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Dossier | What Does Gold Plating Mean?

October 23 2020

Gold jewelry is classic - a timeless metal. Gold is also very expensive - many options are available providing the beautiful, rich gold color with a more affordable price tag. As a consumer, it can be hard to navigate gold jewelry options and to know what you are actually getting. Many times information can be misleading or incorrect. It is important to me to be transparent and do my best to explain "what is gold plating" and our gold plating process.

So what does gold plating mean? When I chose plating as our affordable gold option one factor drove my decision-making process : I want to create a product that you can wear and love for years to come and I can be proud of having my name on. Our plating is a mix of a few of the types of plating to make sure it
will withstand everyday wear and last a long time. Before I explain what we do, I’ll need to explain about the process of plating and types of plating - Bear with me here.

 the process

The correct term for the process is “Electroplating.” Electroplating is a method of transferring a metal coating onto an object - in our case a piece of jewelry. The piece of jewelry is submerged in a solution containing the metal to be transferred and with the use of electricity, the metal that is dissolved in the solution will bond to the surface of the piece of jewelry. The piece of jewelry can be made of any material - brass, copper, steel, silver, even gold - but after the electroplating process will look like the metal that bonds to its surface.

Depending on the length of time the piece is submerged in the electrified solution will determine the color and thickness of the metal bonding to the piece of jewelry. The piece of jewelry can also be taken out and go through the process again, either with another metal solution or using the same solution creating a thicker layer of metal coating the surface.

electroplating diagram:        

 types of plating

Flash plating is the process of electroplating just long enough to cover the job with a uniform color. This is most common and has given plating a bad name. You may have purchased a piece of “gold” jewelry that with a few wears the gold wore off, it was flash plated.

Heavy gold plating has been submerged for longer in the plating solution, sometimes multiple times leaving a layer of 2.5 microns thick. This option is much more durable and has longevity.

Gold Vermeil is more regulated and is specifically sterling silver that has been heavy gold plated on top, usually in 18k gold fineness.

White Gold Plating or Rhodium Plating is used to brighten solid white gold jewelry. Gold, as you know, is a yellow metal. When it is alloyed (mixed) with other white metals it turns white in color - but still has a yellow tint. Jewelers will use rhodium (a durable, bright white metal) to electroplate over the gold to give a purer finish. Rhodium also is a harder metal than gold and will add strength to the surface - almost like armor.

Barrier Plating is a process of using a stronger metal like nickel or rhodium to create a “base coat” before the final metal is plated onto the piece of jewelry. This assists in preventing tarnish and adding durability to the finished product.

Metal Diagram

Are you still there? I know it's a lot but we're going to pull it all together! I promise! 

When I was building out the plating process for Christina Kober Designs, I wanted it to be something that not everyone was doing - I wanted the longevity of the ultra heavy layer of gold plating to finish the process - because it was important to provide affordability but also a quality product that I was happy to wear myself and have my name on. While the gold plated pieces of Christina Kober jewelry is more of an investment than other brands, I want it to be something you will wear for years to come.



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