Gold Plating Jewelry Explained – How Plating Renews Your Old Jewelry

As the Dear Abby of Santa Barbara Jewelers, I get asked questions about gold plating jewelry all the time. What exactly is the procedure? Can my jewelry be gold plated again? Will it affect my gemstones? Is it worth doing?

Cindy’s Ring, Heartily in Need of Plating

gold plating jewelry

This Two-Toned Ring Benefited From White Rhodium Plating and Yellow Gold Plating

Case in point: Cindy, a client of mine, told me one day she wished her mother’s old ring looked better. I knew exactly what the problem was the minute she showed it to me. Much of the gold had worn off. I suggested she re-plate it.

“What do mean?” she asked.

“Re-gold plate it,” I answered.

I described how the ring had originally been gold plated and pointed out the areas on the ring where the silver colored, underlying metal was now showing.

“So you could really re-plate the gold on it?” Cindy asked skeptically.

“I gold plate jewelry all the time.”

“It sounds expensive,” she said.

“It’s not. And compared to making a whole new ring from scratch…it’s a deal!”

“And how does this gold plating work?” she asked.

I explained.

Gold Plating Jewelry Defined

The term “plating” is actually short for “electroplating.” Without getting technical—or boring Cindy to death!—electroplating is the process of covering one metal with a thin layer of another.

The item to be plated is immersed in a chemical solution containing the covering metal , electricity is added, and by the process of electrolysis, the suspended molecules of gold are transferred to the piece of jewelry.

How long the jewelry is left in the solution determines the thickness of the plating. But it can't go too far or it gets lumpy and unattractive.

"What are My Color Options in Gold Jewelry Plating?"

Jewelry can be plated in yellow gold or if you want a white metal look, it can be rhodium plated. (See my blog post on rhodium plating.) Often, other gold color tones can be applied depending on the desired color. Rose gold is popular. Green gold, not so much. But some antique rings have details in green gold and re-plating them brings back their cool vintage look.

Why Costume Jewelry and Fine Jewelry are Gold Plated

gold plating jewelry

One of the main reasons older jewelry; costume or real, is re-plated, is to improve the gold color of the piece. After years of wear the old gold plating even if not worn off can just look sad and dull. Real gold jewelry can also look old and tired and need a good plating treatment to look its best.  A new gold plating treatment gives it new life and pizazz!

Four Factors in How Long Your Gold Plating Will  Last

“Won’t the plating wear off?” Cindy asked. “How long does it last?”

“It depends on four factors,” I answered.

  1. The thicker the plating, the longer it will last.
  2.  Its contact with the real world. The plating on a ring typically wears off way faster than a pendant due to rubbing against the fingers and hand, and by coming into contact with what the hand is touching like soaps and lotions. A gold plated pendant would last longer than a ring before it had to be re-plated.
  3.  Gold plating has various levels of clingyness to different metals. Gold likes silver, so when you gold plate over silver it'll stay on longer that on random costume metal. Gold plating likes Gold even better. So the metal you're gold plating on plays a role in how long the plating treatment will last.
  4.  My clients with a more acidic body chemistry seems to wear their gold plating off sooner. Also for rings if the soap you are using has a harsh ph level, that can damage the gold plating layer."

"Will it Hurt my Amethyst?"


amethyst two tone ring with baguette diamonds

Amethyst Yellow Gold Ring With Rhodium Plating in Center Channel Element

“So you’re saying,” Cindy asked, “that you would simply dip my mom’s amethyst ring in this plating solution and twenty or thirty minutes later, pull it out, and I’d essentially have a whole new piece of jewelry? And it wouldn’t hurt the amethyst?”

“Well, we do prep the jewelry piece to protect your gem. But essentially you're right, that’s all it would take, and no, it wouldn’t affect the gem at all,” I replied.

Repairing Plated Jewelry

“What about the worn down prongs?” Cindy asked.

“I’d fix those first. Soldering—applying heat to—any gold plated jewelry causes the thin layer of gold to liquefy and run. Most gold plated jewelry has to be re-plated after it’s had repair work done.”

“All right then, you convinced me! Let’s do it!”

I saw Cindy a week later and she was thrilled out of her mind at her ring.
“Oh my god!” she exclaimed. “This looks brand new!”

Indeed, it did.

Final Word on Getting the Gold on Your Jewelry

If you are reading here to learn how you can get your jewelry gold plated after it's looking faded or other problems have cropped up it's important to know that not all 'gold plated' jewelry is actually gold, nor plated. There is a new technology out there golding up watch bands and door knobs thanks to NASA, who first brought this technology to space flight. It's called PVD coating and is explained in detail in my blog Gold Electroplating VS PVD Coating.

Do you have a piece of jewelry that could use a lift? How about re-plating it?

Your Personal Jeweler,

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About Calla Gold

Calla Gold is a Personal Jeweler and Author who takes pride in working with clients one-on-one to integrate their personal sense of style and taste into custom designed jewelry and repaired jewelry pieces.   Unlike typical Santa Barbara jewelry businesses, Calla Gold has no brick-and-mortar location. Calla Gold comes to you, bringing you the jewelry collection you want to see and collaborating with you to create unique custom jewelry. Calla also works with at-a-distance clients.

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Tracey Mikami
Tracey Mikami
12 years ago

Thanks for this simple explanation. I love the gold plated Porsche. It made me want to read this.
The before and after pics of the old faucets is a pretty genius way to show what plating can do.
I also felt you acknowledged our intelligence by showing the faucets and not jewelry, I can use my imagination. Thanks!

Sue M.
Sue M.
12 years ago

Calla Gold, you are so the “Dear Abby” of jewelers. You’ve certainly answered a lot of my jewelry questions over the years.
Thanks for talking about gold plating. I have this pair of silver earrings and they used to be so pretty with the gold in a swoosh across the front. They look bad, not gold and not silver these days. So I’m not wearing them.
I will call you and have you re-gold plate the front part!
I’m so glad you wrote this post.

Executive Coach
12 years ago

Thanks, Calla Gold for making mysterious aspects of jewelry design and repair techniques understandable.
Your jewelry business is so interesting because you have learned how to do something for everyone!
I can imagine how gold plating jewelry or re-gold plating for that matter a piece of jewelry that used to look amazing could bring back that amazing shiny look that made it so appealing in the first place.
Hmmm, note to self, time to dive into my jewelry box and see if I have any candidates for Calla!
Dr. Lynn K. Jones, Certified Personal and Executive Coach

Catherine Ekoko, M.D.
Catherine Ekoko, M.D.
11 years ago

Thank-you for this explanation of gold plating; it’s great to be able to make new a loved, but worn out, piece of jewelry. Some things just can’t be replaced, and luckily we have our talented Calla to come to the rescue!

Mr. Culver Atty
Mr. Culver Atty
11 years ago

This is my first time I have visited your Jewelry Without Walls blog. I found so many entertaining topics in your blog, I spent too much time reading. This info on gold plating is especially good.
I did especially enjoy its discussion in some of the comment areas. Particularly on your titanium blog.
From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here! Keep up the good work.
R. Culver

Guillermo Valdez
Guillermo Valdez
10 years ago

I want to re-plating pieces, but, the final color is too “yellow”… i want a Little more White the gold tone. What can i do?

10 years ago

An intriguing discussion is worth comment. Gold plating is needed by all kinds of people.
I believe that you ought to write more about this topic, it might not be a taboo subject but usually jewelry folks
don’t talk about these issues. They just take it and charge you and you have to go to them to make it look good and don’t know why!
Kind regards!!

10 years ago

Hi. I have a brand new beautifully intrricate and delicate white gold diamond engagement ring. I’m considering rose gold plating, but no jeweller will give me a rough estimate of how long it would last! I would be wearing it every day, with no wedding band to rub against it, and i would take good care of it. Would you estimate I would have to have this replated in rose gold every year? I don’t think it would be a good idea if I hade to do it annually. Also, would all of the tiny prongs be plated? i.e. absolutely… Read more »

Kimberly Crist
Kimberly Crist
9 years ago

My son recently bought an engagement ring from a military exchange store. The ring is a white gold 3 split shank band with rose gold prongs on the middle band’s diamonds. The ring needs to be resized from a 7 to at least an 8. The jeweler at the store said the heating from resizing would melt the rose gold. Is there anyway to have this remedied & keep the rose gold prongs?

Val Wise
Val Wise
8 years ago

If I send you a piece, will you gold plate it? How do you determine cost?