Does Gold Plated Sterling Silver Tarnish?

Does Gold Plated Sterling Silver Tarnish

Gold plated sterling silver is a jewelry material that affords you the chance to done jewelry that looks like pure gold pieces, but at a fraction of the cost.

So, does gold plated sterling silver tarnish? Yes, Gold plated sterling silver is not tarnished proof, and will eventually succumb to tarnishing, especially if you don’t take care of the jewelry pieces often.

The look of tarnished gold plated sterling silver jewelry isn’t very pleasing, which is one of the reasons why we have written this article. We will explain how gold plated sterling silver tarnishes, and what you can do to combat it.

What is Gold Plated Sterling Silver?

Gold plated silver, just like its name suggests, is sterling silver that is overlaid with a thin layer gold. Silver alone can’t be used to fashion jewelry pieces, as it is too soft. So, sterling silver is an alloy of silver and another metal that is mixed in to give strength and durability to the silver.

Sterling silver on its own is a beautiful jewelry material, and it is also very versatile. It is this versatility that is being explored to make gold plated sterling silver.

Gold plated sterling silver is made by dipping sterling silver into a gold solution and then passing a sufficiently high current of electricity through the solution. The resulting reaction, called electroplating, is what makes a thin layer of gold to stick to the surface of the sterling silver material.

The Federal Trade Commission has different designations for gold plated jewelry pieces, based upon the thickness of the coating of gold. The thickness is measured in Microns.

For jewelry to be considered gold plated, the plating must be at 0.5 microns. Heavy gold plated jewelry are items at 2.5 microns.

You might also have heard people referring to gold plated sterling silver as vermeil. This is quite common, due to the fact that vermeil jewelry has to have a sterling silver base. But the actual truth about vermeil is this; the gold that will be used must be at least 10 carats, and it must be plated to be at least 2.5 microns.

So, vermeil jewelry materials are not actually gold plated, to go by the Federal Trade Commission’s definition. They are heavy gold plated, and the gold plating is made from gold that is at least 10 carats. This distinctive definition is what makes vermeil jewelry look strikingly similar to real gold jewelry.

Why Does Gold Plated Sterling Silver Tarnish?

Golden jewelry normally won’t tarnish, but gold plated sterling silver will. Why?

Gold Plated Sterling Silver Tarnish

The simple reason is that gold plated sterling silver is just a thin layer of gold that is electroplated on the sterling silver material. Now, it is important to note two things here;

  • Gold is a soft metal.
  • The gold layer is thin

These two factors are important as to explaining why gold plated sterling silver tarnishes.

Gold is a soft metal that can’t be used on its own to fashion a piece of jewelry without alloying it to another metal to make it strong enough. The gold layer that is usually electroplated with the sterling silver is a thin one, and it is usually just gold, nothing more.

A combination of gold being too soft and the layer being a thin one is what makes gold plate sterling silver jewelry to tarnish.

Pros and Cons of Using Gold Plated Jewelry


Cost: The lure of wearing gold jewelry is understandably high for people, but the cost is often prohibitive. Gold plated sterling silver bridges this gap, as it allows people to wear golden jewelry pieces, at a fraction of the cost.

Versatility: Gold plated sterling silver is very versatile, as it has a lot of design possibilities. This is something that appeals to a lot of people, as the material can be fashioned into numerous designs that are suitable for almost any occasion.

High Aesthetic Appeal: The process of coating sterling silver leaves it with a very brilliant, appealing golden luster. This look is a huge draw for people who go for gold plated sterling silver jewelry.

High Level of Durability: Sterling silver is a very tough and durable material, one that can be worn a lot, basically. Gold is a softer metal, and the higher the carat of the gold, the softer it is. So, fusing gold and sterling silver together gives you a brilliant jewelry price that is both durable and beautiful.


Here are some of the problems that using gold plated sterling silver can pose;

Tarnishing: This is one of the biggest issues with gold plated sterling silver. Gold, as we’ve mentioned previously, is not a very strong metal. Now, using a thin layer of gold to coat sterling silver means that after a while, due to use, that layer will chip away.

That chipping exposes the sterling silver underneath it, and the molecules of the sterling silver transfer to the thin gold layer and break it down, causing it to tarnish.

Not Water Resistant: Gold plated sterling silver is not water-resistant, mainly because of the thin gold layer of the jewelry.

The Gold Will Chip Off: The layer of gold used on gold plated sterling silver jewelry is usually very thin, and through use, this layer chips off. This is because gold is a soft metal.

Must Read: Is Gold Plated Jewelry Worth Anything

Is Gold Plated Sterling Silver Fake?

This depends on what your definition of fake is. If it’s whether or not the jewelry piece is pure gold, then yes, gold plated sterling silver is fake.

But then again, just because a piece of jewelry is covered by a thin layer of gold doesn’t make it a fake piece of jewelry. Rather, it is just an alternative to wearing a golden piece of jewelry.

How to Keep Gold Plated Sterling Silver Jewelry From Tarnishing

There are two buzz words for this; care and storage.

  1. Care: If you care for your gold plated jewelry properly, then tarnishing will not be a problem you will have to deal with. The following are a number of ways to care properly for your gold aged sterling silver jewelry;
  • Wash your jewelry pieces in a solution of non-antibacterial dishwashing detergent and warm water.
  • Clean your gold plated sterling silver jewelry with a soft cloth and a little elbow grease.
  • Clean your gold plated sterling silver jewelry with a soft microfibre cloth or a cotton ball at the end of each day of use. This is to remove any dust or dirt collected during use.
  1. Storage: It is one thing to care for your gold plated sterling silver jewelry, it is another thing to store it properly. They are both sides of the same coin. This is because caring for your jewelry without proper storage is futile, and storing your jewelry without proper care is useless.

The following are some ways to properly store your gold plated sterling silver jewelry;

  • Store your jewelry pieces in airtight plastic bags to ensure they are dry and won’t get scratched. Ensure you store only one jewelry item per bag, as storing multiple jewelry pieces will cause them to get scratched and chip off.
  • Wrap your jewelry pieces in soft pieces of cloth once you’re done cleaning them. This will keep them safe from scratches.


Gold plated sterling silver jewelry is the perfect cross between durability and aesthetic appeal, and this has seen a rise in the preference of people towards them.

Though they tarnish, knowing how to care and store them is very useful, as it would help keep them in good shape for as long as possible.

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