What Does Plated Gold Mean?

Gold jewelry has been the symbol of elegance and class through the ages. The downside is that pure gold accessories could put an immense dent in your wallet. Fortunately, gold-plated jewelry provides the ultimate solution.

Gold-plated jewelry conveys all the sophistication as real gold for a fraction of the price. It is near impossible to definitively distinguish the difference between pure solid gold and gold plated pieces. Only an expert would really be able to tell the difference.

Luckily, the world isn’t swarming with people who want to call you out. Instead, you are likely to get a multitude of compliments on your gold-plated pieces.

As you’re reading this, you may have realized that your most prized gold jewelry may be gold plated instead of solid gold. It could even potentially be gold-filled rather than plated. For most, the distinction between all these categories is vague and undefined. Fortunately, we’ll clarify it all for you.

Maybe you have a whole collection of solid gold pieces, and you’re wondering whether it was worth spending all that money on as gold-plated jewelry would have provided you with comparable quality.

We’ll put your mind at ease, and you can decide for yourself whether gold-plated accessories would satisfy you in the same way as solid gold would or not.

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What Is Gold Plating Really?

Firstly, let’s explore the answer to the question What is gold plating?

The plating process involves covering jewelry made of a certain metal with a layer of another metal. During the gold plating process, in particular, a jewelry piece of a specific metal, like silver or copper, is covered with a thin layer of gold to give it a solid gold appearance.

The base metal used is often much more affordable than its gold alloy counterparts.

Other metals can also be plated. One such example is white gold, an alloy of yellow gold, along with white metal, such as palladium.

As the gold alloy frequently has a yellow appearance, it is often plated with rhodium to bring about a white and bright appearance on its outer layer. That’s what gives white gold its brilliance. However, time will cause the white appearance to tarnish and expose the yellowish base metal underneath.

Back to gold. Gold plating occurs in the same manner mentioned above, only with an outer layer of gold. The thickness of the outer gold layer varies between products, but there is a base standard as defined by the Federal Trade Commission, which classifies gold-plated accessories as .5 microns, whereas heavy gold-plated items are at 2.5 microns.

Some gold-plated items are mislabeled when their coatings are thinner than .5 microns. If the jewelry has a very thin layer of gold that is less than .175 microns, the jewelry is classified as gold washed, and if the layer is exactly .175 microns, it is referred to as gold flashed.

Conclusively, the labels of different jewelry items are classified according to the coating’s thickness, although they are all electroplated in the same manner.

More On The Gold Plating Process

Gold plated jewelry earns its name by being dipped into a solution containing gold or a gold alloy. Next, the jewelry is shot with an electric current. The electrochemical reaction that takes place deposits a thin layer of gold to the outer surface of the base metal.

The electric current essentially gives the plating solution a positive charge where the base metal is negatively charged.

The positive ions are chemically attracted to the negative charge of the base metal, causing it to create a thin layer of gold on the base metal.

Most metals can serve as base metals for gold-plated jewelry. The most popular options include stainless steel, silver, copper, nickel, and brass, with silver and copper being used most often.

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The Difference Between Gold filled, Solid Gold, And Gold Plated Jewelry

Solid Gold Jewelry

Needless to say, solid gold jewelry is the most expensive option due to its purity. The value of solid gold stems from its luminous shine and clear color. Another factor contributing to the high value of solid gold is that it won’t tarnish as time passes.

Despite the elitism associated with a solid gold piece, it may not be the wisest option if you’re shopping for gold accessories to wear every day. This is because solid gold is inherently very soft and malleable, making such jewelry vulnerable to deterioration.

Gold is often converted into a gold alloy by combining it with other metals, yielding a stronger and more durable metal than pure gold. In addition, alloys are more often than not more affordable than pure gold as the carat decreases.

However, gold alloys maintain the same qualities that attract jewelry wearers to solid gold in terms of color, shine, and tarnish resistance. It is simply a more practical option for everyday wear.

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Gold Filled Jewelry

Gold-filled jewelry is created by bonding a layer of gold to another metal using pressure. Gold-filled pieces are more economically practical than solid gold while remaining just as beautiful.

Some primary advantages of a gold-filled piece include that it won’t rub off, tarnish, or change colors with time. Gold-filled jewelry is the perfect option for you if you are especially sensitive to particular metals, as you won’t have any allergic reactions.

The layer of gold in gold-filled accessories varies between manufacturers, but it consistently remains thicker than any gold-plated jewelry. Gold-filled items are undoubtedly one of the most durable alternatives to pure gold, and some have even reported wearing the same piece for longer than three decades.

Gold Plated Jewelry

Gold-plated jewelry is an excellent way to go if you want to achieve the refinement of gold jewelry. Gold plate jewelry allows you to indulge in shopping for necklaces, bracelets, and gold-plated earrings without digging into your savings.

Gold plated jewelry is made by utilizing electrical currents and chemicals to coat a base metal with a thin layer of gold.

The disadvantage of gold-plated jewelry is that the gold layer will likely tarnish and fade with time. This occurs because the base metal’s molecules slowly react and transfer to the thin layer of gold, breaking it down.

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What Should You Buy?

When deciding between investing in gold-filled, solid gold, or gold-plated jewelry, there are several factors to consider. Solid gold and even gold alloys make for thoughtful gifts for loved ones. Solid gold, in particular, is a wise investment as it holds its value and will likely never lose its precious status.

Although gold-filled is not as high in value as solid gold, it is still a fantastic option for gift giving. Gold-filled accessories are still more valuable than gold-plated jewelry.

Gold-plated jewelry should not be discredited. Many people question whether gold-plated jewelry is real gold or fake gold. In fact, the real gold used for gold plating is just as pure as any solid gold.

Gold plated jewelry gives you the opportunity to flaunt a stylish and trendy look without breaking the bank to do so. You can look like a million bucks without actually paying that much when you wear gold-plated jewelry. However, you shouldn’t be surprised when your favorite gold-plated items start losing their shine when you wear them almost every day. The plating cannot last forever, but luckily it won’t be an unreachable endeavor to simply go out and buy another gold plated item.

Pros And Cons Of Gold Plated Jewelry


  • Gold-plated jewelry is affordable. In fact, gold plating yields the most inexpensive items in their class. Many people wear gold plated items because they are elegant and beautiful and don’t cost you an arm and a leg. So, when one piece fades, it can easily be replaced.
  • It resembles real gold very closely, and an untrained eye would never be able to spot the difference.
  • Because gold-plated jewelry is easy to make, designers can explore a wide range of styles. Gold plating is not a very time-consuming or costly process, so designers keep up with the current trends quite well. You can possess a gold-plated piece in every style and maintain a complete jewelry collection for every occasion.
  • Gold-plated jewelry is extremely strong and durable. They will not break as easily as solid gold. Because gold is such a malleable metal, it only gets softer as the karat content rises. Therefore, 24 karat gold is too soft to use as a metal for jewelry, and it must be mixed to form an alloy or, alternatively, plated over another metal. Alloying and plating are the only ways to make gold strong enough to create jewelry. Gold plated jewelry conveys the same appearance as gold while also providing the necessary strength and durability required in gold jewelry intended for everyday wear.
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  • If you’re wondering if gold-plated jewelry tarnishes, it does. Gold plated items will certainly tarnish with time, where solid gold jewelry won’t wither at all. Gold plated jewelry contains a base metal underneath the gold layer, which, although making the jewelry stronger and less prone to bending, will tarnish as time passes. These metals, usually copper or silver, will eventually manifest on the surface, leading to discoloration. If you polish your gold-covered neckless and handle it with the proper care, you can extend its life expectancy, but it will deteriorate nonetheless. The thin layer of gold tarnishes due to the molecules of the underlying base metal transferring to the gold, slowly disintegrating it. Metals like brass, for example, are very reactive and will break through the plating relatively easily.
  • Moreover, the plating can chip and get scratched. After a few weeks of wearing your gold-plated jewelry daily, the plating is likely to chip and flake. As gold is such as soft metal, it easily scratches and chips, particularly when it only forms a thin layer over a base metal. Plating wears relatively quickly and will expose your skin to the base metals underneath. So if you have sensitive skin, you may want to consider going for solid gold instead.
  • Because the plating is only a thin layer, the value of gold-plated jewelry is insignificant. The layer of gold on plated items holds the least value compared to solid gold or gold-filled items. Since the pure gold content is so low, your gold-plated necklace likely won’t be very valuable if you ever consider selling it.
  • You cannot wear your gold-plated jewelry in water. Many people choose one item to wear every day, regardless of their activities. But in truth, showering or bathing in warm water could cause the gold layer to come off completely. Unfortunately, gold-plated jewelry tarnish quite readily.

How To Restore The Deep Yellow Color Of Gold Plated Jewelry

If you truly fell in love with your gold plate pieces, you can always restore their authentic color by having them re-plated. This is not an expensive pursuit and won’t take very long to finish. You can have jewelry with the same appearance of solid gold and cherish them for a long time by taking them to your nearest jewelry shop and requesting a re-plate.

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