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What Does Gold Plated Mean When It Comes to Jewelry?

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The pursuit of gold has been a common trope in the historical pursuit of the most valuable objects in the world. There was even an entire science dedicated to converting base metals into gold, called alchemy. If this sounds like a fantasy, one of the most famous alchemists was Sir. Isaac Newton. Besides alchemy, supernatural accounts of ‘cities of gold’ like Shangri La are popular myths. While the gold of these accounts is pure, solid gold, here are other types of gold ornaments one can purchase at lower prices. Some of the popular alternatives are gold plated items, but how do they compare to solid gold or other alternatives like filled gold?

What Does Gold Plated Mean?

Gold plated jewelry pieces are those that have a coating of gold over a base metal, like copper. This type of jewelry is almost of negligible value comparing to real gold and is equivalent to a mere ‘coloring’ on what is a relatively common metal. There exist other forms of gold jewelry that essentially follow the same process. These are called by different names due to the thickness of the layer of gold, the difference in base metal, and corresponding value.

what does gold plated mean - Bixler
Gold Plated Rings

Two Ways of Plating Gold

There are two types of plating gold: Electroplating and Physical Vapour Deposition (PVD).  Electroplating is a process wherein the base metal is submerged in electrically charged gold, which sticks to the surface of the metal. In PVD, the gold is vaporized and blasted at high speed towards the base metal. The precious metal fills up the minuscule punctures on the surface of the metal and eventually spreads over the whole surface. The latter process creates a much more durable layer of gold, one that is ten times as strong as the one created by electroplating but is also more expensive for the same reason. PVD also requires complex machinery, and your run of the mill jeweler is unlikely to have the resources to conduct the process. The common feature that both have is that the base metal is usually copper.

Three Types of Gold Plating

There are three distinct alternatives to solid gold (also known as pure 99% gold). The remaining consists of impurities since 100% pure gold is too soft to be handled. These three alternatives are plated gold, gold-filled, and gold vermeil. We already know what gold plated means, but what about the other two?

Gold-filled jewelry holds a much thicker layer of gold around the base metal, which, like plated gold, is usually copper. The amount of gold in this type is the highest after solid gold, comprising at least 5% of the total weight of the ornament. Gold vermeil, on the other hand, usually has a base metal made of sterling silver, which is a particularly valuable variant of silver. Thus, in terms of value, it somewhat makes up for the deficit in gold, which is normally 2.5 microns thick. Of the three, gold-toned jewelry is the cheapest choice.

what does gold plated mean - Bixler
Gold Filled Bracelet

Does Gold Plated Jewelry Last?

Assuming the thickness of the plating is around 1 micron, the average age of an electroplated gold ornament is likely around a year from the day of the purchase. PVD plated gold lasts longer, but the majority of plated gold jewelry circulating in the market is electroplated. While plated gold is prone to scratching, chipping, and flaking, PVD plated gold is more resistant and is quite resistant to scratches. The good news is that plated jewelry can always be re-plated to make it shine like new, but the bad news is that gold plating deteriorates when it comes in contact with anything that is not Ph neutral.

Unfortunately, if you find yourself considering trading in a worn off piece of gold plated jewelry, its value is likely going to be very low. Additionally, the type of jewelry you want to fix can complicate the process of replating it. The less rigid parts a piece has, the more difficult it is to get it replated. As such, it is best to buy gold plated jewelry only if one does not intend to wear it on a daily basis.

Can You Shower or Sleep With Gold Plated Jewelry?

One should thoroughly avoid showering or sleeping while wearing gold tone jewelry. Doing that consistently can slowly but surely wear off the gold layer from the jewelry. Besides that, it is also very easy to scratch the jewelry on some hard surface when sleeping.

Here’s Some Advice for You to Keep Your Gold Plated Jewelry Looking New:

  • Keep oil, sweat, nail polish, makeup removers, lotions, and even perfume away from the jewelry.
  • Avoid wearing jewelry while doing physically intensive activities.
  • Be gentle and avoid rubbing too hard when cleaning your jewelry.
  • Store your jewelry separate from the rest of your collection to avoid accidental scratches.
  • Avoid chemically heavy jewelry cleaners and antibacterial soaps because oftentimes they can increase the rate at which the layer of gold deteriorates.

Check our other blog on differences between white gold, yellow gold, and rose gold!

Browse fine gold jewelry in all price ranges.

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