You’ve seen the term popping up in your search for that perfect piece, but what exactly is gold-plated jewellery? Should you buy it? What things should you be looking out for? This ultimate guide will break down everything you need to know!
Let’s get super-simple: a piece of jewellery is made from a cheaper base metal (like brass or sterling silver), and then a thin layer of real gold is applied to the surface using a process called electroplating. The gold-plated layer is *much* thinner than solid gold jewellery but can vary in thickness depending on the quality and cost of the piece. In any case, because so much less gold is used, gold-plated jewellery can create the look and feel of real gold jewellery at a much more affordable price point.
Is it a New Technique?
Not even slightly! Gold plating has been used in various cultures throughout history. The ancient Egyptians were known to use a process called fire gilding, in which gold was melted onto the surface of objects using heat. The ancient Greeks and Romans also used gold plating techniques to decorate their jewellery and other objects.
In more recent history, gold plating became popular in the 19th century as a way to create affordable gold jewellery. Following the discovery of electroplating in the 1800s, it became possible to apply a thin layer of gold onto a base metal using an electrical current. This made gold-plated jewellery more widely accessible and affordable, and it’s only increased in popularity since!
Pros and Cons of Gold-Plated Jewellery
Durability. Unfortunately, while gold plating is by no means fragile, it is not as durable as solid gold. Given enough time and usage, the gold layer will wear off or become scratched, revealing the base metal underneath. However, with a high-quality piece, this won’t be for a few years of very regular wear.
Quality. The quality of gold-plated jewellery can vary widely depending on the manufacturing process and materials used. Unfortunately, as with most things in jewellery; you usually get what you pay for. All jewellers and manufacturers have the same raw gold costs as each other. Therefore if you see a gold-plated piece at a much lower price, it almost certainly has a much thinner layer of gold. This will wear off quicker and give your piece a shorter lifespan.
How to Buy Gold-Plated Jewellery
There are a few different factors that you should consider when buying a piece of gold-plated jewellery, although they all revolve around one thing: making sure your piece lasts as long as possible! Here are the three key things to look out for before making your purchase:
- Thickness of the gold layer: The thickness of the gold layer can impact the durability and longevity of the piece. Look for gold-plated jewellery with a thicker layer of gold, as this will be more resistant to wear and tear. Anything less than 0.25 microns and you’re looking at quite a short lifespan.
- Quality of the base metal: The quality of the base metal can also impact the durability of the piece. Look for jewellery made with high-quality metals like sterling silver to ensure that the piece will last.
- Brand reputation: Research the brand and read reviews from other customers to get an idea of the quality of the company’s pieces. If there are lots of reviews or comments about the gold wearing off - keep looking!
Gold Plate vs Gold Vermeil
Have you ever heard the term ‘Gold Vermeil’? If you’re concerned about your piece wearing down over time, it’s a technique that you should get familiar with asap!
Gold plate and gold vermeil are both techniques used to create gold-plated jewellery, but they differ in the quality and thickness of the gold layer. Gold plate can be as thin as 0.175 microns.
Gold vermeil, on the other hand, involves a thicker layer of gold. To be considered vermeil, a piece of jewellery must have a gold layer that is at least 2.5 microns thick and made using sterling silver as the base metal. This thicker layer of gold makes gold vermeil jewellery much more durable and longer-lasting than traditional gold-plated jewellery.
As mentioned before, you almost always get what you pay for with gold jewellery, so you can expect a higher price-tag for gold vermeil pieces due to the much thicker layer of gold. However, it’s still a fraction of the price of solid gold jewellery so definitely worth exploring if you’re happy to double the price in order to triple the lifespan.
How to Wear Gold-Plated Jewellery
Gold-plated jewellery can add a touch of glamour and sophistication to any outfit. Here are some styling tips to help you incorporate gold-plated jewellery into your wardrobe:
- Layering: Layering gold-plated jewellery can create a unique and stylish look. Try stacking multiple bracelets or necklaces in different lengths to create a layered effect.
- Mix and match: Don't be afraid to mix and match different styles and types of gold-plated jewellery. Try pairing a delicate pendant necklace with a chunky bangle or mixing gold and silver tones for a more eclectic look.
- Balance: When wearing statement pieces, it's important to balance them out with simpler pieces. For example, if you're wearing a bold pair of gold-plated earrings, keep the rest of your jewellery minimal and understated.
- Dress up or down: Gold-plated jewellery can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. Pair it with a casual outfit for a laid-back look, or wear it with a formal dress for a more elegant and sophisticated look.
- Consider your skin tone: When choosing gold-plated jewellery, consider your skin tone. If you have warm undertones, opt for yellow or rose gold. If you have cool undertones, consider white gold or silver tones.
How to Clean and Maintain Gold-Plated Jewellery
So you’ve done your research and bought your piece - now it’s time to keep your gold-plated jewellery looking its best and maximising its lifespan. Here are some simple tips for cleaning and maintaining your gold-plated jewellery:
- Avoid harsh chemicals. Avoid exposing your gold-plated jewellery to harsh chemicals, such as chlorine, bleach, and ammonia. These chemicals can damage the gold layer and cause discoloration.
- Remove before swimming or showering. Remove your gold-plated jewellery before swimming or showering to avoid exposure to water and chemicals.
- Store properly. Store your gold-plated jewellery in a cool, dry place to avoid exposure to humidity and moisture, which can cause tarnishing.
- Clean with a soft cloth. To clean your gold-plated jewellery, use a soft cloth or microfiber towel to gently wipe away dirt and oils. Avoid using abrasive materials or harsh chemicals.
- Use a mild soap. If your gold-plated jewellery needs a deeper clean, use a mild soap and lukewarm water to gently clean the piece. Be sure to rinse thoroughly and dry with a soft cloth.
- Avoid excessive polishing. Avoid excessive polishing, as this can wear away the gold layer over time. Only polish your gold-plated jewellery when necessary.
How long does gold plated jewellery last?
The lifespan of gold plated jewellery varies, mainly based on the quality and thickness of the gold. Typically, the thicker the gold plating, the longer it endures. On average, most gold plated jewellery can last several years with regular wear. Factors like body chemistry, environment, and care, as well as the plating's thickness, affect its longevity.
Is it worth buying gold plated jewellery?
Gold plated jewellery is a cost-effective option compared to solid gold, offering the aesthetic of gold without the hefty price tag. It's a viable choice for those desiring a stylish look without a significant financial commitment. However, it may not be as durable as solid gold, with the gold layer prone to wearing off over time. It's best suited for trendy pieces that aren't worn frequently, rather than for long-term investment or heirloom-quality items.
Is buying gold plated jewellery worth anything?
While gold plated jewellery is more affordable than solid gold, it generally doesn't hold the same resale value. The thin gold layer over a base metal can wear away, affecting both its appearance and value. For those seeking an economical way to enjoy the look of gold, it's worthwhile. However, for long-term value retention, solid gold or more durable materials might be better options.
What are the disadvantages of gold plated jewellery?
The primary disadvantages of gold plated jewellery include its vulnerability to wear and tear, as the gold layer can wear off, revealing the base metal. This diminishes the jewellery's appearance and may necessitate replating. Additionally, it's more susceptible to scratches and tarnishing compared to solid gold. There's also a risk of allergic reactions due to base metals like nickel or copper, which can cause skin irritation.
How long will 18k gold plated last?
With proper care, 18k gold plated jewellery typically lasts about two years. This duration is considerable, particularly given its price point in comparison to real gold. The longevity is influenced by factors like the gold layer's thickness and the care and usage of the jewellery.