What Does Gold Plated Mean?
Gold plated refers to jewelry that has a thin layer of gold bonded to a base metal through an ionic bonding process, which involves dipping the metal into a special chemical solution and zapping it with an electric current, attracting and adhering gold ions to the metal. Gold plated jewelry often uses cheap metals like copper and brass as the base metal, although sometimes sterling silver is also used. For jewelry to be considered gold plated, the layer of gold must be at least 0.5 microns thick (a micron is one millionth of a meter, for context). Due to the thin layer of gold, gold-plated jewelry is generally sold at a lower price than their gold vermeil counterparts.
Characteristics of Gold Plated Jewelry
- Cheaper than gold vermeil as it has only a very thin layer of gold
- More design possibilities for costume jewelry since it is inexpensive to make
- Often uses copper, brass or sterling silver as the base metal
- Will generally not last more than a few weeks or months
- Can cause allergic reactions once the gold surface rubs off
- If the base metal is copper or brass, the oxidation process commonly discolour your skin (e.g. green fingers)
Gold Vermeil vs Gold Plated: What’s the Difference?
The difference between gold vermeil and gold plated jewelry is in the quality. The one thing they have in common is the ionic bonding process used to adhere the gold atoms to the base metal, but gold vermeil jewelry adheres (pun intended) to a specific set of standards.
- Gold vermeil jewelry always uses hypoallergenic sterling silver as its base metal. Gold plated jewelry isn’t regulated in terms of base metal.
- Gold vermeil jewelry must use at least 10k gold. Gold plated jewelry doesn’t have a karat minimum.
- The gold layer on a gold vermeil piece must be at least 2.5 microns in thickness. Gold plated jewelry must be at least .5 microns in thickness.
For the full scoop on gold vermeil jewelry, check our post “What is Gold Vermeil Jewelry - Your Complete Guide”
Is Gold Plated Real Gold?
Gold plated jewelry is considered real gold. Gold plated refers to jewelry that has a metal core (such as copper or brass) with a thin layer of gold (at least 0.5 microns thick) that has been electroplated over. Even though the gold content in gold plated jewelry is much lower than gold vermeil jewelry, it is still considered real. It is important to note that in the US, 10k is the recognized minimum in order for gold to get the “real gold” designation and gold plated jewelry is not regulated in terms of karatage. In the realm of gold toned jewelry, If you are looking to invest in “real gold” pieces that are regulated and made to last, we suggest looking at solid gold or gold vermeil jewelry options!
Does Gold Plated Jewelry Tarnish?
Yes, gold plated jewelry tarnishes quickly, thus creating that green film that transfers onto your skin. Tarnishing occurs when certain metals oxidize through, you guessed it, oxygen exposure—-and tarnishing increases in the presence of water, sweat, soaps, and other environmental chemicals that can degrade the metal.
Metals that commonly tarnish include copper, brass, and nickel. The outer layer of gold on a piece of jewelry protects those metals from oxidizing, so the thickness and purity directly impact how quickly your pieces tarnish. Gold plated jewelry often uses cheap base metals (such as copper or brass) which are very susceptible to tarnish. Because the layer of gold on gold plated jewelry is only 0.5 microns thick, when the gold inevitably rubs off, the base material will oxidize, leading to tarnish and rusting. Solid gold and gold vermeil jewelry pieces on the other hand, are much less likely to tarnish.
Twist Ring - Dagmar
Chunky Gold Hoop Earrings - Jorunn
Pearl Drop Earrings - Mathilde
Open Leaf Ring - Ada
How Long Does Gold Plated Jewelry Last?
Gold plated jewelry usually lasts for a few weeks to a few months, depending on what is used in the base and the thickness of the gold plating. Gold plated jewelry does not typically last long because there are no industry standards to guarantee the thickness of the gold plating or the karat count. For jewelry to be considered gold plated, the outer layer of gold must be at least 0.5 microns thick so you can assume that gold plated pieces will wear out quickly; we’re talking a few months to a couple of years if you’re careful. That said, gold plated jewelry is not quite as cheap as flash plated (which is essentially single-use jewelry). Always remember to check prices and do some brand research to see if a gold plated piece meets higher standards. If you are looking for gold toned jewelry with a longer lifespan, we suggest investing in solid gold or gold vermeil pieces!
Does the Gold Plating Wear Off?
Yes, over time, gold plating does wear off. The rate at which the outer layer on a gold plated piece wears down depends on its original thickness and the wear-and-tear it receives. The gold atoms are attached to the base metal because of positive and negative ions (kind of like a magnet), and these bonds can “soften” or “loosen” over time. In the case of gold plated jewelry, the .5 micron layer will last a few months with frequent use; it could last you a couple of years with infrequent use and extra care. Re-plating is an option, but it’s probably not worth the trouble if the jewelry is made from a cheap base metal.
The great thing about gold vermeil jewelry is that the standard thickness ensures a much slower fade rate, and the piece has value due to its sterling silver core.
Is Gold Plated Jewelry Hypoallergenic?
In short, yes and no - gold plated jewelry can have hypoallergenic qualities (depending on the base metals used and the gold alloy's purity), however a high percentage of the gold plated jewelry in the market generally uses cheap base metals such as copper, nickel and brass, which can often lead to skin allergies. Nickel is a common culprit when it comes to metal allergies. So, beware of gold plated jewelry with a nickel base and/or a low-karat gold alloy that contains a lot of nickel. If you are looking for high quality and hypoallergenic gold-toned jewelry, we would recommend choosing either solid gold or gold vermeil!
Gold Stacking Ring - Liv
Baroque Pearl Necklace
Baguette Ring Citrine - Charlotte
Wide Ring - Paula
Is Gold Plated Jewelry Waterproof?
Gold plated jewelry is not waterproof, nor is it considered water resistant. Unless the piece has an outer layer thicker than the standard 0.5 microns, it will easily wear off due to water exposure. Unlike gold vermeil, which uses a sterling silver base, the base metals commonly used in gold plated jewelry—brass, copper, and nickel—are particularly prone to tarnish with each additional water encounter.
If you want to extend the lifespan of your gold plated pieces, jewelry care is extremely important. To keep your gold plated pieces in good condition for as long as possible, you’re best off keeping them away from water!
Can You Shower With Gold Plated Jewelry?
You should not shower with gold plated jewelry because it will accelerate the rate at which your jewelry deteriorates.If you want to prolong the lifespan of your gold plated pieces, removing your jewelry before showering is the best practice. Gold plated jewelry is an inexpensive option that’s great when you want to venture into new designs and trends. But, to ensure you’ll enjoy your trendy pieces on more than a few occasions, keep them out of the shower and away from water in general. This will help protect the thin gold layer from chipping off and protect it from tarnishing because the chlorine and minerals (not to mention soaps and serums) that your gold plated jewelry will encounter in the shower are simply too much for it to handle!
Which Is Better, Gold Plated or Gold Vermeil?
When it comes to buying gold-tone jewelry, gold vermeil is the best option you can get short of buying solid gold. Gold-plated always makes a great option for those who want to experiment with trendier styles on a budget. Just don't expect a long lifespan!
Linjer’s gold vermeil products use 22k gold with a 14k gold tone and plating that is 2.5-3.0 microns thick. We also pride ourselves on keeping our markups low, with prices that are 25-50% of traditional jewelry brands ! Here at Linjer, we sell beautiful and high-quality jewelry that won’t break your wallet—I mean really, what more can you ask for?!
|Thickness of Gold Plating
|Gold plating must be at least 0.5 microns thick
|Gold plating must be at least 10k and 2.5 microns thick
|Base Metal Used
|Might be copper, brass or sterling silver
|Must be sterling silver
|Typical Longevity With Regular Use
|A few months
|Cost to Produce
|Cheaper to produce
|More expensive to produce
|Type of Jewelry Used
|Due to the low production costs, gold plated is best for costume jewelry and fast fashion jewelry with more experimental designs and styles
|Due to the higher production cost and precious metals used, gold vermeil is best used for fine jewelry styles with more classic designs
Looking for a new unique piece to add to your jewelry box? We've got you covered—check out our Gold Vermeil Collection to shop our favourite gold vermeil stacking rings, dainty necklaces, hoop earrings, and more!