What is plating?
First thing first, what does plating even mean? It is a surface covering in which a metal is deposited on a conductive surface. Plating has been done for hundreds of years, it is used to decorate objects, for corrosion inhibition, to improve solderability, to harden, to improve wearability, to reduce friction, to improve paint adhesion, to improve reflectivity, for radiation shielding, etc.
Plating on jewelry is a thin layer of the materials described (e.g. 14k or 18k Gold) that covers another type of base materials which can be 925 sterling silver, brass, stainless steel, etc..This makes a wide variety of jewelry design possible. Jewelry typically uses plating to give a silver or gold finish.
Understanding Platings: Gold Plating, Rose Gold Plating, Platinum and Silver Platings
Different kinds of platings are widely applied onto jewelries. They are so popular in street fashion as well as the high fashion world. Among all, Gold, Rose Gold, Platinum and Silver Platings are the common ones.
The looks and colors of different platings
Let’s take a look on the meaning of each plating:
Common types include 10k, 14k, 18k, 22k & 24k gold platings. 24k itself means pure solid gold, which is valuable but not so widely used in different kinds of jewelry designs given its softness. 10k to 24k, refers to the amount of real gold contained in the materials, the higher number refers to a higher amount of solid gold in the jewelry.
Rose Gold Plating
Rose gold is a gold-copper alloy widely used for specialized jewelry. Rose gold plated jewelry means that the jewelry is covered with a layer of rose gold. So, what’s rose gold? Rose gold, also known as pink gold and red gold, was popular in Russia at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and was also known as Russian gold.
Although the names of red, rose and pink gold are often used interchangeably, the difference among them is the copper content: the higher the copper content, the stronger the red coloration. Pink gold uses the least copper, followed by rose gold, with red gold having the highest copper content.
Pure platinum is a tin white metal, it is harder than silver. It does not tarnish in air or dissolve in acid. In nature it is generally found as part of the Platinum Group Metals: Platinum, Palladium, Rhodium, Ruthenium, Iridium, and Osmium.
In some cases, platinum is used to plate gold and silver jewelry. Both platinum and rhodium are noble metals that resist corrosion.
Platinum plating does not tarnish or oxidize and it is hypoallergenic – very few people ever experience an allergic reaction.
Silver plating refers to applying a layer of silver onto the surface of another metal, especially by electroplating. Silver is a mixture of pure silver and a small amount of copper or other metal. It holds up well under normal use. 925 Sterling silver is made with 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% another alloy like copper; silver plate is made with 0.15 to 0.25 mils of sterling silver over a base metal, often brass.
Silver plating can enhance the aesthetic appeal of the jewelry. The plating can also prevent the base materials e.g. copper from rusting.
How about the base materials? What are the materials under the plating?
Most plated jewelry has one or more of the following base metals:
- Sterling Silver. This popular metal alloy is a mixture of 92.5% of silver and 7.5% copper. Silver holds up well under normal use and it is hypoallergenic, suitable for daily wear.
- Stainless Steel. Stainless steel has a strong, modern, industrial look, which is increasingly popular with jewelry lovers. It’s naturally resistant to staining and corrosion. However, stainless steel usually contains nickel which is a common cause of skin allergy.
- Brass. Made of a mixture of copper and zinc, brass has been popular since ancient times. Brass oxidizes into a brownish color, which can show through once the gold-plating wears off.
- Nickel. This white metal is often used but tends to cause allergic reactions in some people. Hence, for those who have allergic skin, it is better to avoid wearing jewelry that contains nickel.
- Titanium. This silvery-white metal is three times stronger than gold, and it has the added benefit of being 100% hypoallergenic, making titanium safe for those with sensitive skin.
Though the plating can be worn off over time, with proper care, their color, shininess and the beauty can last for years. To learn more, please read “Practical Jewelry Guide: How to Take Care of Plated Jewelry?”.