Gold vermeil necklaces

Gold Plated Jewellery - know what you're buying

Through having our jewellery made by skilled artisans in Jaipur, I have learnt a lot about gold plating and the difference between the variations of plating available.

When I first decided to start a jewellery company, I had no idea about the vast differences in gold plating quality and how some jewellery companies really do cheat customers into thinking they are buying a quality product with misleading product descriptions or lack of product details.  I bought a friend a pair of heart earrings for her birthday, they were bought from a reputable store with a product description that made me feel they were worth the money I paid.  So I was very suprised to see that through fairly minimal wear, the gold plating tarnished quite quickly and revealed that the base metal was actually brass not silver.  The product description of gold plated earrings, was not wrong, but through lack of information was misleading to what I believed was a quality product.

If you are a fan of gold jewellery, obviously the most ideal buying choice would be real gold, but at the current gold value (Dec 2023) of around £52 (USD $66) per gram (this is what jewellers pay not the customer), it is not suitable for everyones budget.  So gold plated jewellery has long been the most popular choice for buyers on a budget.  Visually you cannot see any difference between real gold and gold plated jewellery.

With any type of plating, you still need to take care of your jewellery, by not wearing pieces in the shower or at the gym or spraying perfume etc on your jewellery.  A lot of retailers tend to put the onus on you, telling you that if your jewellery has tarnished quickly is because you are not looking after it, however, it can be because the quality of plating they have used is very low.

To explain, these are the 3 most common types of gold plating available:

Most large jewellery companies that sell jewellery at a low price (or sometimes not so low!), flash plate pieces with a minimum amount of gold.  Gold plating is usually measured in microns.  What's a Micron? A micron is 0.001 of a millimetre thick

The artisans I work with call flash plating, "gold water", as the layer of gold is so thin, it won't take a long time to wear through to the base metal beneath.  No jeweller would mention the words flash on the description of the jewellery, but if it says "gold plated" it could well be flash.  Flash plating is usually about 0.175 microns of gold and is rarely on a base of sterling silver.  This type of cheap plating will most likely be on a brass, copper or steel base. Metals that are almost worthless and can cause allergic skin reactions.  

Ultimately, jewellery with flash on cheap base metals contribute to the unsustainable fast fashion culture, where pieces are worn for very short periods of time and then discarded because of tarnishing.

Gold Plated
Gold plated jewellery is usually 0.5 microns of gold and up. Still a fairly minimal layer and will not withstand constant wear for a long period of time without showing some signs of tarnishing.  There is no legal requirement stating gold plated jewellery has to be on a base of silver, so can also be on a copper, brass or steel base, unless stated otherwise.

Gold Vermeil
The best plating option for affordable jewellery that is not pure gold, is gold vermeil.  This is a heavy plating of gold on what has to be on a sterling silver base by law.  In Europe and the US, the micron level is usually a minimum of 2.5 microns thick.  However in Canada the legal level is actually 1micron, so make sure you know where the piece has been made.  This thicker gold plating enables the jewellery to be worn often without rapid tarnishing effects if looked after properly.

So you can see the difference in plating quality between flash and vermeil. 

Flash plated - 0.175mc
Gold plated  - 0.5mc and up
Gold vermeil - 2.5mc and up

Remember, the value of your jewellery will vary vastly if the base metal is not sterling silver too.

Always read the jewellery descriptions online or check with the retailer or your jeweller about the type of plating, the micron levels and the base metal.  I did just this in a well known high street jewellery store and when I mentioned microns they didn't have a clue what I was talking about!         

All our jewellery here at Rize is sustainable recycled sterling silver and if gold plated, always using 22k gold.  We use gold vermeil (2.5 microns) for all pendants, anklets, rings, smaller earrings and necklace chains and gold plating (1 micron) for larger pieces, such as our granulated cuff, in order to keep the piece affordable for our customers :)

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