The Basics of Gold-Plated Jewelry: What it is and How it Works

Gold-plated jewelry is a piece of jewelry that has a thin layer of gold bonded onto a base metal like copper or silver. In the jewelry industry, plating is quite widespread, and gold plating is widely used for costume jewelry or to replicate more expensive items. It is nearly impossible for the untrained eye to distinguish between expensive gold jewelry and cheap gold-plated imitations.

How To Recognize Gold Plated Jewelry

It can be hard to tell it apart from pure gold jewelry when gold plating is done correctly. However, there are some pointers that you can use to discern if the jewelry you have is gold-plated.

  1. Firstly, you should look out for a hallmark; hallmarks are small stamps put on jewelry that indicate what it’s made of and other information about the manufacturer. First, look out for any sign of how many karats the jewelry is made of; for example, authentic ten karat gold jewelry would indicate 10K somewhere on the body. However, gold plated jewelry usually has other stamps, and the most commonly used ones are:
  • GP – gold plated
  • GEP – gold electroplated
  • HGE – heavy gold electroplate
  • HGP – heavy gold plate
  1. Next, you should look out for the jewelry price; if the jewelry you’re trying to buy is too cheap to be authentic gold jewelry, then it’s probably gold plated.
  2. Pure gold has a very bright look that is relatively easy to distinguish from gold that has been mixed with another metal. This 22 or 24-karat gold is often used for gold plating, giving it a very bright golden look, so if the jewelry you want to buy has a very refined golden look, it might be gold plated.
  3. An uneven color tone and signs of flaking on jewelry might also be signs that it is gold plated.

Pros And Cons Of Gold Plated Jewelry

There are advantages and disadvantages to using gold-plated jewelry, and knowing them would help you decide if it’s for you or not.


  1. Gold-plated jewelry is more affordable than real gold; thus, it’s a cheaper alternative for many people.
  2. Jewelry that is gold plated properly looks highly similar to authentic gold jewelry, meaning you can have the beauty of gold for a fraction of the price.
  3. Gold plating gives metals such as silver and copper a protective coating that makes the jewelry more durable.


  1. The most common issue with gold-plated jewelry is tarnishing, which occurs due to wear over a while. Authentic gold jewelry doesn’t have such problems, and with time, you’ll begin to see the base metal show from behind the plating.
  2. Gold plated jewelry doesn’t deal well with water as this can affect its appearance and cause it to tarnish, unlike real gold.

How To Maintain Gold Plated Jewelry

Gold plated jewelry requires a great deal of care to ensure that you do not destroy or deface the jewelry, and you should know how to care for the base metal and the plating. Below are some tips on proper gold-plated jewelry maintenance.

Be Careful Around Water

Firstly, you shouldn’t wear your gold-plated jewelry in a swimming pool, and this is a result of chlorine found in the water. Chlorine can damage and discolor metals (like gold and platinum). It can slowly erode the finish and polish of any gemstones on your gold-plated jewelry. Wearing gold plated jewelry into the pool is a sure way to wear off the coating fast and something that you should avoid.

Don’t Wear It To Bed

You shouldn’t wear your gold-plated jewelry to bed as the swear and oils from your skin can affect the gold plating and the base metal. Also, some sleeping positions at night can cause jewelry such as necklaces and bracelets to be destroyed. Therefore, you should take off your gold-plated jewelry before going to bed every night.

Clean The Jewelry Regularly

Also, it’s essential to clean your jewelry after you take it off every night or if you want to put it away for an extended period. You should wipe it with a soft cloth to remove all oily substances from your body that must be stuck to the jewelry after wearing it for a whole day. When you keep the jewelry clean, you prevent it from having any strange odors or looks.

Don’t Wear It While House Cleaning

It’s also vital that you not put on your gold-plated jewelry when you want to do house cleaning. Household cleaners aren’t kind to gold-plated jewelry and can wear down the plating. There’s also the factor of your jewelry rubbing against surfaces that can scratch the plating and cause it to peel away.

Keep It Away From Chemicals

Always take off your gold-plated jewelry before you get into the shower. Those seamlessly harmless soaps might contain chemicals that can react negatively with the gold plating.

Chemicals and oils found in beauty products such as moisturizers and perfumes can cause jewelry to tarnish. It’s critical to use these beauty products several minutes before putting on your jewelry to avoid spoiling them. It would be best to give the beauty products enough time to soak into your skin before putting on your gold-plated jewelry.

Use Non-Abrasive Cleaners

Wash your gold-plated jewelry regularly using mild liquid soap and warm water. Do not use abrasive cleaners, as they can cause the gold-plated jewelry to get scratched. Also, after washing, it’s essential to polish your gold-plated jewelry to restore its luster regularly.

Is Gold Plated Real Gold?

The short answer to this is, “No, it isn’t”. There is no legitimate jewelry store you walk into and ask for gold jewelry that would present you with gold plated jewelry instead. Even though real gold is used in the plating of the jewelry, it doesn’t have the same value as authentic gold jewelry because of how little gold is used.

Gold of varying purity is used for plating, but this does not affect the value of the jewelry. Different karats of gold are used for the specific colors that the manufacturer might want. Most gold-plated jewelry uses gold of at least ten karats.

How Long Will Gold Plating Last?

While gold plating is intended to be permanent, it wears out over time, leading the base metal to be exposed underneath the plating. The reason for this wear is that the plating doesn’t handle rough exposure well, which can lead to the luster fading away with time. If you take proper care of your gold-plated jewelry, it should last you for up to two years, and if the plating is worn off, you can always have it replated.

Is Gold Plated Jewelry Hypoallergenic?

Gold itself is hypoallergenic, so a lot depends on the base metal used in creating the gold-plated jewelry. Also, if the gold plating is thick enough, metals that cause allergies won’t be able to have contact with the skin. However, as the plating wears off, the base metal would begin to have direct contact with the skin and can cause issues.

If you have allergies, try to find out what the base metal of any gold-plated jewelry is before you buy it.

What Is Gold Plating Used For?

Gold plating is used in other industries and in the jewelry industry it can be used on all kinds of jewelry. Everything from necklaces, to earrings, and anklets can have gold plated versions. In summary, if it can be made of pure gold, there can be a gold-plated version of it too.

Gold Flashed vs Gold Plated vs Vermeil

Gold plating is used on different metals in the jewelry industry, and the thickness of the plating defines the quality of gold plating. The thickness of gold plating on jewelry is measured in micrometers or microns. The thicker the plating, the longer it would last with usage. 

There are three broad categories of gold plating standards, and their thickness is mainly determined by how much the material was left in the tank:

1. Gold Flashed

Gold flashed jewelry results from putting the metal in the tank for a very short period. Gold flashed jewelry usually has a thickness of 0.5 microns which is very thin and quickly wears away. The primary reason for gold flashing is cheap decorative items like costume jewelry, and it is a bad idea to use on jewelry worn every day.

2. Gold Plated

Gold flash and vermeil are in practice methods of gold plating; however, when people speak of gold plating, it is this plating thickness of between 0.5 and 2.5 microns that they mean. Plating of gold is more reliable in making the material look like real gold for longer as the plating won’t go off as quickly as gold flashing. Gold plated is a way to get materials that look like gold for a lower price.

3. Vermeil

Vermeil or silver-gilt is a type of gold plating where the gold layer is at least 2.5 microns thick, and the base metal is pure or sterling silver. Vermeil gold jewelry is the most valuable means of gold plating because it gives a more lasting covering of the base metal. Most large goldsmithing pieces that appear to be gold are vermeil; for example, most sporting trophies and many crown jewels are vermeil.

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