The desire for gold jewelry is one of the most deeply rooted instincts for women around the world. However, one of the most common concerns is if the gold piece is solid or plated. Let’s see how to find out if the jewelry is gold plated and learn to shop like a pro.
WHAT IS PLATED JEWELRY?
In general, plating is the process of covering a piece of jewelry made from a certain metal or alloy with a layer of another metal. For example, if a silver ring is covered with a layer of gold on top, it would be marketed as gold plated ring.
You may be surprised to learn that white gold pieces are also plated in some way. White gold doesn’t exist naturally. It is an alloy of yellow gold and white metals, usually palladium. And the pieces made of white gold are often plated with rhodium to make them look whiter.
You should be aware that after some use, any plating including rhodium will wear away exposing the metal underneath.
The thickness of the gold layer on top of gold plated jewelry can vary. The Federal Trade commission labels items as “gold plated” at 0.5 microns (0.0005 millimeters) and “heavily gold plated” at 2.5 microns (0.0025 millimeters).
THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE BUYING PLATED JEWELLERY
Plated jewelry pieces are usually cheaper than the ones that are entirely made of the same metal. For example, gold plated earrings will cost much less than the same earrings made of 14K or 18K gold. So there is no surprise, choosing the cheaper option has its pitfalls.
As mentioned above, any plating that covers your jewelry will wear away with time. It’s really hard to predict how long the plating will stay intact. It all depends on the thickness of the plating and the frequency you wear the piece, but this will happen anyway. And in such a case, you can take your piece to the jeweler to get it replated or just buy a new one.
It is worth mentioning that the more moving parts your jewelry piece have, the harder and more expensive it is to replate.
GOLD PLATED JEWELLERY HALLMARKS
One of the fastest ways to distinguish if the jewelry is gold plated is to check hallmarks and stamps on it and the most common stamp used to mark gold plated jewelry is GP (gold plated).
Other hallmarks you may see are GEP, meaning “gold electroplated” and EGP which means “rolled gold plate”. HGE is another stamp meaning “heavy gold electroplate” and HGP which has the same meaning as HGE and indicates gold plating as well. So it’s important to mention that not having one of these markings does not mean that your jewelry is made of solid gold. It may simply not be stamped.
ACID TEST FOR GOLD
The acid test for gold is the most reliable way to tell if the jewelry is made of solid gold.
Usually, acid testing is used for finding out gold karat but it can also indicate if the jewelry is gold plated.
You can buy a gold testing kit and do the test at home, but for the high accuracy of the results, it is recommended to have such a test done by a professional jeweler.
During the test, the jeweler will take some sample material from your gold piece and apply a drop of acid on it. The change of gold color will indicate what metals the sample contains.
Since most gold plated pieces are coated with 18, 20, 22 or 24 karat gold, the acid test will indicate one of these purities. If the price of the jewelry is too cheap for such gold purity, you are dealing with a gold plated piece.
Besides, if you scratch the piece deep enough, you will see the base metal. This will confirm that you are dealing with gold plated jewelry. However, you should be very accurate with this.
MAGNET TEST FOR GOLD
Another way to tell if your jewelry is gold plated is to use a magnet because pure gold is not magnetic, meaning if your jewelry is attached to a magnet, it contains some other metals.
However, this method is not 100% accurate.
On one hand, the reaction of your jewelry to the magnet indicates the presence of other alloys in the gold piece. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that the piece is plated. It can still be a low purity solid gold alloy that contains magnetic metals and on the other hand, a piece may be gold plated but won’t attach to a magnet because its core metal is nonmagnetic.
GOLD COLOUR AS AN INDICATOR
The color of your jewelry may be used as an indicator of whether the piece is made of solid gold.
Gold plated jewelry may be covered with 24 karat gold, while solid gold pieces are not made of pure gold as it is too soft and not durable as a result. So if your jewelry has an intense yellow color and is relatively cheap, then it is most likely gold plated.
You can also check if the color of gold is even throughout the surface of your jewelry. In case the plating is worn off in some places, the core metal will be visible there.