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What Gold Plated Jewellery Is And What It Isn't

You may have noticed lately an explosion of jewellery made in base material (brass, bronze) and gold plated, with a very high price tag, sold as: design pieces, conceptual, contemporary, wearable art, everyday chic, affordable luxury, and other clever copywriting technique to conceal the humble nature of jewellery otherwise worth nothing, often mass produced, with a design heavily inspired (not to say copied) here and there.

The gold is used just to raise the value of the object and so the price, period.

But is gold plating valuable? Is it worth the money?

Gold Plating is a very complex process where with a chemical reaction called "electroplating” a thin layer of gold (of any carat) is bound over another metal.

How much thin? Well, the layer is usually between 0.17 and 2.5 microns. When you read “high resistance” or “thick plating” is usually referred as a 3 micron plating, do you know how much that is? Well, take a millimeter and divide it for 1000. One micron is a 1/1000 of a millimeter, so 3 micron is 3/1000 of a millimeter. Thin right? Consider that a human hair is thick approximately 70 microns). The carat of the gold determined the colour of the final piece (usually between 10 and 24K), the highest the carart the more golden-like the jewellery will appears,

So, I would say that the amount of gold in gold plating jewellery is inconsistent and not worth the money, it cannot be extraxt and it will flakes overtime (that's why usually the jewellery base is in golden metal such as brass or bronze, to have the colours blending "nicely" together when the gold layer starts to wear off) especially if the piece is an high stressed one like a ring or bracelet, it will last a bit longer in earrings and pendants (if you take great care of them).

Another even more confusing term is Gold Vermeil. The name has "gold" in it, so is it gold? No, again in this case it’s sterling silver plated with at least 2.5 microns of gold. It's also known as Silver Gilt. The gold vermeil jewellery are considered more "noble" than the gold plating relatives, as demi-fine pieces because they are made of two precious metals silver and gold. Will the plating last more? No, again it depends on the thickness of the plating and how the jewellery is looked after.

What about Gold Filled jewellery? Well, in this case a solid layer of gold (usually is at least the 5% of the piece weight) is mechanically bonded with heat to the base metal (both base metals or sterling silver), and it's 5 or 10 times thicker than regular gold plating jewellery.

So, can I go to a jewellery shop with something I want to have it gold filled and ask them to do that as I would do with something that needed to be plated or re-plated? Actually, no. Usualy gold filled items are already sold like this as necklaces, chains or other findings, but the only service provided by casters and other technicians is plating.

That being said, if you cannot afford a piece made in solid gold, a gold filled jewellery with a sterling silver base is definitely a better choice.

I hope with this post you can made a more conscious decision with your gold plated/filled/vermeil piece! (and please read carefully the description of the pieces you buy, don’t just look at the title and if the prices sounds too good to be true (like “14 carat necklaces with emerald” for £69!) then please send them an email and ASK!).

Sending love

Alice x

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