What Is Plating?
Generally, plating is the process through which a piece of jewelry made from a certain metal or alloy is covered with a layer of another metal. For example, a copper or silver ring with a layer of gold on top would be sold as gold plated.
Perhaps you have heard of white gold, which is an alloy of yellow gold and a white metal (for example, palladium). However, you may find it interesting to learn that since this alloy usually looks yellowish, it is often plated with rhodium to give it a pure white color. In such a case, you should be aware that after some use, the rhodium layer will wear away, exposing the yellow-tinted material underneath.
Why Buy Plated Jewelry?
Pieces plated with a certain metal are usually cheaper than the ones made entirely from it.
For example, gold plated jewelry will cost less than an analogous piece made mostly from gold. So, if money is an important consideration, you might want to go with plated jewelry.
Downsides of Plated Jewelry
As you might expect, picking the cheaper option also has its disadvantages.
For starters, the plating that covers your jewelry will inevitably wear away. The thicker the outer layer, the more time it will take before it wears away and the lower layer becomes visible. At that point, you can take the piece to your jeweler to get it re-plated. The problem with replating is that it costs money and some metals, such as gold or rhodium, are very expensive.
You should also keep in mind that the more moving parts a jewelry piece has, the harder it is to plate it again. Be wary of buying such items plated.
If you are comfortable with the thought that the plating will wear away at some point, you should also know that it’s hard to predict when this will happen. How long the plating will stay intact will depend on its thickness, how frequently you wear the piece as well as its design.
When to Buy Plated Jewelry
Plated jewelry has its shortcomings, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy it; you should simply be aware of its limitations when making a purchase decision.
It is best to buy plated pieces of jewelry if you don’t intend to wear them every day. If, for example, you need a gold ring that you will wear only occasionally, you might as well go with gold plated. However, if you are sure that you will wear it all the time, it may be a good idea to pick something more solid because in this case, a plated piece would wear away very quickly.
Before buying plated jewelry, make sure that you are informed of all metals it contains, especially when it comes to the layer under the plating. If you are allergic to nickel and the lower layer is made of an alloy that contains the metal, as soon as the plating wears away, your skin will be exposed to the allergen. Choose carefully, and be sure to ask how the piece is made and what its contents are.