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Answering Questions About Gold-Plated & Gold-Filled Jewelry ☞ Differences, Care, Longevity, & More

Gold Plated Jewelry

❧ What is gold-plated jewelry? Gold-plated jewelry is the best option for those who love gold jewelry, but need to stay inside a reasonable budget. It is a thin layer of gold alloy that is bonded to a base metal. Base metals are usually brass, steel, copper, or sterling silver. Gold-plated jewelry mimics the look of fine gold jewelry without the expensive cost. By using a cheaper base metal & only a thin layer of gold, the jewelry can be sold at a much more affordable price.

❧ How is gold-plated jewelry made?
An electric current is used to negatively charge the base metal & positively charge a solution containing gold ions. The positive gold ions are attracted to the negative charge of the base metal. Slowly, a layer of gold forms on top of the base metal as more & more ions are attracted.

❧ How much gold is in gold-plated jewelry?
Not much -- gold-plated jewelry contains less than .05% of gold. The thin gold layer on the outside of the base metal is minute. If gold wasn't naturally bright in color, the amount would be virtually unnoticeable.

❧ How long does gold-plated jewelry last?
The lifespan of gold-plated jewelry isn't long due to its suscepibility to scratching & tarnishing. Daily wear & tear can cause the gold-plate to weaken & chip away, eventually exposing the brass (or base metal) beneath. However, if you take proper care of it, you can easily prolong the look of it! You should be able to maintain high quality gold plated jewelry for up to 5 years with proper care.
Here at Saul & Saul Designs, we tested out all of our gold plated jewelry. We are exposed to many elements every day, as our primary occupation is in the plant business. We come into contact with dirt, water, humidity, sweat, sun exposure at very high levels every day - & thats just at work! We never took the jewelry off - this includes sleeping, showering, working out, makeup, etc. Ultimately, we put this jewelry through the ringer! In our experience the plating lasted at least 4 months before turning. Most people do not come into contact with half of these elements, so even if you kept the jewelry on constantly, odds are it would last even longer ☺︎

❧ What type of care does my gold plate jewelry need, so it will last a long time?
Gold plated jewelry is thin enough to measured in microns (one millionth of a meter). As with other materials, thin gold is much more vulnerable than thick, therefore thin gold plating can become scratched or worn if you fail to take proper care of it.

Here are a few tips -
・Remove your jewelry before you swim in chlorine or salt water.
・Remove your jewelry before participating in activities that will cause you to sweat profusely.
・Wait to put on your jewelry until after you have applied lotion, makeup, or perfume.
・ Do not spray on perfume or other sprays while wearing your gold plated jewelry. Wear your jewelry after you have sprayed your favorite perfume, so the chemicals in the spray does not interact with your jewelry's metal.
・ Remove jewelry if you will be bringing it into contact with something hard - for example, take a ring off before lifting weights.
・Store plated jewelry where it won't rub against other hard substances - a soft bag, one per piece of jewelry, is ideal.
・Substances like oil, nail polish, nail polish remover, chlorine, & the like may react with metal/plated jewelry & will cause it to tarnish easily.

The easiest way to think about it is to keep your gold-plate jewelry away from the elements - salt, water, sweat, & high humidity - & chemicals from cleaners or perfumes.

Wipe your gold plated jewelry after every use, using a soft cloth to remove any dirt or debris. You may also soak it for a few minutes in warm, soapy water, & dry it off with a soft cloth as needed. You may also use a soft tooth brush to clean small cracks & crevices.

If your jewelry is tarnished beyond what a good cleaning can remedy, all is not lost. You can always bring new life into your jewelry by having it re-plated, or you can plate or re-plate jewelry & other products with an 18k or 24k gold plating kit.

❧ How do I clean my gold-plated jewelry? How often should I do so?
The best method for cleaning gold plated jewelry is to let it soak in warm, soapy water.
First, fill a dish/bowl with lukewarm water (make sure the water isn't too hot), & then add a few drops of mild dish soap or detergent to the bowl. Mix it up to create a soapy bath & allow your gold-plated pieces to soak for 10-15 minutes. Remove your jewelry from the bowl & rinse under warm running water until all soap has been removed. Before letting it dry, you should gently wipe down your piece with a soft polishing cloth. Then, allow it to air dry.

Depending on how often you wear your gold chains, you should try to do this at least once per week or every other week.

If you want to do a real deep cleaning, you can use a soft toothbrush for hard-to-reach spots with a mild soap + warm water solution before rinsing & wiping down.


Gold Filled Jewelry

❧ What is gold filled?
Gold filled is a layered material constructed of 2 or 3 layers. The core (or base) metal is usually jeweler's brass. Using heat & pressure, gold alloy is bonded to one or both surfaces of the brass core.
Here is a graphic that illustrates the differences between gold plate, gold-fill, & solid gold jewelry. These are cross sections of the different materials ⇢

❧ How much gold is in gold-filled jewelry? What do the quality stamps for gold-filled jewelry mean?
▹ Gold filled jewelry supplies are legally required to be 5% pure gold, which comes out a 1/20 ratio, with {1} part of the metal being gold & the {19} remaining parts containing the core metal.
▹ Products are identified using quality stamps, which are abbreviated to 14/20 GF or 12/20 GF. ⇢ ⇢
This 5% is used to describe the karate of the gold alloy on the surface. Most material is either 12k or 14k gold-filled. It is most accurately labeled with the karate, the "/" symbol, & then 20 to reflect this construction.
For example, products labeled 14/20 GF means it is 14k gold-filled. Those labeled 12/20 GF are 12k gold-filled.
We have created this illustration to show you how much more gold there is in gold-fill vs. gold plate jewelry ☞

❧ Can gold-filled tarnish?
Yes, it can, but it takes a rare set of circumstances. Gold-filled jewelry supplies are considered a lifetime product because the layer of gold that is bonded to the base metal is considerably thick. However, in the rare event the gold-filled material is exposed to high amounts of sulfide, it can blacken.
Normally, gold-filled jewelry usually just requires light surface cleaning with an untreated cloth or mild soapy water.

❧ Is gold-filled hypoallergenic? Does it contain nickel?
No, gold-filled jewelry does not contain nickel.
Yes, 14k gold filled is highly unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. If you're sensitive to particular metals, you can wear gold filled jewelry without becoming hypersensitive.
Nickel is the most common earring sensitivity -- 10 to 12% of women & 6% of men are affected by the metal. Some brands write "Nickel Free" on their labels, although they have 5% nickel in them still. All in all, if you have a nickel allergy you are better off purchasing earrings that are gold-filled to guarantee the earring material is nickel free.

❧ Can gold fill jewelry discolor your skin?
Usually, no. Gold-fill jewelry should not turn, tarnish, or color your skin if you take care of it properly. However, there are some specific circumstances that can lead to gold jewelry discoloring your skin - this can even happen with solid gold jewelry!

❧ How long does gold-filled jewelry last?
Gold-filled jewelry will last longer than gold-plated jewelry. Why? Gold-filled jewelry has a much thicker & more durable layer of gold than the thin, vulnerable layer that gold-plated jewelry has. Gold-filled jewelry has a much higher percentage of gold (100 x as much) than gold-plated.
Gold-filled jewelry can endure daily wear & tear -- the effects of wearing gold-filled jewelry will not have a significant impact on it.
As long as gold-filled pieces are well cared for, they can last a lifetime, or at least between 10 & 30 years. There are many factors that can affect this time period, including the frequency of water exposure, wear, climate, the nature of your skin, & the like. Eventually, the gold will fade, & the metal underneath will become visible, but with proper care you can prevent this from happening!

❧ What type of care does gold-filled jewelry require?
Here are some tips to follow in order to keep your gold-filled jewelry in excellent condition -
・Avoid wearing your jewelry when swimming in chlorine or salt water.
・Avoid wearing your jewelry when cleaning - detergents & other cleaning products are harsh on gold.
・Apply makeup & perfume before putting on your gold-filled jewelry. Take off your jewelry before using a cosmetic cleanser or remover.
・Use a jewelry cloth to polish your pieces from time to time to keep them shiny & removing any layer of dirt.
・Clean your jewelry using a solution of water + mild detergent or dish soap. For more details about cleaning your jewelry, scroll down to the following question {or click here}.
・ Keep your jewelry in a cool place away from any humidity. Humidity will degrade the metal. Move your jewelry box away from direct sunlight in your room.
・Keep your jewelry in separate air-tight or cloth bags. When jewelry rubs together it will cause your pieces to lose their shine.
・No matter how much you want to, avoid touching your jewelry even when it is on your body.

❧ How do I clean my gold-filled jewelry? How often should I do so?
There are a few ways you can clean your gold-filled jewelry:
・ Mild soapy water & a soft toothbrush
Use a child's soft toothbrush & a mild detergent or dish soap for cleaning your gold filled jewelry. The detergent can remove reside or fingerprints from the item & still leave it shiny & bright when it's done. Be sure the toothbrush is soft or it may scratch your jewelry!
・Soft Cloth
Using a clean, soft cotton cloth is an ideal way to polish your gold-filled pieces. A soft cloth will not scratch the surface. There are treated jewelry polishing clothes, such as Brilliant, that work well; however, some chemicals are not recommended on gold-filled items, so double-check that they are safe to use. Do not leave chemicals on your gold-filled jewelry. Always rinse & polish again with a soft cloth to remove residue.
・Ultrasonic Machine
This is our favorite way to clean our jewelry. Ultrasonic machines work extremely well to remove dirt particles from items submerged in a liquid through the use of high-frequency waves that vibrate your jewelry. Simply add warm water & a mild soap to the machine, set your timer, & click start! Your jewelry will be cleaner than ever in a matter of minutes!

If you wear your pieces every day, give them a quick clean once a month or when you can visibly see that the gold isn't as bright as usual. For pieces worn less often, clean them several times per year as needed.



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