How to Care for Your Gold Plated Jewelry

Platinum, silver, and both 14k and 18k gold are not indestructible. Plated jewelry finishes are even more fragile because of the tiny layer of gold over the base metal.

In my thirty six years as a Santa Barbara Jeweler I’ve found that all jewelry is vulnerable to the hard knocks of the physical universe. Rings scratch, bracelets dent, and links rub against each other and wear out.

In this post I’ll explain how to care for and extend the life of your gold plated jewelry.

How Fragile and Thin is Gold Plating?

Rose gold Plated Chains. It May be a Fine Layer, but They Look Real.

Rose gold Plated Chains. It May be a Fine Layer, but They Look Real.

With karat jewelry, the gold metal with its hardening alloyed metals mixed in, is solid throughout the whole piece.

With plated pieces, the gold comprises only a very thin outer layer—so thin in fact, that it’s measured in microns.

One micron equals one millionth of a meter and I guarantee you won’t find that measurement on the ruler in your desk drawer.

Comparing Gold Plated Jewelry to Fine Gold Jewelry

Very, very thin layers of almost any substance are more susceptible to damage than thicker layers. Makes sense, right? A sheet of writing paper is easier to tear than a piece of cardboard.

It takes little effort to break a rubber band. Pulling apart a rubber automobile tire is another story. For this reason, it pays to be careful with your plated jewelry.

Chemicals in Our Lives Effect Your Gold Plated Jewelry

Perfumes, creams, lotions, and makeup all contain substances than can affect plated jewelry. Some soaps and detergents are stronger and harsher than others. Certain fruits and vegetables are acidic. Some are more alkaline.

The point is, any substance that isn’t PH neutral can potentially affect your plated jewelry. I’m no chemist, but I can offer you a few suggestions to extend the life of your gold plating.

Ten Ways to Extend the Life of Your Gold Plated Jewelry

1. Wash your hands before putting on or taking off plated jewelry.
2. Put on gold plated earrings after you’ve applied your perfume.
3. Put on your plated jewelry after you have applied lotion or put on makeup.
4. Take off your plated rings or bracelets before chopping tomatoes for dinner.
5. You also might want to remove your plated jewelry before changing junior’s diaper.
6. Avoid rubbing plated bracelets and necklaces against each other. Try to prevent plated rings from banging into counter tops and rubbing against car keys buried in pockets and purses.
7. Don’t swim in your plated jewelry. See below.
8. Don’t wear your plated jewelry when you’ll be sweating profusely. Covered later.
9. Clean your plated jewelry gently, and don’t rub it. Covered later.
10. Store your gold plated jewelry in a pouch or soft cloth separate from other jewelry

Seriously, Salt Water can Hurt Your Plating

I’ve been asked why salt water would effect gold plating. Plating is an electrical process, and salt water is a good conductor of electricity. Getting technical here, molecules of salt are made of sodium ions and chlorine ions. When you combine salt with water molecules, the water molecules pull the sodium and chlorine ions apart so they are floating freely. Those ions are electricity carriers through water. What electricity in the plating process deposits, water and salt in the ocean can to a lessor degree un-deposit. If you swim regularly in the ocean it will speed the breakdown of your plating.

Rose gold plating is particularly vulnerable to salt water. This is because salt is corrosive to copper and there is a lot of copper in rose gold plating.

Why Swimming Pools and Jacuzzi’s Can Damage Gold Plated Jewelry

The chlorine and other chemicals added to swimming pools and hot tubs can also produce adverse effects on plated jewelry. The chlorine in Jacuzzi’s and pools, will attack various metals. This will hurt your plating. It can cause a dull look or an uneven look to the gold.

Perspiration and Your Personal PH level

Last but not least, one’s own body chemistry can be harsh on plating. Just like fruit, some people are more acidic than others. Depending on one’s diet, it’s not uncommon for chemicals perspired through the pores of the skin to cause plated jewelry to tarnish and discolor.

Some people sweat more than others. If Jill works out for two hours every day and Joyce is a CPA riding a desk, Jill should remove her plated rings before going to the gym and Joyce,  can stylishly rock her gold plated bracelets and necklaces while crunching numbers.

Cleaning and Caring For Your Plated Jewelry

Toothpaste to clean jewelry

Some Home Jewelry Cleaning Tools

Plated jewelry should be cleaned periodically. Even if you’re sure your ring hasn’t been exposed to any of the aforementioned substances, it’s been in contact with your skin—which does perspire.

Wash plated jewelry with warm water. Use a mild soap only if necessary. Getting junk out of nooks and crannies with an old, soft toothbrush is Okay. If you need to use toothpaste use a gentle one with no whitening agents or abrasives in it.

Be gentle and don’t rub too hard. I’ve seen examples of gold plated jewelry where vigorous rubbing with a polishing cloth took off some of the gold plating, revealing the darker less appealing metal underneath.

In some cases WD-40 is a good cleaner for gold plated jewelry. It’s tougher on dirt and sticky substances than gentler dish soap, yet in the short time it is in contact with your plated jewelry, won’t hurt it.

Other jewelry can damage or scratch your plated jewelry. Store your plated pieces separately to extend their life. 

How Much Does it Cost to Gold Plate Your Jewelry?

Gold plating costs for rings range from $35.00 to $75.00. Part of the cost is the prepping of the surface of your ring. If your plating jeweler does not properly and time consumingly prepare the surface of your ring the plating may not adhere evenly. And truth be told sometimes even with great prep work plating is imperfect.

Gold plating chains can be more fraught with imperfection due to the many hard to clean and prep surfaces. Chain plating often starts at $75.00. Earrings can be plated with gemstones left in. The gold will not adhere to your gems as they are not metal. Earring gold plating will start at $35.00 and go up from there.

Not All Jewelry Can be Plated 

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.

Re-plating, Like Reincarnation for Your Jewelry!

Gold plated pin before and after gold plating

Gold Plating Tarnished and Worn Away Then Re-gold-Plated and Re-Oxidized

Don’t despair if the thin layer of gold on your ring eventually wears off in spots. It can be fixed! Not all jewelers handle jewelry plating, call around or search the internet for a gold plating jeweler.

If you live in the back of beyond you can mail your jewelry to be re-plated. I re-plate pieces every week.

Give your dowdy gold jewelry new life. The fountain of youth is in the hands of your gold-plating jeweler!

Calla Gold
Gold Plating 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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9 years ago

I like seeing this kind of flat out useful information. There’s nothing wrong with getting gold plated jewelry, but doing some of the no-no’s will sure make them obsolete fast. Yet following your simple advices will for sure lengthen their life of beauty.

Kha-ai Nguyen
9 years ago


Thanks so much for your advice on how to take care of gold plated jewelry! Question: do all of these tips apply to other types of metal as well?

Kha-ai @ The Goddard Company

Rebecca P.
9 years ago

I found this information very useful! I’m guilty of forgetting to take my jewelry off before hitting the gym or jumping in a pool. I’ll definitely try using a tooth brush to clean some of my delicate pieces. Thanks for the advice!

Jennifer Kiernan
Jennifer Kiernan
8 years ago

Hi Calla,

What in your professional opinion would be a reasonable amount of wear to expect from a plated piece. E.g For a jewellery maker to offer a window for customers to return something that has faded? E.g for a hand-crafted plated bracelet that was sold at retail price for €20 (€10 wholesale).

Thanks Jenny

8 years ago

Is it only me that likes the look of tarnished gold-plated jewelry or tarnished silver-plated jewelry and serving pieces? It looks antiqued and I love it.

8 years ago

Hi what base metal do you think will hold up better after being gold plated. Brass,stainless steel or silver? Thanks

8 years ago

I use lipstick to clean my jewelry and then rinse with soap and water. Nice shine.

8 years ago

I just purchased a gold plated bar nacklace. I was so excited to get it, until I opened the package. The bar with the names is beautiful, but the chain is somewhat discolored already. The shop I bought it from has 5 stars for the reviews, & I researched before I made the purchase. I go above & beyond to make sure all of my work that goes out is 5 stars plus. But, I would not have sent out a chain like this one, so I went online to research the gold plating. I needed to find out a… Read more »

8 years ago

Is it possible to replate the end caps on a European style bead? The middle is resin with sentimental meaning.

8 years ago

Great article, helpful & well written & enjoyable. I don’t like to be picky, but it should read ‘affect’ not ‘effect’. Sorry, but it’s one of my bugbears.