WHAT IS ELECTROPLATED GOLD?
IS IT WORTH IT?
IS IT WORTH IT?
Electroplated gold is one of the many ways to enjoy the look and feel of solid gold without the hefty price tag. Electroplating gold involves a thin layer of gold being applied to the jewelry's surface to create an eye-catching finish that looks as good as solid gold jewelry. The electroplating method has been around for centuries, so you know it's a tried-and-true method for getting a luxurious look.
But what makes electroplated gold so special? Well, apart from its stunning appearance, here are some of the other reasons why it's such a popular choice for jewelry pieces and other items:
Q: WHAT'S ELECTROPLATED GOLD?
A: Gold electroplating is a plating process that involves coating a base metal (usually made from brass or sterling silver) with a very thin layer of gold or another precious metal by applying a direct electric current to it. This process partially dissolves the precious metals and creates a chemical bond between the base and gold electroplated layer. The plated gold layer is typically 0.0002 inches thick (a thick layer). The gold plating protects the base from rust, damage, and corrosion. The gold layer can do this because it contains 24k real gold, an inert metal.
When you electroplate gold, you create a chemical bond, making the gold plating a permanent addition to the surface of the base metal. This chemical bonding process means the plating will not separate from the base metal easily. However, the gold plating can fade over the years with continual wear. This timeframe for this fading depends on how frequently you expose your gold plating to harsh elements (moisture, humidity, direct sunlight, pollution, etc.) and how often you wear your gold-plated jewelry.
THE GOLD PLATING PROCESS:
The ancient Greeks would gold plate items by mechanically attaching a gold plate to other metals by applying heat to the base metals and placing them together, then rapidly cooling the combination. These gold-plated jewelry pieces were hammered into shape and worn as adornments by them.
The modern version of gold plating jewelry, called electroplating, relies on a chemical process to combine different metals together into a solid piece with a layer of gold resting on the jewelry's surface.
When gold plating, the professional plater begins by polishing the jewelry's base metal and cleaning it as thoroughly as possible before the plating process starts. The gold plate will look uneven and smudged if the jewelry's surface is dirty, oily, scratched, or otherwise damaged.
Next, modern gold plating services create a metal salt using the base metal (usually brass or silver). These salts form when an acid and a base combine, creating a neutralization reaction. Metal salts form from a metal's positively charged ions combining with an acid or non-metal. Then, the salt is placed into a plating solution.
The jewelry's base metal is gold plating by immersing it in a plating bath, where an electrical current is applied. The electrical current is directed to the base and dissolves the metal salts as it moves through the bath. The gold deposits ride the current and deposit themselves onto the base metal. How long the professional plater leaves the gold deposited onto the metal to soak in plating baths determines the thickness of the gold-plated layer. The plater may redo this process as many times as needed.
There can be many layers of plating done on a single gold-plated piece; for example, a gold-plated silver article is usually a silver substrate with layers of copper, nickel, and gold on top of it.
THE DURABILITY OF THE GOLD LAYER:
Electroplated gold jewelry is incredibly durable and will last many years if cared for properly. This means you won't have to worry about replacing your gold-plated jewelry frequently (which is common with flash-plated costume jewelry). The electroplating process also helps to protect the underlying metal from corrosion, so it stays looking shiny and new for much longer.
A professional plater can add gold plating to almost any metal, including costume jewelry (brass, copper, nickel, etc.). Silver items can also be gold-plated.
Some jewelry pieces will actually be plated with a wide range of metals, even if you can only see the gold plating on top with the naked eye. If you have a silver component, for example, it may first be plated with copper because copper will make the soft gold plating more scratch-resistant. Then, the plating professional will add a nickel layer to improve the bonding. Thus, gold-plated jewelry can contain silver, copper, and nickel substrate layers, then a final gold layer.
Electroplated gold is very budget-friendly. Gold-plated jewelry is a less expensive alternative compared to real gold (24k) and still looks just as good. However, electroplated gold is more expensive than standard gold plating because the jewelry it produces is more durable and a longer-lasting option.
Electroplating jewelry is a very safe process when done by professionals. However, one concern with gold plating is that it masks the other metals below it. So, suppose you have a metal allergy. In that case, you may be exposed to an allergen as the gold plating on your jewelry wears away, revealing the base metal (usually brass, nickel, etc.) underneath.
Usually, the nickel content in gold-plated jewelry is the main cause of metal allergens, so an allergic reaction may appear once the nickel is exposed to your skin. However, replating your gold-plated jewelry can prevent an allergic reaction from reappearing for a while, as it usually takes more than a year for the gold-plating to fade fully.
Gold plating tarnishes eventually, but the rate of gold tarnishing can vary greatly depending on the jewelry piece. In general, three main factors determine how quickly your gold-plated jewelry will experience signs of discoloration.
First, suppose your gold-plated jewelry has thick plating of gold or another precious metal. In that case, it will last longer because there is more material to protect the metal from harsh elements that cause oxidation.
Secondly, gold has an affinity for some metals. Gold holds tighter to silver and titanium than it does to a copper or nickel layer, and the tighter this hold, the longer the plating will last, preventing discoloration.
Lastly, how often you wear your piece is another important factor. For example, the more you wear gold-plated jewelry, the quicker the gold plating will wear away, making your jewelry susceptible to harsh elements such as UV lights, sulfur, chemicals, pollution, etc., that all dull its shine and much more.
HOW TO CLEAN GOLD-PLATED PIECES:
You should clean gold-plated jewelry regularly. The best way to clean gold-plated jewelry is to use a gentle soap and warm water mixture. However, you should never use harsh chemicals (common in commercial cleaners) on gold-plated jewelry because these abrasive cleaners can cause the layer of gold to discolor.
In addition, you can also try using a jewelry cleaning cloth on your plated item, but make sure it's designed specifically for gold plating so as not to strip away the delicate plating.
Finally, you can take your gold-plated jewelry to a professional cleaner for ultrasonic cleaning to restore it to its original shine or a polishing house for buffing and replating.
THE PROS & CONS OF ELECTROPLATED GOLD:
1) One of the main advantages of electroplating jewelry is that it creates a more durable finish than flash plating.
2) Because it is less likely to wear away, the hypoallergenic properties of electroplated gold also make it safer for those with metal allergies compared to standard gold-plating.
3) It's also much more affordable than actual gold (24k), so you can enjoy the look of solid gold without the hefty price tag typically associated with fine jewelry. However, it is more expensive than costume jewelry because of its superior quality.
1) The main downside of electroplated gold is that it's less durable than solid gold jewelry. Over time, the thin layer of gold can wear away and require replating.
2) Additionally, electroplated gold is not as valuable of an investment as real gold (24K) because it can fade over time with wear and tear.
In conclusion, electroplated gold is a great choice when you want the look of luxury on a budget. This type of jewelry is cost-effective, durable, and easy to maintain, with replating services easily available everywhere.
However, gold-plated jewelry has some drawbacks—it's not as tarnish-resistant as real gold and may not be 100% hypoallergenic for those with metal allergies. But overall, gold-plated jewelry is a great choice! Thanks for reading!