Gold-plated jewelry is the least expensive option you can find on the market. It contains a very thin layer of real gold. To get a better picture, you should know that jeweler can plate thousands of pieces with only one gram of real gold in 1 pint (475 ml) of used solution.
However, high-quality brands make thicker plating with a protective coating to prolong their jewelry’s life. Such a piece usually has no quality mark, but you can sometimes see stamped company logo. The exception is silver jewelry plated with gold. Let’s discuss 24k gold plated value.
Gold Jewelry Types
Be aware that not all gold is created equal. Let’s find out the differences.
Pure gold is an orangish-yellow, soft metal made of gold atoms. Since it is too soft, it is impossible using it to make jewelry. Therefore, jewelry is always made of a gold alloy, meaning jewelers mix pure gold with other metals to get desired material. Its value is different depending on the gold percent used.
You can find two Fineness marking systems determining how much pure gold jewelry contains. The Karat system is standard in the US, while most European countries use the Numeric system.
In the Karat system, gold is determined as pure 24K gold containing 24 of 24 parts of this precious metal or alloys like 18K, 14K, 12K, and 10K.
- 18K contains 75% or 18 parts of pure gold and six parts of some other metal
- 14K contains 58.3% or 14 parts of pure gold and ten parts of some other metal
- 12K contains 50% or 12 parts of pure gold and 12 parts of some other metal
- 9K containing 33% pure gold is common in Antique and British jewelry but is technically unlawful to call it gold in the US
You can also find 22K, 21K, and 20K gold jewelry originating in the Middle East and the Far East.
The Numeric (European, convention) system is the most dominant worldwide. It includes the amount of pure gold in one thousand parts. For example:
- 18K containing 75% pure gold is 750/1000, or 0.75
- 12K containing 50% pure gold is 500/1000, or 0.5
Gold-filled jewelry is not a gold one. Jewelers make it by wrapping a gold sheet over a base metal under pressure. However, this jewelry contains a measurable amount of gold. The US law requires that this jewelry type has at least 10K gold and weighs a minimum of 1/20 gold by total metal weight. The most common markings include:
- GF, Gold Filled, or 1/20 12K GF
- 1/10 12K Gold Filled
- 12KT GF
- 1/20 14K GF Sterling Silver, usually for pieces dated in the 1940s and 1950s
Keep in mind that you can also find 10K, 14K, and 18K gold markings besides 12K.
In rare cases, you can find jewelry made of two metals, usually solid gold and silver or platinum. This combination includes gold parts and added details of another metal. You can recognize it by double markings for gold and the other metal used.
It is jewelry with a thicker gold coating, usually more valuable than gold plated. In this case, gold weight can be less than 1/20 while markings indicate overlay quality.
Gold plated jewelry
Let’s say very clear that gold and gold-plated pieces of jewelry are not the same. They are not even similar! Gold plating is a common practice of applying a thin gold layer over a more or less expensive base metal surface through an electroplating process. That gives jewelry a gold-like appearance.
In such a case, gold coats the metal surface and has only aesthetic value. Basically, you can consider a gold plate as a coloring you can erase after a while, no matter if it is 14K, 18K, or the purest 24K.
The number within stamps is different, depending on the gold type used for plating. You can recognize a few gold-plated jewelry markings, including:
- 24KGP means that jewelry contains 24K gold plate
- 24K HGE, meaning 24K heavy gold electroplate
- 24K gold plated when the plating layer is made of 24K gold
- Vermeil (gold over sterling silver, gold wash marks of gold plated sterling, fine silver) are typically signs of old gold plating
- Gold clad or Karat clad are technical marks, meaning that the gold layer is added over the base metal under pressure. Nowadays, it is often a synonym for any gold plating type
- Bonded gold is another name for gold plated
- 10µ or 10 microns (the number can be different) refers to the gold layer thickness in microns
- Plaque Or (gold plated) is a mark you can see on jewelry made in France and Switzerland right after a micron mark
Gold plated specifications include 24K to at least 10k gold quality with a thickness determined by law.
24K Gold Plated Jewelry
Simply said, it is jewelry with a plating layer made of 100% pure, high-quality 24K gold. Jewelers get it by applying an extra thin gold layer to the base metal surface by using electricity.
That way, gold bonds to the base metal and forms gold-plated jewelry. Basically, you will get the base metal jewelry with the 24k gold layer when purchasing 24 gold-plated jewelry.
Don’t be fooled with the 24K gold included in your jewelry. It is the purest gold but is also highly soft and not much durable. As a result, the plated layer will get scratched over time.
The gold layer thickness can significantly vary but must be within the value determined by the Federal Trade Commission. This value is up to 0.5 microns for gold-plated jewelry and about 2.5 microns for heavily plated jewelry.
When the gold layer is thinner than 0.5 microns, such jewelry is considered gold electroplates. Jewelry with gold plate thinner than 1.75 microns is regarded as gold flashed or gold-washed pieces.
24k Gold Plated Value
You will be disappointed when hearing that 24k plated gold jewelry you bought or inherited actually doesn’t worth much. Therefore, purchasing it with a plan to resell it when rainy days come is a failed investment.
Even gold used for a plate is useless since refining the plated piece cost more than the price of jewelry made of pure gold. Simply speaking, the plated gold layer is too thin and is not worth the effort.
The things are even worse with old jewelry since the gold plate is susceptible to flaking and scratching. Plus, there is usually not much gold left on the surface after a while.
No matter how much you pay for such jewelry, you can count on about $5 to $20 per 1 pound (455 g) of the gold-plated piece when deciding to resell it. Sometimes the price can go up to $50 for jewelry with a stone. Keep in mind that you can get that price only when you are fortunate and the plating is thick.
On the other hand, a piece of jewelry with a ‘flash gold plated’ marking worth practically nothing. The gold layer is too thin and 24K gold so soft that it sometimes flakes within a few minutes of handling.
The Way Base Metal Affects the 24K Gold Plated Value
As you have probably known, gold-plated jewelry contains one or more base metals under the thin gold layer. In most cases, jewelers use:
- Sterling silver – People love silver, and jewelers often use this metal combined with a small amount of copper as a base for quality gold-plated jewelry. Be prepared that it tarnishes over time.
- Brass – This combination of copper and zinc is a usual base metal for gold-plated jewelry. The problem is that brass oxidizes and gets a brown color you can notice after gold-plating wears off.
- Stainless steel – This strong modern material is trendy nowadays. Its advantage is the resistance to corrosion and staining.
- Titanium – This extraordinary metal is strong and hypoallergenic. It is pretty trendy as a material for jewelry, with or without gold plating.
- Nickel – It is a common choice for creating inexpensive jewelry. Be careful since it can cause an allergic reaction.
The bad news is that base metal has only an aesthetic effect and provides strength to gold used for plating. Unfortunately, it won’t add to gold-plated jewelry any monetary value.
The only exception is gold-plated jewelry made of sterling silver. Sterling silver price varies but is approximately $0.9 per gram or $28 per ounce nowadays. You can recognize such jewelry by the 925 or sterling stamp. Some companies add their logo next to it.
As you have already known, 24K gold is soft, and you can’t find jewelry made of it. However, some jewelers use this pure precious metal for gold plating. Many people prefer wearing 24K gold plated jewelry since it looks like real gold and costs less. However, there is a catch.
The added layer is too thin and can’t last long, making such jewelry value low. In other words, you can prolong its life by proper maintenance and use it for a year or so, but most jewelers won’t be interested in buying it. That makes these pieces a lousy investment.