Popular 18K gold plated jewelry is made of sterling silver or other base metal covered with a thin gold layer that consists of 75% pure gold. As you can see, it is only coated with real gold, and some people are not sure whether it is a real gold piece of jewelry.
On the other hand, it is trendy since its price is more affordable than authentic golden jewelry entirely made of this precious metal. Keep in mind that 18K gold plated jewelry usually lasts longer than the one coated with 24K gold plating since it is not so soft. Now, let’s see is 18K gold plated real or fake.
Gold Plating History
Jewelry from 24K pure gold actually doesn’t exist. The gold structure is too soft, and it is impossible to use such material for making jewelry without adding some other metal, like silver or copper.
It is known that Columbian smiths used special techniques to gild copper in north Peru. Their tumbaga (guanin gold) were alloys of copper with gold, containing 10% to 30% copper and 70% to 90% gold.
Plus, their gold naturally had about 5 to 10% silver. Believe it or not, some of these gold and silver ceremonial artifacts date back to 50 to 300 AD.
Italian chemist Luigi Brugnatelli was the first man who plated a thin gold layer onto silver after discovering electroplating in 1805. Nowadays, gold plating is one of the most popular ways of making jewelry.
Since 24K gold is too soft, jewelers often use 18K gold for that purpose. The process of creating such jewelry includes coating the base of solid metal with a thin layer of gold.
Be aware that gold used for gold plating has 75% pure gold, and it is practically impossible to see the difference between gold jewelry and gold-plated piece at first glance.
18K Gold Jewelry vs. 18K Gold Plated Jewelry
18K gold jewelry is 75% or 18 parts pure gold and 25% or 6 parts silver, copper, or zinc. Unlike too soft 24K gold, it is firm and suitable for modeling and creating different jewelry.
On the other hand, 18K gold-plated jewelry is made of silver or low-quality base metal coated with a thin layer of 18K gold. That gold layer is usually 0.17 to 2.5 microns (µ) thick.
The thinnest layer of only 0.17 µ is known as gold wash, gold flashed, or gold electroplated. It is not suitable for rings, but you can find pendants and earrings coated like that. Be aware that such jewelry contains only 0.05% of gold, so it is barely considered gold jewelry. You can expect such a layer to tarnish within a few days.
The ideal thickness for gold-plated jewelry is 0.5 to 1 µ. It is a sufficient layer even for rings and bracelets exposed to rough wear.
Sometimes, you can find quality heavy gold-plated jewelry with a 2.5 µ thick layer. Although it is a long-lasting and more durable piece, this coat is still thin and is practically worthless. The primary benefit is that thicker plating can last for months or even up to two years.
There is one more low-price option made of unfriendly golden material and low-quality alloy. It can’t last more than a few days and can be harmful, so this option is not recommended to wear.
When you want to check what kind of jewelry you have, the best way is to look for a mark. Typically, an 18K gold piece of jewelry has stamps like 18K and 18KP. On the other hand, the most common 18K gold-plated jewelry markings are:
- 18GP (gold-plated)
- 18HGP (heavy gold-plated)
- 18K HE (hydrostatic electroplating)
- 18K HGE (hydrostatic gold electroplating)
- 18K GEP (gold electroplating)
Sometimes, you can notice a sign of 10 Microns, meaning your gold-plated jewelry is coated with a 10 µ thick gold layer. When a jeweler use sterling silver as a base metal, you will notice marking .925 next to one of the signs determining gold plating.
In general, you can consider an 18K gold-plated piece of jewelry a real gold, but actually, only its coat is made of this precious metal. Since base metal is worth practically nothing, it is not an excellent investment. You can re-sell only a silver piece coated in gold at current market prices. Unfortunately, it is not much.
However, this jewelry type is trendy nowadays thanks to its gold color, hardness, durability, and reasonable price. If the material quality is decent, such jewelry can last and stay shiny and beautiful for up to two years when maintaining adequately.
18K Gold-plated Jewelry Price and Quality
Gold-plated jewelry is affordable and several times cheaper than the same pieces made of real gold. Be careful when buying gold jewelry online since some gold-plated pieces look the same as a real thing, and you can be deceived.
A better option is to go to the local jewelry shop and choose either gold or gold-plated jewelry, depending on your preferences. Even though these two pieces look almost the same, their price is entirely different.
18K jewelry Price
|18K gold jewelry||$60 to $100 per gram||75% gold||For years|
|18K gold-plated jewelry||$1 to $5 per gram||18K gold plated over stainless steel or copper||6 months to 2 years|
|Low-quality gold-plated jewelry||Less than $0.1 per gram||Golden material over alloy or plastic||One week|
While you need to set aside $3,000 to $4,000 for 18K gold jewelry of 50 g, you will pay only $10 to $50 for 50 g of 18K gold-plated jewelry. In other words, real gold is an excellent investment, while gold-plated jewelry is a beautiful piece you can occasionally wear before tarnishing.
Things can be even worse when you choose low-quality plated jewelry. Since you need to pay only $5 for 50 g or even less, you can expect that this combination of poor-quality golden material and cheap alloy or plastic last for only a few days before changing its color and appearance.
Gold-plated Jewelry Advantages and Downsides
When buying high-quality 18K gold-plated jewelry, you can use it for months without any signs of tarnishing. Base metal is hard, and you can’t damage it like jewelry made of 18K gold.
Nowadays, you can find high-quality pieces of superior craftsmanship and beautiful contemporary design. That way, you will get a piece of exceptional jewelry without spending too much money. Once an 18K gold layer becomes darken, you can get it re-gilded.
This jewelry type is ideal for people with sensitive skin or contact allergies to metals, including silver. The hypoallergenic gold layer will protect you from allergens. However, pieces made of cheap nickel can cause an allergy when the gold layer disappears.
Many people like wearing gold-plated jewelry since you basically get a gold-like piece for an affordable price. Unfortunately, a thin gold layer that coats the base metal tends to tarnish over time.
As a result, base metal becomes visible, and jewelry loses its shiny appearance. Plus, it can cause discolorations on your skin, particularly your finger, while wearing it. It usually happens after the gold layer peels off and the base metal reacts with body oils and sweat.
When based metal is silver, you will notice ugly blackish marks on your skin. On the other hand, greenish traces show you that you have jewelry made of copper under the gold coat.
Gold-plated Jewelry Storage and Maintenance
- Always take care to keep your 18K gold-plated jewelry separately from other jewelry to prevent frictions, scratches, and further damage. The best option is to put these pieces into a cotton bag or jewelry box to protect them from moisture, oxygen, and sulfur.
- Since gold-plated jewelry is not long-lasting, it will be wise to take care of it carefully. That way, it can last for a couple of months to two years without visible traces of tarnishing.
- Always take your gold-plated ring off when cooking, housekeeping, swimming, and exercising. The best option is to put it in a jewelry box immediately after coming home.
- Avoid exposing your jewelry directly to cosmetics, perfume, and any kind of chemicals. Keep in mind that even direct contact with sweat can damage the thin gold layer and ruin your jewelry’s shiny appearance.
- It is desirable to clean your gold-plated jewelry after every use with a soft cloth or cotton wool to remove any traces of sweat, perfume, and make-up.
- Wash it in warm soapy water, let it dry thoroughly, and then polish before setting it aside. Avoid antibacterial soap for cleaning since it can lead to damage and tarnishing your jewelry.
- One more thing! Be careful with gold-plated jewelry. Once a gold layer peels off, you can have a problem with an allergy to the base metal, especially nickel.
18k gold-plated jewelry is beautiful and can perfectly suit you. It is affordable and can last up to two years intact when you take care of it properly. However, it is not an excellent investment since the base gold layer is too thin and worth practically nothing.