What Does Gold Plated Mean?

What does gold plated mean?Do you love the look of gold jewelry but are discouraged by the steep price tags? Well, allow us to introduce you to gold-plated jewelry. You’ve seen it listed on jewelry sites and at your favorite stores, but what does gold-plated mean exactly

There’s no question that gold jewelry is highly desired but in a marketplace filled with gold-plated this and gold-filled that, the options are dizzying! Is gold-plated good, or a cheap alternative that won’t go the distance? 

Read on as we dispel any confusion and outline the meaning of gold-plated jewelry.

What Is Gold-Plated Jewelry?

The draw to gold-plated jewelry is that it’s a budget-friendly way to wear beautiful gold jewelry. For instance, you can snag a simple gold-plated band for $50-$100 bucks. But a 14K gold ring? That’s going to cost a few hundred dollars, depending on the size of the ring. 

The two look virtually indistinguishable, meaning you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone (aside from a seasoned jeweler with tools in hand) who’d spot the difference. However, you can spot a gold-plated item by looking for the following hallmark stamps:

  • GP = gold-plated

  • HGE = Heavy Gold Electroplate

  • GEP = Gold Electroplated

  • HGP = Heavy Gold Plate

So, we know it’s a more affordable option, but what does it mean?

What Does Gold-Plated Mean?

Gold-plated jewelry means that the item contains a base metal plated in a thin gold coating. The jeweler takes a base metal like sterling silver, stainless steel, brass, or copper to comprise the bulk of the item. Then, they bond a thin layer of pure gold to the base metal through a process called electroplating.

Often, gold-plated jewelry contains a thin layer of nickel to protect the base metal’s gold. The final step involves dipping the base metal into a container filled with gold, where a positive electrical charge bonds the gold to the base metal.

Gold plated bracelet

This practice’s origins trace to the early 19th century when an Italian chemist plated a sheet of gold to a silver base. The result? An affordable, luxurious-looking jewelry item that can be purchased for a great price.

As expected, this process became a hit, opening the door for all walks of life to adorn themselves in gold jewelry without divulging its contents or price.

Types of Gold Plating

There are varying purity levels of gold-plated jewelry. While the process involves a small amount of pure gold, the gold itself can range in purity from 10K to 24K. 

However, some of the most popular variations you’ll see are 14K and 18K gold-plated jewelry. Like fine gold jewelry, the amount of pure gold used in the plating process dictates the piece’s color. 

The industry standard is as follows: The purer the gold contents, the more yellow the color. 

That said, because gold plating contains so little gold that often results in a very bright gold color. Ok, so we know what gold-plated means, but is it the same thing as gold-filled?

Gold-Plated vs. Gold-Filled

What is the difference between gold-plated and gold-filled? It primarily comes down to the weight of gold in the item. 

Plated jewelry contains less than 2.5 microns of gold in a thin exterior layer. Gold-filled jewelry has a few gold alloy layers that comprise at least 5% of the jewelry metal. 

gold plated necklace with opal and pearl

Is Gold-Plated Real Gold?

Many people wonder, is gold-plated fake? Not at all! Despite the small amount of gold, the gold plating contains real gold. 

The mix-up here is that many people think that the primary contents contain only gold. While the purity levels range depending on the gold’s karatage used for the plating, the gold is real. The only pure gold jewelry is 24K solid gold, which is the most expensive because it contains the highest volume of pure gold. 

So, how much gold is in gold-plated jewelry?

The plating thickness varies from .17-2.5 microns. The thinner the plating, the less gold it contains. For example, .17 microns equals about .05% of pure gold. While that’s a tiny amount, it’s still real gold that’s been flashed in gold. 

It’s essential to consider gold thickness because it has to do with the item’s longevity. Does gold-plated jewelry fade over time? More on that below.

How Long Does Gold-Plated Jewelry Last?

Sometimes, gold plating fades and tarnishes, exposing the base metal beneath. Ultimately, this depends on how thick the layer of gold is. The thinner the plating, the more likely it’ll fade quickly. 

That’s why it’s ideal to choose gold plating with .5-1.0 microns of pure gold — this range will hold up well to daily wear and tear. But what about thicker plating? At around 2.5 microns, the gold plating is considered heavy and will last the longest.

So, when you shop for gold-plated jewelry, consider choosing items with .5-2.5 microns of pure gold. If you don’t see it listed on the item description, ask the jeweler to ensure you have a full understanding of the item’s anticipated lifespan. 

Of course, wearing these items during rigorous events like exercise or dish-washing will more rapidly tarnish the plating. That’s why it’s a good idea to make a habit of removing your jewelry before these activities.

Gold Plated Ring

What About Gold-Plated Value?

The value of gold-plated jewelry isn’t high due to its low quantity of pure gold. This is good news for buyers because you can easily pick up beautiful items at a great price. Just know going into the purchase that there’s little to no resale value. 

What about extracting the gold from the jewelry? Again, it’s not worth extracting it with such a little amount of gold because there’s virtually zero profit involved.

Even if you purchase 24K gold-plated jewelry, you’re working with less than 2.5 microns, which isn’t quite enough to warrant a resale.

In summary, gold-plated jewelry is a piece of base metal beneath a thin layer of pure gold plating. If you’re looking for an affordable, readily available, gorgeous option for your gold accessories, look no further than gold-plated jewelry from Jewelry Auctioned!

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