What Is Gold Plated Jewellery?
Gold Icarus Pendant By Sky Austria
Gold-plated jewellery is any piece of jewellery that is made with metal and has another layer of metal on top, in this scenario that is a gold layer. The layer of gold on a plated jewellery piece is very thin and consists of 0.05% actual gold on top of the base metal, making it more affordable than solid gold options. In general, there is no minimum thickness that is required for gold plating, however, the Federal Trade Commission states that a coating must be at or more than 0.5 microns to be considered gold plated.
This makes gold-plated jewellery great for those who want expensive-looking jewellery but are on a budget. The base metal of any plated jewellery often consists of materials such as stainless steel, brass, copper and nickel.
Manufacturers achieve this gold plating through a process called electroplating, which covers the base metal with a layer of gold to create jewellery that looks exactly like gold but utilises less of it.
The two main types of gold plating are PVD and normal plating. PVD plating is a vacuum coating process that produces a highly durable plating finish on the jewellery using titanium nitride. The jewellery base metal is dipped into a solution containing gold or gold-coloured alloy and an electrical current is passed through resulting in an electrochemical reaction that deposits a thin layer of gold outside of the base metal. Some of the benefits of vacuum coating are that it has higher durability, greater corrosion resistance to sweat and chlorine, is often thicker, can be cleaned and allows for different shades of gold to be created. In comparison, traditional gold plating which involves layering a thin layer of gold onto a base metal tends to work best on copper and silver bases. In general PVD plating is superior to regular plating as it permeates the surface better making it more resilient and resistant to fading.
At Sky Austria we have an extensive range of gold plated jewellery pieces to choose from, including chains, pendants and bracelets.
Is Gold-Plated Jewellery Any Good? (Pros and Cons)
Gold Katana Pendant By Sky Austria
The most amazing aspect of gold-plated jewellery is that it can make an average and plain outfit look expensive, without actually being expensive. They are good because for the general population they are an affordable alternative to real gold jewellery. Some people may not want to commit to a full gold piece because of the price or fear of it getting stolen or broken. For gold-plated jewellery, prices range from £20 up to £100 depending on the style and type of jewelry.
Nowadays it is very hard to tell whether jewellery is gold-plated or solid gold by its appearance, allowing people to wear a piece of jewellery that looks like a solid gold piece and giving them a chance to see if they like the look of gold and potentially commit to a solid gold jewellery piece in the future.
Another benefit of gold-plated jewellery is its strength and durability. Often solid gold pieces of jewellery are soft, especially at higher karats. For example, 24k gold is too soft to make entire jewellery pieces from so it has to be alloyed with other metals or to be plated over to be strong enough to form the shape of the jewellery. For the gold-plated piece, because the layer of gold is so thin and usually this type of gold jewellery consists mostly of a base metal such as stainless steel or silver, gold-plated jewellery tends to be less malleable and makes for durable pieces that are great for everyday use.
One drawback of gold-plated jewellery is that over time it will start to tarnish, no matter how well you look after it. Eventually, the thin gold layer will face and the base metal underneath will be visible causing the chain to become silvery. The reason for this is that base metals often transfer onto the thin layer of gold, causing it to break down.
Another negative of gold-plated jewellery is that the plating can be scratched or chipped easily. The gold layer itself is not very durable and even the littlest of friction or abrasion can start to chip and fade the gold plating off.
Gold-plated jewellery also don’t make for great investments. Because of how minimal the amount of gold is used for gold plating the jewellery has far less value than a solid gold jewellery piece. As well over time once your gold plating fades you’ll have to buy another one and another one which in the long run can become more expensive than if you had bought a solid gold chain.
Gold-plated jewellery also doesn't cop well with water. It is fine to go into the water once in a while however repeated exposure and immersion into water for long periods can cause the gold layer to completely wear off.
In addition to this because the gold coating of a plated jewellery is so thin, the cost of refining or repairing it is higher than refining a solid gold jewellery piece so at that point you may as well get another piece.
If you are looking for jewelery that has that expensive look but won’t break the bank, then gold plated jewellery is perfect for you.
Does Gold Plated Jewellery Discolour?
It is inevitable that gold-plated jewellery discolours over time. Because the layer of gold on a gold-plated piece is so thin, it can be easy to fade during daily wear. Some reasons this may happen is through exposure to chemicals in perfumes, lotions, hair care products, chemicals and pollutants in the air as well as exposure to water.
To prevent this handle your gold-plated jewellery with care and store it properly when it is not being worn.
Does Gold-Plated Jewellery Go Green?
Whether or not your gold-plated jewellery goes green is dependent on the base metal to which the gold plating is bound. Base metals such as brass, copper or nickel can react with the gold plating over time or once the base metals appear from the gold plating it can cause exposed skin to turn green. Even popular metals such as sterling silver can turn your skin green if it is mixed with copper even at percentages of less than 8.
A multitude of factors leads to the gold plating on these alloys turning your skin green including contact with humidity, skin oils and sweat. For these types of pieces, you’ll want to ensure that you don’t wear them on hot days as they could come into contact with sweat which can cause the metal to oxidise against the skin and lead to that green colour.
You’ll also want to avoid going into the pool with gold-plated jewellery as chemicals such as chlorine can react to copper and produce that greenish tint on your skin.
In general, you should also try taking a break when wearing these alloy jewellery pieces to give you skin a rest.
At Sky Austria we use stainless steel as a base metal for our gold plated jewellery as it doesn’t tarnish, is hypoallergenic and doesn’t turn your skin green.
Does Gold Plated Jewellery Rust?
Similar to the experience of jewellery going green, rusting is determined by the base metal underneath the gold plating. The only metal responsible for rusting is iron. Alloy or metals that do not contain iron are not susceptible to rusting. As well, it is unlikely that you would fine a jewelry pieces made from iron anyways so most jewellery pieces you won’t need to worry about rusting.
Can You Wear Gold Plated Jewellery In The Shower?
4mm Gold Tennis Bracelet and 5mm Gold Cuban Bracelet By Sky Austria
You can go into the shower with gold-plated jewellery but you’ll want to avoid doing this regularly. Because the outside layer of gold is so thin it is likely to wear off when in contact or submerged in water for long periods of time. This is especially true with hot water, which causes the gold metals to become softer and more likely to chip off, causing a faded appearance over time.
Additionally, when showering you’ll want to avoid getting any soaps and shampoos as they could have harsh chemicals that if come into contact with your jewellery can cause it to have a faded look and build up residue on the surface that dulls the shine of the gold. Steam from the shower can also cause certain metals to tarnish and loosen their gemstone settings by softening up metals.
The mixture of humidity and moisture from the shower can cause the base metal to tarnish. This occurs due to exposure to both oxygen and moisture which causes discolouration. This can cause the gold-plated layer to dull out.
How To Clean Gold-Plated Jewellery?
In general gold-plated jewellery should be wiped with a damp cotton ball, bud or microfibre cloth to remove smudges, surface soil and sticky surfaces. You’ll also want to clean whenever your jewellery gets exposed to harmful chemicals such as chlorine, sulfur, and acids which can cause tarnishing.
Some equipment / solutions you’ll need include:
- Microfiber cloth / Jewellery cloth
- Cotton ball
- Cotton Swab
- Dishwashing liquid
- Warm water
- Paper towel
If your gold plated jewellery is looks dull and lifeless use a damp cotton ball or jewellery cloth soaked in warm water to remove body oils and soils on the jewellery then take a paper towel and dry it off.
If your gold plated jewellery has dirt on it or feels sticky, it should be cleaned with warm soapy water. To create this just mix water with dishwashing liquid in a bowl. Let the jewellery sit in the solution for 10 minutes. Skip submerging your jewellery if it contains gemstone, pearls or enamel or has a base metal made from copper, brass or nickel.
If your gold plated jewellery has embellishments on it, instead soak a cotton ball in the dishwashing liquid and water solution and gently clean the pieces.
For more stubborn soil that is stuck on your gold plated jewellery use a cotton swab soaked in the dishwashing liquid and water mixture to remove the soil.
After you clean your gold plated jewellery they should always be dried gently using a microfibre cloth or paper towels.
How To Look After Gold-Plated Jewellery?
If you are looking to keep your gold-plated jewellery lasting longer and shining brighter here are a few tips and things you should do:
- Remove the jewellery before you go into the shower
- Remove the jewellery before you go into the swimming pool or into the ocean to avoid contact with chlorine or salt water that could fade the gold plating
- Remove the jewllery before you put on any lotion, perfume or makeup so that chemicals dont come into contact with the gold layer.
- Remove the jewellery if you are going to come into contact with something abrasive (e.g at the gym when using a barbell you’ll want to take off any rings.)
- Store your plated jewellery where it won’t rub against eachtoher, a soft velour bag for each piece of jewellery or a frosted pouch works great.
- Ensure that you wipe your gold-plated jewellery after each use using a dry soft cloth or microfibre cloth to remove dirt and debris.
Learn more about gold-plated jewellery by reading our blog on gold plated chains