If you feel that you’ve spent enough money on gold-plated or silver-plated jewelry, to make you re-consider ever buying fake jewelry again, then join our club of frustrated buyers. We uncover the ugly truth about buying gold-plated or silver-plated jewelry…
On a recent closet overhaul, I decided to put aside all of the gold plated jewelry I had accumulated over the years and to actually try to re-plate them again. Some of the pieces barely lasted 3 months while others withstood the test of about 3 years. So I headed to Dubai’s Gold Souk with a bunch of tarnished brownish junk.
Much to my disappointment, the goldsmith shook his head when he did a chemical test on a few of the pieces, only to warn me that if they were to be replated they would literally disintegrate and fall apart in the solution they would have to dip it in. The only bracelet they managed to restore its rose gold plating colour and shine was a Monica Vinader Rose Gold vermeil on sterling silver Fiji bracelet.
There are basically some basic lessons that I learned from the Goldsmiths:
1- There are metals that will withstand corrosion and will be restored by either gold plating or silver or rhodium plating:
– Gold obviously, you can restore the shine of old gold jewelry by either polishing or replating them
– Sterling silver is the second best and cheaper metal to buy: it is so versatile that you can make it more white and sparkly by plating it with rhodium, or you can completely change its colour by gold plating in yellow or rose gold.
– The third best base metal is stainless steel, this is the kind that watchmakers use and kitchenware manufacturers rely on.
– The fourth best base metal and the most commonly used by the major custom jewelry brands and fashion brands is Brass. This is the kind of metal that is used for sanitary ware like taps and door handles and is among the most durable and can also be replated with any metal or colour you choose.
Pretty much any other base metal is not precious or durable enough and will likely corrode with time, hence making it impossible to replace them. If you are shopping for custom jewelry next time, note how brands who use the best materials will mention brass or silver base and how the rest won’t give any indication of the base metal used.
2- Plating durability is determined by the type of colour treatment done, here are the denominations you should know and understand when looking at “gold or silver plated jewelry”:
– The least durable and cheapest method of colouring base metals with gold or silver is Gold Tone, it is literally just a wash of colour with no real thickness or gold value, this will usually look less yellow and bright than classical gold plated items and will fade pretty quickly after a few weeks of regular wear and contact with human skin. What you should be aware of is that most of the expensive designer brands use gold tone, so hold back that credit card before you spend north of $500 on a bracelet!
– The next much more improved technique is gold-plating or silver or rhodium plating, this is the most commonly used method which has a thickness of the precious metal of 0.5 to 1 micron. However as we highlighted it previously, gold plating will not be durable if the base metal isn’t precious or semi- precious, or quite simply “unknown”.
– Gold Vermeil on silver or brass is the most expensive and durable method of gold plating base metals, it has to be at least 2.5 microns in thickness, Vermeil jewelry can last many years before it needs to be replated.
– Gold filled pieces have a much thicker layer, between 15 and 45 microns, which is mechanically bonded to the base metal with heat and pressure. This can look a lot like solid gold jewelry and will last much longer than Vermeil jewelry.
So here is the real truth behind longer-lasting custom jewelry: Any jewelry that is gold plated over solid brass or sterling silver will generally last much longer than the jewelry plated over cheaper metals (when brass or sterling silver isn’t mentioned in the description). The next thing to do is to find a goldsmith in your city and to restore shine and colour to whatever good jewelry you have bought.
There are many brands that use precious base materials ( brass as a lesser base) such as Eddie Borgo, Lulu Frost, Erickson Beamon, Vita Fede and our personal favourites, everyday wearable pieces at Monica Vinader. The beauty with her pieces is that all plated jewelry will turn into sterling silver in the long run and you will end up owning precious jewelry that can always be replated or restored in the best way possible.