What is Gold Plated: Everything you need to know

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The process of adding a thin layer of gold to metal is known as gold plating

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variety of gold jewelry

Wearing a dark suit and tie or flaring in a dress complemented by pieces of real gold earrings, bronze bracelets, or diamond rings bores a perfect lady or gentleman. But wait, how do you fill your jewelry box with such exquisite items at a low price? The jewelry industry is booming, prices are hiking, and jewelry is increasingly becoming unaffordable. However, there is a 19th-century technique that is saving the world of gold enthusiasts. This technique is called gold plating.

What is gold plating?

The process of adding a thin layer of gold to metal is known as gold plating. This process was invented by Luigi Brugnatelli, an Italian genius, and chemist, in 1805, according to goldplating.com. His invention was published in a Belgian journal of Physics and Chemistry a few years later.

Instead of forging solid gold using heat to produce gold jewelry, gold-plated pieces pass through a different process. Electroplating is the main process that creates gold-plated pieces.

How does electroplating work?

Electroplating is the easiest way of adding a thin layer of gold to the base metal. In this process, electricity, gold content that may be obtained from solid gold through chemical reactions, or purified gold alloys are required. The process is as follows;

  1. Clean the surface

The pieces of metal to which you want to add a thin layer of gold should be washed thoroughly to remove contaminants. This process is essential to meet the required gold vermeil regulations. You can either use steam cleaning or electro cleaning to remove all pollutants before adding a thin layer of gold.

  1. Plate using nickel

Adding nickel layers on the gold plating pieces protects the jewelry from contaminations.

  1. Electroplate using a real gold solution

This is the final process, and it is very easy to do. Here, the cleaned and nickel-plated jewel is dipped in a solution containing gold. This process uses electricity to create negative and positive charges that will attract gold particles to create a thin layer of gold that sticks on the base metal.
Electroplating is done severally to attain the required gold vermeil. Lastly, the gold-plated pieces are hung to dry.

What metal could be plated with gold?

From the above three-step procedure, it is clear gold plating is not an easy process- it requires steady hands, accurate calculations, and brilliant minds. Nevertheless, the outcome of the final products depends on the nature of the base metal. A good metal base produces high-quality pieces that will last longer with plated gold; here are a few examples.

Gold is one of the most precious metals in the world; according to Wikipedia.org, it can be plated on various metals other than rhodium and platinum (which can be more valued than gold). Sterling silver (an alloy of silver containing over 90% silver by weight as stated by Wikipedia.org), steel, brass, copper, etc., are commonly used as base metals in gold plating. Titanium, tungsten, and other industrial metals also form good gold jewelry bases.

Does gold-plated jewelry use real gold?

Genuine gold plated jewelry uses both real gold and gold alloys, but the only difference is color preferences. When using gold alloys, you must check for purity level.

The purity of solid gold is measured in caratage, according to gold.org. The organization states that pure solid gold without any impurities is equal to 24 carats. So when you are setting up a gold plating unit, check for purity.

The thickness of the gold layer on plated jewelry

The thickness of the gold layer plated on jewelry falls between 0.8 and 2.5 microns. Depending on the jewelry type and the cost, the jeweler is willing to sell his pieces; the thickness of the gold layer on jewelry is divided into three groups. The thinnest of these layers is called gold wash which is 0.17 microns. This layer is very thin and wears off within a short time.

The second category ranges from 0.5 to 2.3 microns. Though it might be thin, this is the recommended layer of gold on gold-plated jewelry. This layer is durable and withstands heavy abrasions witnessed by bracelets and rings. Nevertheless, the cost of this gold-filled jewelry is slightly more expensive than gold wash pieces.

The third category of these gold jewelry pieces is known as heavy gold plated. Here the base receives an appetizing layer of gold whose thickness is over 2.4 microns. This is the best gold jewelry to purchase since the layer lasts very long. But for a gold plated piece to pass regulations and be called gold vermeil, it must meet these set conditions;

  • The base metal should be sterling silver
  • The pieces should be plated gold content of more than 41% gold
  • The thickness of the gold plated layer should be more than 2.5 microns

How long does gold plating on jewelry last?

Gold plating is meant to last forever, but there are various underlying factors that reduce the lifespan of gold layers on jewelry. The gold on plated pieces wears off after some time under friction caused by skin and the plated pieces. Also, the longer you use this jewelry, the faster the luster fades away. This may take two or more years, but in the end, the attractiveness will fade away.

It is cheaper to replate gold-plated jewelry than buying those made of real gold. When you want to replate any of your jewelry pieces, seek assistance from professionals only. Do not do it by yourself because you might get undesired results.

How do you maintain gold-plated jewelry?

Gold jewelry needs cleaning and proper care. This not only ensures they last longer but also keeps them beautiful and attractive. Keeping your gold plated jewelry shining is an uphill task, but here are some of the ways you can simplify your job;

  1. Wear gold-plated jewelry last after putting on makeup.

Oils and chemicals in the makeup corrugate the shining luster on gold jewelry. To avoid this, do not wear makeup, spray your hair or apply oil on top of gold jewelry.

  1. Use clean hands each time you are handling gold jewelry.
  2. Do not use chlorinated water each time you are cleaning solid gold pieces. Chlorinated and salty water tarnishes the shiny luster on gold filled jewelry.
  3. Keep your jewelry away from rough surfaces where friction is inevitable. Whether you are wearing solid gold pieces or any other type of jewelry, avoid rubbing them with other surfaces.

Are you still dreaming of getting stunning gold pieces, yet you are not financially sound to pursue your dreams? Gold filled jewelry provides you with a rare opportunity of getting pieces that resemble gold at a cheaper cost. From our article, gold plated jewelry is born from electroplating metals with gold content.

With correct tools and ingredients, gold plating is a simple process but remember the final product must meet gold vermeil standards. Also, as stated above, gold vermeil standards help jewelers to craft pieces that are within the laws and regulations of the land.


(n.d.). Retrieved April 18, 2021, from goldplating.com: https://www.gold.org/about-gold/about-gold-jewellery#:~:text=’Caratage’%20is%20the%20measurement%20of,called%20gold%20varies%20by%20country.

Council, W. G. (n.d.). Retrieved April 18, 2021, from https://www.gold.org/: https://www.gold.org/about-gold/about-gold-jewellery#:~:text=’Caratage’%20is%20the%20measurement%20of,called%20gold%20varies%20by%20country.

Weisberg, A. M. (2013, March 4). Retrieved April 18, 2021, from wikipedia.org: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_plating