Solid Gold vs Plated Gold Jewellery

Pure Gold

Most of the time, even when you’re talking about pure gold, you’re referring to a gold alloy because 100% pure gold is too soft for jewellery making.

Gold’s purity is measured in karats, and 24k gold is the highest purity used to make jewellery. But 24k gold is generally considered too soft to wear, so the gold must be mixed with other metals, a process known as alloying, to make it stronger.”  Yellow gold is commonly mixed with copper and silver to retain its lustre while increasing its durability. This means that some of the best solid gold jewellery is between 10k-18k. Although karat gold isn’t 100% pure gold, it is still considered to be “real gold or Solid Gold” if it is 9 karats or more. This means that there are many different colours and shades of gold out there, with the most popular being yellow gold, white gold and rose gold.

Gold will never tarnish or fade but will always remain bright yellow and retain its value over time.  

Colours of Gold

Yellow gold 

All gold in its purest form is yellow, but that doesn’t mean that all yellow gold jewellery is pure. In fact, most of it isn’t. Pure gold is actually soft, making it unsuitable for everyday wear. Because of this, most quality gold jewellery is made from a gold alloy; a composition of pure gold and other strengthening metals. 

These metals will alter the shade of yellow slightly, but the aim of them is to strengthen the alloy, whilst keeping its hue as similar to pure gold as possible. Ultimately, the purer gold the precious metal contains, the richer and brighter the shade of yellow. And the less pure gold it contains, the paler and more muted it will be. 

Yellow gold is made by combining pure gold with copper, silver and zinc. Whilst copper can cause allergic reactions, very little of the metal is used (compared to rose gold) and a yellow gold alloy is generally considered to be highly hypoallergenic, especially if it has a high karatage. A higher karatage also means that the alloy is less likely to tarnish or fade and requires very little maintenance. The downside of a high karatage, is that the purer gold the alloy contains, the softer it will be. 

White gold - Because gold found in nature is always yellow, all white gold jewellery is made from a gold alloy. But this doesn’t make it any less real than yellow gold. Yellow gold and white gold of equal karatage will contain the same percentage of pure gold. The only real difference between white gold and yellow gold is the hue, which is solely determined by what other metals are added to the pure gold. 

White gold is made by mixing pure gold with white metals such as nickel, palladium, silver and platinum, changing the colour of the metal from yellow to white. Once the alloy is mixed, it is usually coated with a layer of rhodium for added protection and extra scintillation. 

Nickel can be a problematic metal for people with sensitive skin, which can make white gold less hypoallergenic than other types of gold. But, if the layer of rhodium is thick enough, this shouldn’t be a problem. However, while the rhodium coating adds extra protection, it can require more maintenance, as the coating can wear off after years of heavy use and require re-plating. 

Rose gold Like most yellow gold and all white gold, rose gold is a type of gold alloy, containing pure gold and other metals. This means that an 18K rose gold ring will have the same amount of pure gold as an 18K yellow gold ring or an 18K white gold ring. The only difference between the composition of the three different coloured rings will be what other metals have been mixed into the metal. 

Rose gold is made by combining pure gold with pink metals such as copper silver and zinc. These metals alter the precious metal’s hue from a bright yellow to a rose pink

The higher percentage of copper can make the precious metal less hypoallergenic. Although for most, this isn’t a problem. On the flipside, copper is a very strong metal and is less susceptible to tarnish than other metals. This makes rose gold the most durable type of gold, requiring very little maintenance. 


Pros of Gold Plated Jewellery

#1 Gold plated jewellery items are affordable.

Gold plated jewellery items are the most inexpensive when comparing them to gold filled or solid gold jewellery items. They typically range between $5 to $50. Because gold plated items are so affordable, more people have begun to buy and wear them!

#2 Looks like real gold!

To the untrained eye, you can’t tell that it is not real gold!

#3 They make great decoration.

The plating process allows the item to look like solid gold, while being more affordable. Therefore, gold plated jewellery can bring the perfect touch of brilliance and decoration to any outfit!

#4 They are easy to make and there are more design possibilities.

Gold plated jewellery items are best for “of the moment” trends. By having a gold plated jewellery item of a particular style, you can be a part of the trend, without worrying that you’ve made a huge investment into something that will not last long. Thus, gold plated jewellery has a lot of design possibilities and can be used for a lot of different occasions.

#5 Gold plated items are very strong and durable.

Gold plated jewellery items are stronger than solid gold items and will last longer. Gold is a very soft and malleable metal; the higher the karat, the softer and more malleable the item is. Thus, 24K is too soft and it is impossible to make a jewelry item entirely of 24K. Gold has to either be alloyed with other metals or plated over other base metals for the item to be strong enough to form and shape into jewelry. Thus, a gold plated item, with a thin coating of gold on the outside, is a great way to have the appearance of gold, while having a strong and durable item of jewelry. Gold plated jewelry can handle the abuse of everyday wear more so than solid gold.


Cons of Gold Plated Jewelry

#1 It will tarnish!

If you’re wondering, “does gold plated jewelry tarnish?” the answer is yes, it does! Gold plated jewelry items will definitely tarnish over time, though solid gold items will not tarnish at all. Gold plated items have a base metal underneath the gold plate, like copper or silver, which makes the jewelry piece stronger and less likely to bend, though these jewelry metals tarnish. In a gold plated jewelry item, the metal beneath the gold plate will eventually come to the surface and become discolored, so it will need to be polished frequently to keep its shine. The reason that gold plated jewelry tarnishes is because the molecules of the base metals eventually transfer into the thin layer of gold, causing the gold layer to break down.

#2 The plating can be scratched or chipped.

After a few weeks of wearing your gold plated jewelry item, the gold plate is likely to start chipping, wearing, or flaking off. The reason for this is because the gold layer is so thin and not very durable itself. Gold is a very soft metal and can easily be scratched unless alloyed with other metals to make it stronger.

#3 The amount of gold is minimal and can lead to a lower value.

The layer of gold on gold plated items is the least amount of gold when compared to gold filled or solid gold items. Thus, the gold plate is very thin and susceptible to flaking off. Since the gold content is so low in gold plated items, the value is low.

#4 Can’t wear gold plated items in water.

If you’re wondering, “can you wear gold plated jewelry in the shower,” the answer is no, you cannot. Showering with gold plated jewelry or immersing the item under water for long periods of time can cause the gold layer to completely wear off.


How to Clean Gold Plated Jewelry

If you’re wondering how to take care of gold plated jewelry so that it doesn’t tarnish, chip, or wear, we’ve got some pointers for you! Following a care regime for your gold plated jewelry is essential to making your jewelry last longer. It can be difficult to know exactly how long does gold plated jewelry last or how to clean tarnished gold plated jewelry, but we can help! If you want to keep the brightness and luster of the gold plating, there are a few care regimes you can follow:


  • Mix a few drops of dishwashing detergent into a few cups of warm water. Mix in your gold plated jewelry in the soapy solution and then find a dry place to let your gold plated jewelry dry off. Avoid antibacterial soaps since these may contain components that will make your item tarnish more easily.

  • Buff the gold plated item with a soft microfiber cloth. However, be careful not to use too much elbow grease, or the gold plate will begin to flake off.

  • When you are not wearing your gold plated jewelry items, place them in a plastic bag, squeeze all of the air out, and seal it tight. This will keep the gold plated items dry and safe from scratches. Also, the lack of oxygen will keep the alloy base metals from tarnishing.

  • Do not store your gold plated jewelry items in your bathroom, or somewhere where it is humid. You should try to keep your items as dry as possible. Also, do not store more than 1 gold plated item in a plastic bag: storing multiple items in one bag will cause them to brush up against each other and scratch or flake.

  • Remove your gold plated jewelry when you go swimming in a salt or chlorine pool, when you shower, or when you are doing activities that cause you to sweat a lot.

  • Remove your gold plate jewelry if you know it will come into contact with something hard. For instance, if you are about to lift weights, remove your gold plated jewelry.

  • Wait to put on your gold plated jewelry until after you have applied perfume, lotion, and makeup. Substances like oil, nail polish, nail polish remover, perfume, or chlorine can react with the gold plated jewelry item and the base metal underneath, causing it to tarnish more easily.

  • After you take your gold plated jewelry off at the end of every day, gently rub it with a soft cotton ball or a soft cloth. This will help to remove any dust or dirt the item has acquired and will help to maintain its shine.

  • After cleaning it, place your gold plated jewelry item in a soft, dry cloth and separate it from other types of jewelry you have. This will keep it from scratching against other items, and will keep it from tarnishing.

How to Make Gold Plated Jewelry Gold Again

To make your gold plated jewelry gold again, you can have the item re-plated. The process is simple and inexpensive! So, if you want to make your jewelry look like gold, but don’t want to spend so much for a solid gold piece, you can take your jewelry item in to a jewelry shop and have them re-plate the item for you!


So, first of all, what even is gold plated jewelry? In general, the process of plating is when a piece of jewelry made from a certain metal or alloy is covered with a layer of another metal. For example, a ring in which the base metal is copper or silver, but that has a thin layer of gold on the outer surface, would be considered a gold plated item of jewelry.

Are there other kinds of plated jewelry?

Yes! For example, white gold is an alloy of yellow gold and a white metal, usually palladium. Since the white gold alloy usually appears a little yellowish, it is usually plated with rhodium to give it a bright, white appearance on the outside, giving white gold its whitish appearance! After some time, however, the white rhodium appearance will wear away, exposing the yellowish metal alloy underneath.

But what does gold plated mean?

Gold plated is a form of jewelry plating, but specifically with gold as the layer on the outside. The thickness of the gold layer on the outside of gold plated jewelry can vary greatly; however, the Federal Trade commission labels gold plated items at .5 microns and “heavy gold plated” items at 2.5 microns. Coatings that are thinner than .5 microns are often mislabeled as gold plated, though these are technically considered “gold electroplate” at .175 microns, or “gold flashed” or “gold washed” if the coating is less than .175 microns. All of the above coatings are technically “electroplated,” but the FTC classifies them with different labels depending on the thickness of the coating.

To gold plate something, the item is dipped into a solution that contains gold or a gold-colored alloy. The item is then shot with an electric current and the resulting electrochemical reaction deposits a thin layer of gold to the outside of the base metal.

Vermeil is a specific kind of gold plating. The process of creating a vermeil piece of jewelry involves coating sterling silver with a thin layer of gold that is at least 10 karats and 2.5 microns thick. To be legally called “vermeil,” the item must have a gold thickness of 2.5 microns and the coating must be over a sterling silver base. However, it is common for people to call any gold plated jewelry item with a sterling silver base metal as vermeil.

In real vermeil, the gold plated layer can contain different layers of gold fineness. For instance, the gold fineness can be between 10K and 24K, and the choice of gold fineness determines the color of the gold vermeil piece: a 10K vermeil piece would be a lighter, more subtle yellow tone, whereas a 24K vermeil piece would have an intense, deep yellow color.

But how do I identify what is vermeil and what isn’t?

To know what is considered vermeil and what isn’t, you have to know the base metal, gold thickness, and gold quality of an item of jewelry. There is a quicker way to identify whether your item of jewelry is vermeil or not: look for a “925” stamp on your item of jewelry. This stamp, or marking, means that the underlying base metal of the jewelry item is 92.5% silver, or sterling silver. So, when you see a gold piece that has this stamp on the outside, you can be sure it is a vermeil piece.