What Does 18k Gold-Plated Mean? [All You Need To Know!]

If you're looking to acquire some new jewelry to boost your fashion game, you might be familiar with the term "gold plated." And if you're like most people, you might not know what this actually means, especially when referenced with a type of gold, such as 18k gold. So, what exactly is 18k gold-plated jewelry? We did the work to bring you the answer.

Gold-plated jewelry is jewelry that has a thin exterior layer of gold. In other words, gold-plated jewelry is not made of solid gold. In regard to purity, 18k gold is comprised of 75% gold. Gold-plated jewelry generally lasts about two years, but its lifespan can be shorter or longer depending on the maintenance it receives and the conditions to which it is subjected. 

If you have more questions about 18k gold-plated jewelry, don't worry. In this guide, we'll discuss the topic in greater detail. We'll also talk about the general quality of 18k gold-plated jewelry, how you can maximize its lifespan, and more. Just keep reading!

A table of scrap gold being inspected, What Does 18k Gold-Plated Mean? [All You Need To Know!]

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All About 18k Gold-Plated Jewelry

Woman wearing many bracelets and rings

Here we'll provide a comprehensive overview of 18k gold-plated jewelry.

Gold Purity

Though some jewelry is said to be made of "gold," there are usually other alloys mixed in, such as zinc, copper, silver, or nickel. These alloys give a piece of gold jewelry more strength and durability. This combination of metals, in turn, reduces the gold's purity.

The purity of gold is measured in karats. The higher the karat, the purer the gold. In other words, 20 karat gold contains a higher concentration of gold than 14 karat gold. To further exemplify what we're discussing, gold pieces of a lower karat contain more of the aforementioned alloys.

Here is a list of karat measurements and their corresponding gold concentration:

Karat Amount of Gold
6 25%
8 33.3%
9 37.5%
10 41.7%
12 50%
14 58.3%
15 62.5%
18 75%
20 83.3%
21 87.5%
22 91.6%
24 99.9%


It's also worth noting that, as karat increases, the gold becomes softer. Gold is a soft metal, so naturally, a piece of jewelry composed of a higher concentration of gold will be softer than a piece that has a higher concentration of alloys mixed in.

To put it simply, 24 karat gold is much softer than 14 karat gold. So, there is somewhat of a tradeoff when it comes to gold purity. A higher concentration of gold is certainly more luxurious, but these pieces will be softer than their counterparts of a lower karat.

However, this has little (if any) effect on gold-plated jewelry. Since these pieces only have a very thin layer of gold, the softness of the gold generally isn't much of a factor.

Gold Plating

As mentioned, gold-plated jewelry is jewelry that has merely been coated with gold. The metal underneath this thin gold plating is usually brass or copper.


As mentioned, gold plating generally lasts about two years. However, the lifespan of gold-plated jewelry can vary depending on how frequently it is worn and the conditions it is subjected to.

If a gold-plated piece of jewelry is only worn on occasion and isn't subjected to harsh environments, its gold plating can certainly last for more than two years. On the other hand, if a piece is worn frequently (more on that shortly) and is subjected to harsh conditions, the plating might wear off much sooner.

Can You Shower With 18k Gold-Plated Jewelry?

It's generally not advisable to shower with 18k gold-plated jewelry (or any gold-plated jewelry).

Accidentally showering with a gold-plated piece on occasion likely won't do much harm, but showering with it regularly will cause it to lose its brilliant gold luster and become dull.

What's more, if it's exposed to shampoo, soap, and other shower products on a regular basis, the gold plating could be worn down completely over time.

Is 18k Gold-Plated Good?

To get a better idea of the value of 18-karat gold-plated jewelry, we'll outline its advantages and disadvantages below.

Advantages Of Gold-Plated Jewelry

The biggest advantage of gold-plated jewelry is the lower cost. Gold-plated jewelry has the same classic luster as real gold but at a fraction of the cost. Solid gold jewelry can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, whereas a similar piece with gold plating can cost just a few dollars.

In terms of appearance, it's virtually impossible to tell the difference between a piece of solid gold jewelry and one with gold plating. So, from a practical standpoint, gold-plated jewelry is just about as good as a piece made of solid gold.

Thus, gold-plated jewelry is a great option for those looking for a nice-looking piece of jewelry at an affordable price.

This simple cuff bracelet is a great example of an alternative to solid gold.

Click here to see this bracelet on Amazon.

Disadvantage Of Gold-Plated Jewelry

The primary disadvantage of gold-plated jewelry is that, well, it isn't pure gold. However, this is only a drawback for those that actually care about the material composition of a piece of jewelry.

There are certainly those who take pride in the composition of their jewelry, and for those people, gold plating might feel cheap. But the fact of the matter is that most people wear jewelry merely as a stylish accessory, so this aspect is generally a moot point.

Another disadvantage of gold-plated jewelry is that it's prone to tarnishing. We'll talk more about this later, but suffice it to say that gold-plated jewelry can quickly lose its luster if it doesn't receive the proper care.

Can You Wear 18k Gold-Plated Jewelry Every Day?

It's not recommended to wear 18k gold-plated jewelry every day in order to prolong its lifespan. Things like heat, humidity, and sweat will cause a gold-plated piece to tarnish more quickly.

If you do choose to wear gold-plated jewelry on a regular basis, it's a good idea to clean and polish it frequently. Invest in a good cleaning kit to stay on top of this practice.

A simple cleaning and polishing kit like this one will help prolong the lifespan of your gold-plated jewelry.

Click here to see this cleaning and polishing set on Amazon.

In Closing

We hope this guide taught you all that you need to know about 18k gold-plated jewelry. 18k gold-plated jewelry is a great value for those looking for gold jewelry at an affordable price. Before you go, be sure to take a look at these other guides that might be of interest:

How To Clean Gold Jewelry With Vinegar

How Many Grams Of Gold In A Ring? [Typical Weights For Wedding Bands]

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