smiling man wearing gold chain


Gold jewelry, like a set of layered gold chains, is on-trend and, with the advent of gold plated pieces, it is more affordable than ever. Gold plated jewelry gives off the same sparkle as a solid gold piece but is made with an inexpensive metal core coated with a layer of gold. 

Unlike solid gold jewelry, gold plated pieces are prone to tarnishing, which causes discoloration. With an understanding of the tarnishing mechanism and the proper preventative measures, you can extend the life of your gold plated chains and rings. Even if your pieces are already tarnished, you can still bring back the shine of your gold plated jewelry with a deep clean or replating.

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Why Does Gold Plating Tarnish

Gold plating is affordable and stronger than pure gold. Pure gold, or 24K gold, is undeniably beautiful, but it is also highly malleable

One solution jewelers found to solve the malleability problem is gold plating. Gold plated jewelry takes a base metal, like brass or copper, and covers it in a thin layer of gold alloy. The thin layer of gold makes it prone to tarnishing, as normal wear can reveal the inner metal. When the inner metal is exposed to moisture, acid, and other chemicals, it can oxidize and result in discoloration.

Tarnishing is a thin layer of corrosion that forms on metals. Tarnished jewelry is discolored and loses much of its value. Normal activities when wearing your gold plated pieces are the main cause of tarnishing. Contact with soap corrodes the plating, while lotions and your own body oils can also eat away at the plating. 

Extended sunlight exposure and high humidity are environmental factors that speed up jewelry tarnishing. Regular maintenance is essential if you want your gold chain or plated rings to keep their shine. 

Protect Your Gold Plated Pieces

With proper care, your gold plated pieces can last up to five years. A soft cleaning cloth, proper wear etiquette, and specialized storage can prolong the life of your gold plated jewelry.

Soft cloth cleaning

After every wear, gently go over your gold plated pieces with a soft cloth. A polishing cloth is not recommended because its rougher texture scratches the gold plating.

Gold plated sterling silver is the only exception to soft cloth cleaning after wear. Body oil build-up on sterling silver pieces protects them from future tarnishing. Only clean them when they are exposed to harsh conditions like soapy water. For all other gold plated jewelry, cleanings after every wear keep them shining.

cleaning gold ring with soft cloth


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Avoid water 

Whether chlorinated, soapy, salty, or fresh, water erodes gold plating and exposes the underlying metal. Chlorinated water attacks gold plating and gives it an uneven or dull appearance. Soapy water leaves a film over the plating that dulls the shine. Saltwater exposes gold plating to electrical forces from the salt ions, which slowly de-plates your jewelry. 

To avoid these water-borne threats, remove your jewelry before swimming in the ocean or a pool. Never shower or wash your hands while wearing gold plated jewelry, and put your jewelry on last when getting ready for the day and take it off first before your evening routine. 

Smart storage

Even when you are not wearing your jewelry, it can tarnish because of environmental factors. Humidity and light exposure are the causes. When you aren’t wearing your pieces, keep them safe in a pouch, box, or case that is in a dry and cool location. Jewelry pieces should be stored with space or a liner between them to avoid scratching. 

cleaning gold pendant with toothbrush


Source: Jakub Ustrzycki/

Solutions for Tarnished Pieces

If your gold plated jewelry looks dull or discolored, and standard cleaning won’t restore its shine, it may be time for a deep clean or replating. 

Deep clean your piece by soaking it in warm soapy water for five minutes. Gently scrub the piece with a soft-bristled baby toothbrush. Then, rinse in clean water and dry it with a soft cloth. If the gold shine does not return after a deep clean, replating is the next step.

Replating is a delicate process because a jeweler must precisely clean the piece’s surface before replating. The replating adheres properly, and the shine is restored if cleaned correctly. Replating’s cost is dependent on how complex the cleaning is and how thick the plating needs to be. 

You can avoid the stress of tarnished gold plating with gold alloy pieces like a 14K gold chain. Gold alloys need significantly less attention to maintain their shine than their gold plated counterparts. 

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Maintenance Is the Key to Long-Lasting Style

While fashion trends are ever-changing, the allure of gold shine stays consistent. Gold plated chains and jewelry are budget-conscious style statements that immediately upgrade a look. Gold plated jewelry requires maintenance to stay pristine, but you can significantly extend these pieces’ shine with smart storage, proper wear etiquette, and daily cleaning. 

Check out Frost NYC’s selection of gold plated rings, chains, and bracelets online. Or contact our design team to create a custom piece to complement your unique style.

January 28, 2022

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