Understanding the Pros and Cons of Gold-plated Jewellery
When shopping for gold jewellery online or in person, you’re bound to have heard the phrases ‘gold-plated’ and ‘gold vermeil’. These phrases both refer to a certain gold finish, which are both in contrast to solid gold.
At 7879, our jewellery is made exclusively of solid gold or platinum, but we think it’s important to learn the pros and cons of gold-plated jewellery, too. This knowledge allows you to understand why we work with pure precious metals and why you may sometimes want to opt for gold-plated too.
We believe every type of jewellery has a place in a jewellery box, so let's dig into it!
So, what is gold-plated jewellery?
If you’re confused about what gold-plated jewellery is, don’t worry – we have the answers. While it's some of the most commonly purchased jewellery, many people don’t understand the process of gold plating, or the actual percentage of gold they’re getting for their money.
In general, gold-plated jewellery refers to jewellery made from a certain non-precious metal or alloy, which then coated with a thin layer of gold. So, for example, a necklace that is first made of copper or silver, then covered in a thin layer of gold, would be a gold-plated necklace.
The plating process involves dipping the jewellery in a gold solution. An electric current is then passed through the solution, attracting the gold ions. This results in a thin layer ‘sticking’ to the piece.
The outer layer of gold can vary in thickness and in karats too. In the UK, the gold-plated layer must be at least 375 parts per thousand of gold, and it should not exceed two microns of thickness. This is a little technical, but it ensures at least a reasonable amount of gold in gold-plated jewellery.
Gold-plated jewellery can range in karats too, but don’t be fooled by this. While a ‘24k gold-plated piece’ means the covering is pure and the finish yellower, it doesn’t actually reflect on the quality. For this reason, it’s important to know the gold-plated pros and cons before buying.
Are there other kinds of plated jewellery?
Yes! There are many different types of plated jewellery, and this is where it gets a little tricky. ‘Gold-plated silver’, ‘gold vermeil’, ‘white gold’, and ‘rose gold’ are all terms you may come across. These can all refer to some level of gold plating, but each means something slightly different
Our experts break down the differences below:
14, 18, 22, or 24k Gold-Plated Jewellery – These descriptions simply refer to the purity of the gold in the outer layer. The higher the karat, the more gold is in the alloy. Read our gold karat guide to learn more.
Gold-Plated Silver – This means the base alloy is silver. In the UK, when the word ‘gold’ is used to describe a gold-plated silver article, the article must be described as silver, and the word ‘gold’ must be directly followed by the word ‘plated’. For example, an 18k gold-plated silver ring.
Gold Vermeil – Gold vermeil (pronounced ver-mey) is very similar to gold-plated silver. The base metal must be sterling silver, but the gold layer must be above 2.5 microns thick. In terms of wear, if pure gold isn’t an option, gold vermeil is a good option if you are allergic to non-precious metals.
Rhodium-Plated White Gold – White gold is an alloy of pure gold and a white metal, usually palladium. However, as the alloy can appear yellowish, white gold is often plated in rhodium, giving it a whiter shine.
Rose Gold – Like white gold, rose gold is an alloy of pure gold, this time with copper. Rose gold-plated, then, means that a base of another metal is coated in this alloy. Whilst this gives jewellery an enchanting blush colour, it has less gold than other pieces.
Pros of gold-plated jewellery
Above all else, gold plating makes gold financially accessible for many people. While we want to provide you with solid gold options for special occasions, there’s a whole host of reasons why gold-plated jewellery may be better in certain circumstances.
Continue reading to discover gold-plated jewellery's pros and cons, including when to opt for it and what to expect.
When looking at the pros and cons of gold-plated jewellery, we must start with affordability. Gold-plated jewellery is, naturally, cheaper than solid gold.
You can buy gold-plated items for as little as £10, which is actually less expensive than other gold alternatives such as silver and brass. This price point means it’s a great option for children’s jewellery, costume jewellery, and for those prone to losing things!
Strength and durability
Many people believe that gold-plated jewellery items are stronger than solid gold items. This is somewhat true, as the base metal may be stronger than solid gold. However, at 7879, we believe this is a bit of a myth. Our solid gold items are built to last – that’s why we offer you a guarantee!
Our ideas aside, gold plating can be a good option for jewellery that may take some knocks and scuffs in its lifetime. Gold-plated rings and bracelets, for instance, are the perfect option if you’re worried about damaging more expensive items.
Looks legit and stylish
To the untrained eye, gold-plated can look like real gold. This means you can look the part without breaking your budget. Gold accessories add style and brilliance to all outfits; add a gold chain to jeans and a t-shirt or unique earrings to an evening gown. Whether you choose solid gold or gold-plated, your piece is sure to turn heads.
Easy to make and more design possibilities Just like fashion trends, jewellery trends change quickly and often. We don’t blame anyone for wanting to get involved in them either - in fact, we encourage having fun with your jewellery collection - but they aren’t something you want to invest in.
Gold-plated jewellery is the perfect way to take part in a fashion moment. You don’t need to spend a fortune, and you needn’t worry about it lasting a long time - let’s be honest, the trend won’t either. Save solid gold for timeless styles, and play around with plated pieces on other occasions.
The cons of gold-plated jewellery
When thinking about purchasing gold-plated jewellery, you must weigh up the disadvantages too. Never has the phrase ‘all that glitters is not gold’ been more apt, so let's look at the cons of gold-plated jewellery.
It will tarnish
One of the most significant disadvantages of gold-plated jewellery is that it will, eventually, tarnish. The rate at which this happens depends on the thickness of the gold plating and the base metal used. It also depends on how often you wear the piece and how often you polish it; some polishing can help keep tarnishing at bay, but too frequent polishing can accelerate damage,
The reason gold-plated jewellery tarnishes is that molecules from the base metals eventually transfer into the thin layer of gold surrounding the piece. This causes the gold layer to break down. Gold vermeil pieces are more resistant to tarnishing, as the base metal is silver and the gold layer tends to be thicker.
It's prone to damage
Gold-plated jewellery may flake or chip quickly. While some gold-plated pieces may last 10 years, others may last only a couple of months. This is because the gold layer may be thin and fragile.
Damage is a huge thing to think about when considering gold-plated rings' pros and cons. Rings are exposed to chemicals and moisture more often than other jewellery types through hand-washing and daily tasks. If you want them to maintain their lustre, consider a thicker plating or a solid gold piece.
It's of lower value
Naturally, gold-plated jewellery is less valuable than solid gold jewellery. While this may be obvious, it doesn’t stop designer brands from pricing gold-plated jewellery as though it was pure.
If you are considering buying gold-plated jewellery, ensure you’re paying a fair price. Gold-filled jewellery may be a better choice, as it has a thicker layer of gold and, therefore, is more valuable. On the other hand, why not check out 7879’s solid gold options? Our jewellery is all transparently priced at the market rate. We believe in purity over puffery – you won’t find huge markups on our pieces.
It can't be worn in water
Gold-plated jewellery will tarnish and peel if it comes into contact with water often. This means you can’t wear it in the shower or swimming pool. While this may be fine for some types of jewellery, you don’t want to remove your wedding ring when you go for a dip, and no one can argue with how stylish a pair of gold hoops look with a swimsuit and a tan.
A plethora of ‘waterproof gold’ jewellery brands have sprung up in the past few years. While these brands are affordable and creative, their pieces don’t actually contain any gold at all. For truly waterproof gold jewellery, opt for solid gold every time.