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Why the price of gold plated jewellery varies?

Date Posted:23 December 2020 

How base metals, gold purity and gold plating can affect the cost and price of jewellery

If you have been shopping or researching jewellery online, you probably wonder why prices can vary so much for gold plated jewellery. Some can be as cheap as a few dollars, and others can be up to hundreds of dollars. There are lots of considerations when it comes to material use (such as metal only, or metal combined with precious stone, gems and pearls). In this article we will focus on how the differences between base metals, gold purity, and gold plating can affect the cost and price of jewellery. 





Base Metal


Gold plating can be done on most metals such as nickel, brass, stainless steel, silver and copper. Modern industrial metals such as tungsten and titanium can also be gold plated. The most commonly plated base metals are nickel, brass, copper and stainless steel. When shopping for jewellery online it is important to be aware and be informed of the base metal of the jewellery as some can be non-hypoallergenic and may cause skin irritations,  especially if you have metal allergies. Nickel for example, is known to cause skin irritation. It is worthwhile to know whether the base metal contains nickel, or ask this question to the retailer if it is not stated clearly. 


Stainless steel has varied nickel levels. Commonly used 304 and 316 stainless steel both contain nickel. Surgical-grade stainless steel contains much less nickel while nickel-free stainless steel is as the term suggests, completely free of nickel. 


Gold plating on nickel, brass, copper and stainless steel are generally more affordable than gold plating on solid sterling silver and titanium. 




Gold Purity Level


Gold purity level is measured in karat and also affects the cost and pricing. Gold purity can vary from 9K to 24K. The gold tone gets deeper and richer as gold purity rises. 



Thickness of Gold Plating


Gold plating can range in thickness between 0.17 to 2.5 microns.


Plating with a thickness of around 0.17 is called gold electroplated, gold wash or flash gold. This is an extremely thin layer (about 0.05% of gold) and is only recommended for lower end fashion jewellery pieces. This plating can wear off quite quickly. The jewellery pieces are prone to tarnish more easily due to the very thin layer of gold plating (combined with other factors such as a cheap base metal being used).


The ideal thickness for gold plating is around 0.5 to 1.0 microns. While this might still sound like a thin layer, it’s sufficient even for jewellery pieces that are exposed to more frequent and rough wear, such as rings and bracelets.


Plating at around the 2.5 micron mark is quite thick and known as heavy gold plated. As a result, the plating lasts longer when it’s thicker. At Culturesse, we apply 2.5 microns of gold plating to our gold vermeil (where the base metal is solid sterling silver) and artisan gold jewellery pieces. Our gold vermeil, artisan 18K and 24K gold plated jewellery are heavy gold plated.  With our 24K gold jewellery, each piece is polished 5 times to fully bring out the gold shine. 


At Culturesse, it is an important part of our ethics to practise transparency by keeping consumers aware and informed of the base metal, gold purity and thickness of plating, types of pearls, stones and gems, so that you are aware of the jewellery components. We encourage consumers to ask questions if you are not sure and to make the best buying choices based on transparency and honesty. 


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