All You Need to Know about 18K Gold and 18K Gold Plated Jewelry

You may see or hear the term “18k gold-plated”, does it means the jewelry is made from gold or contain certain amount of gold? We will explain this for you by comparing 18k gold jewelry and 18k gold plated jewelry.

What is 18k Gold-Plated Jewelry?

18k gold-plated jewelry is a type of jewelry made by layering a thin coating of 18-karat gold over a base metal. This process is called gold plating or gold vermeil, creates the appearance of solid gold jewelry at a more affordable price. Here’s how it works:

  • Base metal: The core of 18k gold-plated jewelry is a base metal, often made of materials like sterling silver, copper, brass, or stainless steel. This base metal constitutes the fundamental framework of the jewelry item.
  • Gold plating: To attain the appearance of gold plating, a thin layer of 18-karat gold is either electroplated onto or mechanically adhered to the surface of the underlying base metal. The “18k” indicates that the coating consists of 75% pure gold, and the remaining 25% comprising other metals such as copper, silver, or palladium.
  • Thickness: The thickness of the gold layer can vary, but it’s generally quite thin, usually ranging from 0.5 to 3 microns. The thicker the gold layer, the more durable the plating.

What is 18k Gold Jewelry?

18k gold jewelry is made from 18-karat gold. The “18k” indicates the level of purity or fineness of the gold used in the jewelry. 18k gold consists of 75% pure gold and 25% other alloyed metals.

With its rich color and relatively high level of purity, 18k gold is the preferred choice for fine jewelry, particularly for pieces that are meant to be treasured. However, due to its softness, it may require more care to o avoid scratches or deformations, especially in pieces that are worn daily or exposed to rough conditions.

What are the main differences between 18k plated-gold and 18k gold?

  • Composition: 18k gold-plated jewelry consists of a base metal like copper and stainless steel with a thin layer of 18k gold electroplated onto its surface. 18k Solid gold jewelry is made of 18-karat gold throughout its entire composition, with no other metals or alloys mixed in. It is 75% pure gold, with the remaining 25% being other metals like copper or silver.
  • Value: 18k gold-plated jewelry is more affordable than 18k solid gold. Authentic 18k gold possesses greater intrinsic value and typically has a more radiant and opulent appearance when compared to the plated jewelry.
  • Durability: Gold plating jewelry can tarnish over time with regular use. Jewelry crafted from 18k solid gold is resilient enough to endure daily use while preserving its visual appeal for an extended period.

What is karat?

“Karat” is a term used to measure the purity of gold in jewelry and other valuable metal items. It is a measure of the ratio of pure gold to other metals or alloys in the composition. The term “karat” is commonly abbreviated as “k” or “kt.”

The most common karat values used for gold jewelry:

  • 24 Karat (24k or 24kt): This is pure gold, containing 99.9% gold and no other alloys. 24k gold is the highest level of purity but is also the softest and most malleable, making it less suitable for intricate jewelry designs.
  • 18 Karat (18k or 18kt): This gold contains 75% pure gold and 25% other metals. It is a popular choice for high-quality jewelry, as it offers a good balance between purity and durability.
  • 14 Karat (14k or 14kt): Comprising 58.3% pure gold and 41.7% other metals, 14k gold is commonly used for engagement rings, wedding bands, and other jewelry. It offers a good combination of durability and gold content.

Both 18k solid gold and 18k gold-plated jewelry can offer a touch of elegance and luxury to enhance any outfit. While solid gold jewelry is made from genuine gold and retains its value over time, gold-plated jewelry provides a more budget-friendly option that provides various choice for most people. The option between the two depends on individual preferences and financial considerations.

However, it’s important to emphasize that with proper care, both types of jewelry can maintain their beauty and durability over time. So we recommend you read the article about the ways to clean gold-plated jewelry at home.

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