Is Gold-Plated Jewelry Real Gold Your Questions Answered

While gold jewelry never goes out of style, it is incredibly on-trend right now. Whether you are in the market for gold chains for men or you’re looking for the perfect bracelet or ring to add to your collection, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that gold-plated pieces are much more affordable than their solid gold counterparts. 

If you are attracted to the timeless look of gold but don’t want to drain your bank account to purchase an eye-catching piece, you’ve probably wondered whether gold-plated jewelry is real gold or if it’s “fake.” There are a lot of misconceptions out there about gold plating, and we want to set the record straight. 

Gold-plated jewelry is made using real gold. And while it’s considerably cheaper than solid gold, it still has the same sparkle and is a more durable option. With proper care, your gold-plated jewelry will withstand the test of time and keep turning heads for years to come. This article will address some of the most common questions and misconceptions about gold plating. 

gold layered chain isolated

What Does Gold Plated Mean? 

Items that are gold plated are made from a lower-cost metal and covered in a thin layer of genuine gold. Plating thickness varies depending on the type of jewelry, the brand, and the manufacturer. The result is a piece with the shimmer and brilliance of solid gold — without the price tag. 

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Gold is applied to other metals using an electroplating process. First, the item is cleaned thoroughly to remove debris, oil, etc., to ensure that the plating will bond with the base metal. Next, a layer of nickel may be added. While not essential in all cases, most high-end brands add this layer to help protect the outer gold layer from the base metal. The piece is then attached to a post with a negative ion charge and submerged in a plating solution. Then, an electric charge is added to attract positive ions in the plating solution to the item. The longer the item is left in the charged solution, the thicker the resulting plating. Once the desired thickness has been achieved, the item is removed from the solution, rinsed and dried. 

According to the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a piece must have a gold coating that measures at least 0.5 microns to be considered gold plated. For pieces with less plating, the appropriate term is “gold flashed” or “gold washed.” Pieces with 2.5 microns or more of plating are considered heavy gold plated. 

What Is the Difference Between Gold Plated and Gold Filled

What Is the Difference Between Gold Plated and Gold Filled? 

The terms “gold plated” and “gold filled” are often confused in the jewelry industry. Sometimes, they’re even used interchangeably, even though they are two very different things. While gold-plated items are coated in a layer of gold, gold-filled items must contain a minimum of 5% gold alloy. In most instances, gold-filled jewelry is made by sandwiching brass (or another base metal) between layers of gold alloy. Heat is applied, and the piece is rolled to flatten the metals and bind them together. 

Because they are made using a higher percentage of real gold, gold-filled jewelry pieces are more costly than gold plated. When you are looking for the appearance of real gold but want to save some serious cash, gold plated is still the best choice. 

Is Gold-Plated Jewelry Real Gold? 

There are some negative misconceptions surrounding the authenticity of gold-plated jewelry. All gold-plated items are coated in a layer of real gold, and sometimes that layer is relatively thick. The core metal, however, usually does not contain gold. This is why many people refer to this type of jewelry as “fake gold.” 

Gold-plated jewelry is real gold on the outside. While the core may be made of virtually any type of metal, the outside is what you and other people see. The appeal of gold-plated jewelry is that it has the shimmer and color of real gold — because the visible part is real gold. It’s a budget-friendly alternative to solid gold that does not force you to sacrifice your style. Chances are, a lot of the rose gold chains and other jewelry pieces you see other people wearing every day are gold plated and not solid gold. Many folks even prefer it because it’s more durable and less malleable than pure gold. 

Keep in mind that the purity of gold used for plating varies. It generally ranges from 10K to 24K. Higher-purity gold plating tends to have a more brilliant golden shimmer than lower-grade plating. However, because of how little gold is used during the process, the purity has little impact on the value of gold-plated jewelry. 

What Is the Price Difference Between Solid Gold and Gold-Plated Jewelry

What Is the Price Difference Between Solid Gold and Gold-Plated Jewelry? 

If you are in the market for a 14K gold chain, something like a stylish Cuban link chain will easily set you back a minimum of $2,000 if you go with solid gold. But for less than $100, you can score a gold-plated Cuban link chain that’s just as fashionable. Since the plating is made from real gold, no one other than you will ever have to know that you’re wearing a more wallet-friendly option. 

You can expect similar savings when shopping for women’s gold chains. No matter what you are looking for, the difference in price between solid and gold-plated jewelry is enormous. By choosing plated pieces, many people can fill their jewelry boxes with stunning pieces for less than it would cost to buy one piece of solid gold jewelry. 

How Long Does Gold Plating Last? 

If longevity is your biggest concern about buying plated jewelry rather than solid gold, you are not alone. This is a very common worry. However, the good news is that gold plating is meant to last for several years — as long as you care for your jewelry properly. It may not withstand rough handling, though, so you need to take care to avoid damage. 

Gold plating tends to tarnish and fade over time. Though gold is an inert metal and will never corrode or rust, the base metals used in plated jewelry are not inert. They are prone to oxidation and corrosion and, eventually, particles from the base metal can work their way into the gold plating. Higher-quality plated jewelry is less susceptible to tarnishing than lower-quality pieces, but it is still a possibility. 

woman wearing chunky gold necklace

To keep your chain, bracelet, earrings, pendant, watch or other jewelry looking its best for as many years as possible, avoid exposing it to chemicals and cleaning products. Do not wear it in the shower or clean it with harsh cleansers or abrasives. Clean your plated jewelry with a soft cloth after each wear, and store it in a pouch in a cool, dry location. Keep pieces separate to avoid scratches and other damage while in storage. 

Is Gold-Plated Jewelry Hypoallergic? 

Many people wear gold jewelry because they are allergic to other metals. While gold-plated jewelry is coated in a thin layer of genuine gold, it is not hypoallergenic. Some people with mild sensitivities can wear gold-plated pieces without issue. However, we recommend sticking with solid gold to avoid reactions. 

Gold-plated jewelry often contains nickel, a common allergen among those with sensitivities to certain metals. If the layer of gold flakes off, gets scratched or starts to wear away due to prolonged wear, the underlying could come in contact with the skin and cause reactions. If you have trouble wearing non-gold jewelry, we recommend avoiding gold-plated jewelry. 

How Do I Know if I Have Gold-Plated Jewelry

How Do I Know if I Have Gold-Plated Jewelry? 

When buying jewelry from a reputable seller, gold-plated jewelry will clearly be labeled as such. If you already have some jewelry and are not sure whether it’s plated or solid, though, there are a few things you can do. 

First, carefully inspect your jewelry and look for a hallmark stamp. While gold-plated jewelry does not have to be stamped, many pieces are. Stamps to look for include: 

  • GP: Gold Plated
  • GEP: Gold Electroplated
  • HGE: Heavy Gold Electroplate
  • HGP: Heavy Gold Plate

If you cannot locate a hallmark stamp, there are a few other things to look for. Inspect older, well-worn pieces for flaking and uneven coloration. Both of these things indicate that an item is not made from solid gold. 

Gold-plated jewelry is often much more vibrant than solid gold. 22K or 24K is commonly used for plating, which most solid gold pieces are 18K or lower due to the softness of pure gold. If the piece you are examining has a brilliant golden appearance, it is more likely to be plated — especially if it was not extremely expensive. 

When trying to differentiate between gold and gold-plated jewelry, a magnet is a handy tool to have at your disposal. Solid gold isn’t magnetic, so if your jewelry sticks to a magnet, it usually means it is made from another metal that has been coated in gold. This test is not always 100-percent fool-proof, though. Sometimes, the alloys used in solid gold jewelry are magnetic. And other times, gold-plated jewelry is made with non-magnetic base metals. Because of these, we recommend using this test in conjunction with another method. 

If you aren’t concerned about damaging the jewelry, a scratch test is your best option. By cutting into the jewelry using a sharp tool, you can look for signs of an underlying metal that isn’t gold. If the piece is the same metal all the way through, it’s solid gold. Of course, unless you are examining junk jewelry that you plan to sell for scrap, damaging it to determine whether it is plated probably is not a great idea. 

smiling man wearing gold chain

Is Buying Gold Plated Jewelry the Right Choice for Me? 

Deciding between gold-plated and solid gold jewelry mostly comes down to your budget and personal preferences. It is an excellent choice when you want to turn heads with lots of bling without draining your bank account. Gold-plated jewelry is also ideal for anyone who enjoys changing up their look and wearing different things each day. 

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Taking care of your jewelry is the key to keeping it looking great for years to come. This is true whether you’re wearing solid or plated pieces. While you need to take care to avoid scratching the finish, the base metals used on gold-plated jewelry are usually much stronger than solid gold. This makes the piece less malleable and prone to dents and dings. Choosing gold-plated jewelry from trusted brands guarantees that you will receive high-quality pieces that will stand up to regular use with proper care. 

To the untrained eye, it’s very difficult to distinguish between solid gold and gold plating, so you won’t have to worry about anyone knowing that you decided to save some cash by buying plated. It has the same shimmer and shine as solid gold, so whether you choose a bold statement piece or something a bit more subtle, you will be able to rock it with confidence. 

Unless you have metal allergies or plan on wearing your new accessories 24/7, gold-plated jewelry is an excellent alternative to solid gold. 

Wrapping Up

Despite common misconceptions, gold-plated jewelry is made from real gold. And when properly maintained, its entire outer layer will remain gold. It is much more affordable than solid gold and, in most cases, it is more durable. Tarnishing may occur when gold plating is exposed to moisture, oil or chemicals, but with regular maintenance, your jewelry will maintain its shine and luster. 

If you are looking for top-quality gold plated chains and other accessories, you’ve come to the right place. Shop Frost NYC online today to find your new favorite piece! 


Image Credits


Krasovski Dmitri/




Ursula Page/


Kirill Demchenko/

March 17, 2022

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