Gold Jewelry: Color and Plating Options

Most everyone loves the idea of a new piece of gold jewelry, but there are many variations beneath that umbrella term. Here’s a look at some different things to consider if you are in the market for some gold bling.

Color and Plating Options

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Color

Gold jewelry is actually an alloy or mixture of gold and other types of metals. The composition of the alloy determines the color of the gold. Different shades of gold jewelry have become very popular in recent years. In fact, while yellow gold used to reign supreme as the preferred color for wedding rings, white gold is now a more popular choice.

Here’s a look at different colors of gold jewelry:

  • Yellow Gold  Composition: Pure gold, silver, copper, zinc Pros: Most hypo-allergenic, lowest-maintenance
  • White Gold  Composition: Gold and platinum (though nickel and zinc can also be added) Pros: Durable and resistant to scratches and dings, cheaper than yellow gold
  • Rose Gold  Composition: Gold, copper, silver Pros: Cheapest of all gold colors.
  • Green Gold  Composition: Gold and silver (copper may be added, too)

Plating

While some gold jewelry is solid, much of it is gold-plated, which makes it more affordable. Look for the quality stamp on the metal to help you determine the karat value and gold-plating method used in the creation of your jewelry.

Popular types of plating include:

  • Gold Leaf  Gold leaf is flattened into ultra-thin sheets and wrapped around a metal base. Gold leaf jewelry is not perfectly smooth. Rather, there are irregularities where the foil has encased the base metal. Related to this method is gold layering, which is not regulated by industry standards. It could have an even thinner layer of gold than gold leaf.
  • Gold Plated  Electroplated jewelry begins with a base metal (usually stainless steel or brass) that is submerged in a gold plating solution. The solution is infused with an electric current that causes the gold to adhere to the surface of the substrate. The resulting gold layer only qualifies as gold plated if it is at least 7 millionths of an inch thick and at least 10K in composition. The plating can rub off over time. Another type of plating is “rolled gold plating,” which is thicker than electroplating. This plating process relies on heat and pressure for bonding.
  • Gold Filled  This is a rather deceptive name since the jewelry is not actually filled with gold in the way that you would picture something like a filled doughnut. It is covered by sheets of gold and bonded with heat and pressure. Gold-filled jewelry is often more durable than gold-plated jewelry. A derivation of this is “vermeil” (ver-may), which uses a sterling silver base and is coated with a thicker layer of gold than regular gold-filled jewelry.

If you are allergic to certain types of metal, vermeil is usually the best choice because it is largely hypo-allergenic. A piece of vermeil jewelry will bear a “925” stamp, which means that it is 92.5 percent pure silver.

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