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After the gold layers wears off, the underlying sterling silver base may tarnish. Gold itself does not tarnish.
The layer of gold is highly inert. It does not easily enter into chemical reactions.
However, with everyday wear and tear, slowly the outer layer diminishes. And, the sterling core sees daylight. From this point ahead, tarnish may occur. This is also valid for gold vermeil pieces.
Vermeil is a well-defined version of gold application over sterling silver. It starts with a sterling silver base, which is coated or plated on all significant surfaces, with at least 10 karat gold or higher. The thickness of this gold layer has to be at least 2.5 microns.
Gold, Sterling Silver and Tarnish
Gold is a malleable precious metal.
Its purity is measured in karat.
100% pure gold is 24 karat or 24k gold.
1 karat represents 1 in 24 parts in weight of the piece.
A 10 karat piece is 41.7% rich in gold.
18k gold necklace has 75% gold content in its mix.
In its 100% pure state, this yellow metal is too soft to become jewelry.
This is why we mix it with stronger base metals to increase durability.
By this way, we can make solid gold jewelry and gold plated items.
Gold plated sterling silver is an example of the latter.
They have a thin layer made of real gold over a sterling silver core.
Just like yellow gold, 100% silver is too soft for jewelry in its pure state. So, we use silver alloys, like sterling silver, which are more durable.
Sterling or 925 silver is 92.5% rich in silver. The remaining 7.5% part comes from cheaper base metals, which is often copper.
Sterling silver is one of the most popular types of jewelry for a reason. It’s durable, beautiful and easy to work with. It has an exquisite shine that catches the eye.
But, it does tarnish.
Tarnish is the result of oxidation and the loss of surface finish. The black spots that appear with time over sterling silver pieces are marks of oxidation.
Silver tarnishes in three ways. It oxidizes with oxygen, reacts with water and humidity or reacts with sulfur-containing compounds.
Our main concern is the last one. In this case, the metal gets covered by a layer of silver sulfide. It then reacts with other elements in the air to form black, crusty spots.
Exposure to light, heat, body oils and acid accelerates these formations.
The good news is tarnish is self-limiting, and we can get rid of it!
Tarnish only occurs on the surface of sterling silver pieces. It does not continue to the inner layers. Thus, it does not deteriorate your precious jewelry. Once it is formed, it prevents further tarnish at that point.
Secondly, there are many ways to clean tarnished silver pieces. You have commercial solutions such as silver dips or silver wipes and also solutions using household items.
These are cheap methods you can practice using already available ingredients in your kitchen, like baking soda!
Sterling silver jewelry and silverware that has not been cleaned regularly will tarnish over time, but if you keep it clean, it will last longer.
Does gold plated sterling silver rust?
Gold and sterling silver do not rust, or corrode.
Rust is a natural process that occurs when iron reacts with oxygen in the environment. Oxidation leads to rust, which can be a sign of corrosion. Rusting can happen quickly or slowly, depending on the humidity and temperature in the area.
Properly caring for metal can help prevent rust from forming, but it’s always important to monitor your environment and take appropriate action if rust does occur.
Gold plated sterling silver does not have iron in its composition. Thus, there is no risk of rust.
How long does gold plated jewelry last?
Gold plated jewelry lasts anywhere from 1-5 years depending on the thickness of the gold layer and external factors.
Jewelry made with thicker gold layers will last longer.
This period will be increased for pieces that are worn less often as they will be subject to less clashes and physical impacts from harder items.
How do you clean gold plated silver jewelry that has turned black?
The black color you observe is tarnish. It can only occur after the gold plating wears off. It may also leave green marks on your skin.
You can clean the tarnish yourself, but you also need to restore the gold layer.
Make sure the plating remains intact. If it gets rubbed off, ask for a re-plating session at your jeweler.
Is gold plated silver worth anything?
The gold plating is not very thick.
Don’t mistake it for solid gold jewelry like 14k gold rings or 18k gold chains. These are solid gold items made of totally gold alloys with 58.3% and 75% gold purity, respectively.
The story is different with gold plated pieces. Many times, it won’t be worth the hassle to extract and recycle gold from the thin outer layer.
While it is a perfectly doable option, the cost will take away profits.
When we look at the inner silver core, we see a similar picture. For the sake of simplicity, we can say that the gold/silver ratio is around 70. While this number is subject to fluctuate, everyday, it means that 1 oz of gold can buy 70 oz of silver.
Thus, silver is very affordable when compared to gold. So, when we add up extraction costs, recycling silver won’t have much resale value in dollars.
Gold filled jewelry often has more resale value as it has a much thicker gold part.
Is gold plated sterling silver jewelry hypoallergenic?
People with metal allergies may experience skin irritation when wearing gold plated sterling silver jewelry.
Gold and silver are hypoallergenic metals which are considered safe for people with sensitive skin.
But there are other metals in the mix. The most common one is copper. While a small percentage of the population has copper allergy, the more significant risk comes with another metal.
This metal is nickel. It is the main culprit for metal allergies.
Even if it does not directly get into the mix, it may enter indirectly via copper or another ingredient.
Its percentage will be very low, maybe even at trace amounts, but it may trigger hypersensitivity.
Nickel allergy may cause skin irritation and other symptoms such as redness, swelling, hives, or eczema.
These undesired effects do not occur immediately.
Only after a period of contact and a threshold of absorption is passed, we observe these signs of allergy.
Some people also experience allergic reactions to nickel, when they come in contact with other materials that contain these metals, such as watches or coins.
While it is possible to wear gold plated sterling silver jewelry without any problems, it is important to be aware of allergy potential and take precautions. If you have a sensitivity to any of the metals used in this type of jewelry, make sure that the gold layer has not faded. If you observe it going away, get it re-plated without delay.
How to clean gold plated sterling silver jewelry?
When it comes to keeping your jewelry looking its best, a good cleaning is always a must. Here are some tips on how to clean gold plated sterling silver jewelry:
- Prepare a bowl of warm water, with a few drops of soft soap.
- Dip a microfiber cloth into the bowl of soapy water and gently remove oil, dirt and grime from the item. Avoid any acids and harsh chemicals.
- Dry the piece off with a soft cloth.
- If necessary, repeat the first two steps for any areas that are hard to reach.
- Place the piece back on its hanger or jewelry box for storage.
Using ziplock bags or soft pouches will prevent clashing inside your jewelry drawer or box. These simple solutions will help you use your jewelry for a longer time.
Gold plated sterling silver is a good option for jewelry.
It is made from a 925 silver base covered over with a real gold layer.
Gold does not tarnish but sterling silver does.
However, this is only possible after the plating fades away.
After this occurs, the silver core will enter into chemical reaction with oxygen, humidity and sulfur compounds, resulting in tarnish.
Thankfully, we can get rid of tarnish and take measures to prevent it from happening as much as possible.
With proper care and using quality products, you can postpone its starting.