughly, it does not do well. When you scratch or chip your jewelry while on the move, it can slowly start to flake off. It may also uncover the base metal and quickens the onset of leeching. Gold is also pretty soft and can easily be scratched off when you bank your beautiful bracelet against the wall and other rough surfaces.
Generally, plating that is properly done with a reasonable thickness should last up to two years with consistent wear and proper care. It will eventually fade and lose its luster. You could replate the tarnished pieces when necessary or get yourself new gold-plated jewelry. You just need to know when to switch from a tarnished piece to having an Ice Cuban bracelet.
How Can You Tell a Piece of Jewelry is Gold-plated?
You don’t really require any special machine or chemical to know gold-plated jewelry. You just have to notice that a certain rope or cable gold chain is a bit cheaper than you expected. Well, they are usually less expensive than solid gold jewelry. You may also notice hallmarks like GEP, HE, HGP and GP. Not all jewelry requires hallmarks, and so close visual inspection can also work. You just need to look out for flaking metal, color unevenness, an unusual yellow brightness, and discoloration. These are tell-tale signs of gold-plating.
Is It Hypoallergenic?
No, it is not. You may not react to gold but if you have metal allergies to the common base metals, stay clear of gold-plated jewelry. It can lead to skin reactions if the gold flakes off and comes in contact with your skin.
How to Care for Gold-plated Jewelry
Take proper care of your jewelry every time
- Keep it away from oils, makeup, and harmful chemicals. Try to wear your jewelry last to prevent cosmetic products from messing it up. Take off the jewelry while doing chores, especially cleaning with detergents, soaps, etc.
- Use clean hands to wear or take off your jewelry.
- Don't take showers with your jewelry on, as it depletes the plating faster.
- Don't expose your jewelry to salty or chlorinated water. Do not swim in the ocean or the pool with your gold-plated jewelry.
- Cleaning with cotton wool to wipe off your sweat and body oils that may quicken tarnishing.
- Regularly clean the jewelry to increase its usage time or lifespan. Use a mild liquid soap or a jewelry-safe professional cleaning solution with warm water. Use a cotton wool swab to wipe off the dirt carefully. Make sure you don’t use abrasive cleaners or harsh chemicals. Don’t brush or rub the plated jewelry to prevent flaking and damage to it.
- Reducing friction and rubbing on the jewelry. This is bound to happen when you layer other pieces of jewelry on the plated one.