Daily Wire Tip April 8: What is the Difference Between Different Plated Jewelry?

By on April 8, 2010
Print Friendly

Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip
April 08, 2010


What is the difference between: gold plated, 12kt gold plated, 14kt gold plated jewelry?

Does gold plated jewelry that doesn’t say 12kt or 14kt  have any real gold at all? If it doesn’t, what kind of plating finish is used to make the gold color? Similarly, does silver plated jewelry have any real silver at all?


In the jewelry world, gold plate and silver plate are usually base metal products (brass, nickel, etc) that have been coated with a thin layer of said metal, most often through the process of electrolysis, also known as electroplating. The difference between the gold karat descriptions is the purity of the gold used to coat whatever item, also resulting in the difference of the color of the finished product. If a gold plated item does not carry a karat number, that means the purity of the gold used in the process is questionable (as determined by the FTC guide (scroll down to 23.4).

If a jewelry item is described as ‘gold tone’ it means that the item is gold in color only, which may have been done with a very thin gold ‘wash’ but does not contain enough  gold to be measurable, and is also know as ‘gold flash’.

Yes, silver ‘plate’ does contain real silver.

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

Have a question? Submit your question here


  1. avatar

    Alex Netherton

    April 10, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    To be honest, if you are buying wire to make jewelry to sell from these, don’t waste your money. Sterling silver is not all that expensive, nor is gold filled, and you can find deals on them all over the Internet. These products (plated or washed metals) are worthless, and the plating or wash will quickly wear off with normal wear.
    Gold filled, on the other hand, is a coating of real gold, either 12k or 14k, rolled onto a base metal, like jewelers brass or bronze, with great heat and pressure. It ain’t coming off. Gold filled can be worn for years without the gold wearing off – never if the piece doesn’t contact clothing, such as in earrings – and sterling, of course, is sterling all the way through.

  2. avatar

    Joel Finlay

    April 13, 2010 at 4:43 am

    Alex provides great advice. Gold filled (in wire) is actually a gold tube filled (from which comes the term) with other material as Alex described. It lasts pretty much like gold, in my experience, too. I like the non-tarnishing silver, as well, which is the only deficiency–other than color–in sterling. I almost never use white gold unless a customer (or my sister) requires it.