Does Gold Plated Sterling Silver Tarnish? (Reasons & Prevent Tips)

Gold-plated jewelry made of sterling silver has more demand nowadays than ever before. It is trendy among celebrities and fashion followers after becoming a new inspiration in the fashion industry. Sterling silver is also an excellent and high-quality material for gold-plated jewelry because these pieces keep the shine and gilding longer.

This jewelry type sometimes changes its color over time, but there are many ways to slow down that process. Basically, you can enjoy this jewelry’s uniqueness and convenience while refreshing and raising your energy and beauty on a high level. Now, let’s see does gold plated sterling silver tarnish.

Sterling Silver

Sterling silver is a silver alloy that contains:

  • 92.5% pure silver
  • 7.5% another metal, mainly copper

This 7.5% of allay makes this metal strong enough to make into jewelry. In other words, sterling silver is the most solid option you can get. It is a shiny, long-lasting, and durable precious metal more affordable than gold.

Silver type
Features 925 silver Silver-plated Silver-filled
Precious metal yes no no
Long-lasting 5 of 5 1 of 5 3 of 5
Affordability $$$ $ $$
Maintenance Medium Low Low
Additional costs Polishing cloth ($) Re-plating ($$) n/a

Since gold jewelry is expensive and many people don’t like silver, it is trendy nowadays to wear gold-plated pieces. It is a method of adding a gold layer over the sterling silver surface through an electrochemical process.

Very often, jewelers add a thin coat of nickel to strengthen the bond between two precious metals. The significant downside of this jewelry is tarnishing that appears during daily activities.

Even though you can find different gold-plated jewelry types, silver variation is the shiniest, prettiest, and most cost-effective option you can find. It is particularly crucial for rings since they wear and tear the most.

Gold-plated Sterling Silver

Gold-plated Sterling Silver

The most desirable, demi-fine type of gold-plated jewelry is sterling silver coated in gold. It is well known as vermeil, but this name only determines that base metal is highly-quality silver plated with 14K, 18K, 22K, or 24K white, yellow, or rose gold.

These bright golden pieces are more affordable than ones made of gold and are high-end and beautiful. Unlike gold jewelry, it usually has an uneven orange-yellowish color tone.

Remember that this piece of jewelry needs to meet particular qualifications to be considered authentic vermeil in the US. It is typically created by a chemical process called electroplating. Used gold needs to be at least 10K quality and 2.5 microns thick.

In most cases, you can identify gold-plated sterling silver as 925 sterling silver, but you can find additional marks, as well:

  • GEP – Gold electroplated
  • GP – Gold plated
  • HGP – Heavy gold plated
  • HGE – Heavy gold electroplated

Since there is no hard rule for stamping gold-plated jewelry, you can also find many pieces without hallmarks.

Tarnishing

While pure 99.9% silver never changes its color, sterling silver will always tarnish over time because of the metal it is mixed with. It usually becomes dark grey, brown, or even black when exposed to oxygen and skin oils.

The rule of thumb is that jewelry made of a mixture with the highest percentage of silver will tarnish slower than low purity silver, but you can’t avoid this process.

Fortunately, you can slow it with regular care or get jewelry made of sterling silver professionally polished from time to time. On the other hand, you can’t do anything to prevent silver-plated jewelry from tarnishing.

Gold-plated sterling silver will change its color when the gold layer rubs off the silver base metal. In most cases, it will stay untouched for at lasts two years.

After that period, you will see the first signs of flaking off, and your gold-plated piece of jewelry will lose its luster and start fading. Once silver appears underneath, you will notice darker spots over jewelry, particularly rings.

Tarnishing Types

You can notice three different tarnishing types, depending on the jewelry you have.

  • Tarnish-prone jewelry – Jewelry made of base metals like copper, bronze, and brass will quickly darken. Unfortunately, you can also expect your sterling silver to oxidize and tarnish over time.
  • Jewelry made of a gold alloy – Except for a bit of discoloration, mostly in antique pieces, your gold jewelry won’t change its color.
  • Plated jewelry – In such a case, the plating will come off after a while, and your jewelry will tarnish due to oxidation. Although gold won’t tarnish, gold-plated jewelry will change its color since silver, as the base metal, will oxidize after the gold layer disappears.

Reasons for Tarnishing

Reasons for Tarnishing

Your body

Believe it or not, one of the vital factors that cause jewelry tarnishing is body chemistry. In most cases, the too acid body is a reason for fast jewelry discoloration.

The reason for low pH is the food you eat, the medicines you take, the sweating levels, and the gas you produce. Another factor is hormonal disbalance.

Chemicals

Sterling silver corrosion occurs when this metal gets into contact with chemicals you use in your household. Therefore, you should keep jewelry away from toiletries and house products.

Perfume and lotions

Body care preparations contribute to tarnishing your gold-plated silver jewelry because these chemicals negatively affect a thin gold coat.

Showering

Taking a shower while wearing gold-plated sterling silver will result in premature tarnishing. You will face the same problem when doing dishes and exercising while wearing your jewelry.

Ways to Prevent Tarnishing

  1. The rule of thumb is that you should put on your gold-plated sterling silver jewelry after finishing all preparation for a night out, including applying perfume and make-up. It should also be the first thing to take off before preparing for bed.
  2. Never take a shower before taking off your jewelry to protect it from soap and shampoo. Also, avoid using paper towels and tissues for cleaning gold-plated silver jewelry since they can scratch the jewelry and speed up tarnishing.
  3. There is no need to wear gold-plated silver rings while doing housework since chemicals will negatively affect them.
  4. Believe it or not, your environment will significantly affect your jewelry. For instance, hot weather will cause sweating, and salty sweat will be a reason for your gold-plated silver to tarnish. Additionally, your jewelry will tarnish faster in a polluted environment because of the high sulfur levels in the air.
  5. While regular wearing sterling silver jewelry keeps it beautiful, gold-plated silver will tarnish quicker when you wear it daily. It is crucial to properly store your piece of jewelry in a dust bag or jewelry box when not wearing it. Plus, always keep gold-plated jewelry and silver-plated ones separately.
  6. Never spray perfume on this jewelry type, and always put it on after your skin absorbs lotion and cream. Plus, clean it regularly with a soft cloth to remove body oils and sweat accumulated on the jewelry surface throughout the day.

Ways to Clean Tarnished Jewelry

Ways to Clean Tarnished Jewelry

Keep in mind that a way of cleaning is not the same for any jewelry type. Therefore, you should be careful to avoid damaging your piece.

  • Polishing – Having your jewelry made of gold, sterling silver, and brass polished is an excellent option.
  • Re-plating – It is a necessary step for cleaning gold-plating silver jewelry once it tarnishes. The problem is that you can’t restore its color, and the only option you have is to add a new gold coating.

It is not recommended to clean tarnished gold-plated silver jewelry at home for a few reasons, including:

  • Most chemicals you can find on the market are too harsh
  • Any substances containing chlorine or bleach will destroy the gold layer
  • Toothpaste is a popular solution for this purpose, but it will probably scratch the gold surface while trying to take off the tarnish
  • Polishing cloths are a gentle but ineffective option since they can’t remove dirt from deep dents or restore plated jewelry
  • Water will loosen glued stones and cause them to fall out

The best option to keep your 18K gold vermeil clean is to wash it with water and non-chemical soap or gentle dish soap. Then, dry it on a cloth or paper towel after rinsing it thoroughly.

Finally, gently rub the surface with a jewelry cloth or a soft, non-abrasive one. Avoid using a silver cloth since it quickly removes the gold plating. Keep your piece of jewelry safe in an airtight bag or jewelry box.

Gold-plated Silver Jewelry Pros and Cons

Advantages

  • This jewelry type is affordable compared to the one made of solid gold, and you can find excellent pieces for only $5 to $50
  • It is beautiful and looks like real gold
  • You can choose among various designs
  • This jewelry is strong and durable

Disadvantages

  • Gold-plated silver jewelry will tarnish over time
  • It is subject to damage and scratching
  • This jewelry type is not an excellent investment since it contains cheap silver and a minimal amount of gold that worth practically nothing

Summary

Gold-plated sterling silver jewelry is affordable and trendy nowadays. Unfortunately, it will tarnish after a while, and you will need to re-plate it once in approximately two years to keep it beautiful and shiny.

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