With the many different types of jewellery, it can be hard to tell what you’re buying and the value of your pieces. Gold is the most popular metal and colour for jewellery, with so many types to choose from, including gold plating and solid gold. So, which one should you choose? To help you narrow down your options, here’s a guide to gold plating and solid gold – what they mean and which one to choose for your next pendant purchase.
What is gold plated?
Gold plated is a thin layer of gold set over a base metal, typically brass, copper or nickel. In comparison to other gold jewellery, gold plating has the thinnest layer of gold over the base metal, with a total gold percentage of 0.05%. Gold plating is made using electrolysis, which is where an electric current is passed through a substance to cause a chemical change to bond the gold to the base. Due to the thinness of the gold, gold plated jewellery is the cheapest gold option. Gold plated jewellery can tarnish easily so should be taken care of properly to keep the jewellery looking bright and shiny.
To tell if a piece of jewellery – like a pendant – is gold plated, the brand will label their pieces with the words ‘gold plating’ to ensure the customer is getting what they paid for. If you’re still unsure, the fastest way to tell if a piece is gold plated is to check the markings. The most common mark for gold plated is GP, but you might also see GEP, RGP or HGP. To find the mark, look on the inside of rings, bracelet clasps, the back of pendants and earring backs.
What is solid gold?
On the other end of the spectrum, solid gold is the most valuable and high-quality piece of jewellery available. Solid gold – often referred to as real gold – is gold that’s alloyed to a mixture of other metals. While this doesn’t make solid gold 100% gold, it’s the closest to pure gold in terms of colour, shine, and purity. A high level of gold makes the texture extremely soft which is hard to use in jewellery so solid gold is the best choice for durability.
Where gold plated jewellery is the cheapest gold option, solid gold jewellery is the more expensive metal type. It’s also higher in longevity, quality, tarnish resistance and value, for example, solid gold rarely fades or loses its colour. To tell if something is solid gold, the only stamp present will be the carat number. Carats are the unit used to measure the purity of gold present in a piece compared to other metals. The thicker the plating the higher the carat, for example a 18ct gold pendant is made up of 75% gold. The marking on this pendant would be ‘750’.
Which should you choose – gold plated or solid gold?
Now you know the differences between gold plated and solid gold, which should you choose? It depends on what you’re looking for but if you want something that looks like gold but won’t break the bank, gold plating is a good choice. On the other hand, if you want something high quality that will last a lifetime, solid gold is the better option. Below are a few factors that can help you decide between the two.
Pricewise, gold-plated jewellery is at the lower end of the spectrum and is an affordable way to start your gold collection. It still has the aesthetic qualities of gold but at a cheaper price. Solid gold is more expensive but with the higher price tag comes better quality.
Due to the different percentage of gold present in each piece, gold plated and solid gold have slightly different tones and colours. Solid gold is a bright yellow colour whereas gold plated has a more faded golden hue. Solid gold’s colour is least likely to fade in comparison to gold plating which could lose its brightness and take on the colour of the metal it’s bonded to.
As mentioned above, solid gold is better quality than gold plated. Solid gold can be tarnished but any marks or scratches can be easily polished out, whereas gold plated can hold on to imperfections. Solid gold is also more durable and can be easily repaired and polished. Gold plating can be fixed if there are any problems but might take longer.
If you’re ever in doubt of what metal to buy, it’s always best to speak to the designer who made the piece so remember to contact the jewellery brand you’re buying from for all the details.