Are you looking to add a few new shiny pieces to your jewelry collection without spending so much? Have you considered gold plated brass jewelry?
Gold plated brass is a great compromise. It looks as beautiful as solid gold but is way more affordable. Almost no one can really tell the difference by just looking, so your little secret will be safe – at least for some time.
Gold plated brass is a popular option for many looking to put together that classy, elegant, high-end look of gold but for a lower price tag. If this sounds like you, you probably have a lot of questions regarding your new found treasure.
Being well aware that the base metal of this kind of jewelry is brass, your main concern is the longevity of the jewelry. You are probably also interested in finding out whether the pieces will tarnish or turn the skin green and give you away.
Does gold plated brass tarnish? Yes, gold plated brass will tarnish with time and will need replating with gold to restore its original appearance. You can preserve the plating longer by storing and caring for it properly, keeping it clean, and choosing better quality pieces in the first place.
This post is dedicated to answering all questions surrounding gold plated brass, but especially whether it will tarnish. To truly know what to expect with this type of jewelry, you must first understand the process, which we’ll go over too. Let’s quickly start by looking at why and how gold plating is done.
What is Gold-Plated Brass?
What is gold plated brass jewelry? Gold plated brass jewelry is any piece of ornament made from brass with an outer layer or coating made of real gold. It looks like solid gold, but is really just brass wearing a pretty coat, making it much cheaper.
Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. It has some value but not as high as those of gold or silver. It is normally valued for its antique appearance, and you will certainly see some nice enough jewelry pieces made of brass, but it is not really a popular metal of choice for high fashion.
Brass contains copper and therefore, tends to tarnish and even turn the skin green. After oxidizing, it forms a green patina thereby, repelling many jewelry lovers.
That notwithstanding, the cost of solid gold is over the roof and not affordable to the average woman or man. Brass and gold practically sit at opposite ends of the price scale.
So, how do you shine without breaking your wallet? Well, one great solution is turning to gold plated brass jewelry, which seems like the perfect solution for the dilemma. Plating brass in gold raises its aesthetic appeal while still retaining it at an affordable price range.
How Gold-Plated Brass is Made
To gold-plate brass jewelry, the piece is first cleaned. To maximize fusion with the gold, the brass needs to be stripped of oils and dirt. Thereafter, it is negatively charged by being suspended on a cathode bar.
The brass piece is then dipped into a molten gold solution where another electric charge is applied to the bath. The positive gold ions get attracted to the negatively charged brass piece and coat it with the precious metal.
The gold layer is of varying thickness, depending on how long the brass stays in the tank. This process of gold plating brass is also known as electroplating.
Note that the gold plating process does not make the brass a gold filling. Gold filling is different from gold plating.
Gold Plating Vs Gold Filling
In gold filling, two metals, one being gold, are fused by being pressurized into one alloy. The resulting metal has a high gold content. It takes all the properties of gold and does not tarnish or fade.
In gold plating, the piece of jewelry remains brass, although it is a brass that has been covered in a thin layer of gold. Still, the gold constitutes less than 1% of the total metal content and fades with time.
Do jewelry lovers mind? Not at all. At least most of them don’t. Gold plated brass remains quite popular among the public.
It is still hard to tell the difference between gold plated brass and actual gold just by looking with the naked eye – except from a price point, perhaps. Luckily, no one walks around with the price tag of their jewelry.
And now, to the big questions.
Will Gold Plated Brass Tarnish?
Unfortunately yes. Gold plated brass will eventually tarnish and will need replating.
What happens is that the layer of gold, which is normally very thin and soft, gets contaminated with brass molecules. The brass underneath slowly leeches into the gold partly due to the gold’s ultra thinness. The copper component in brass oxidizes and causes it to tarnish, so the gold plating will follow suit due to the presence of brass molecules that begin to leech into it.
Also, when the top gold coat chips, flakes, scratches, and encounters consistent friction with the skin and other material, it will gradually deteriorate. Exposing the brass underneath results in accelerated tarnish.
Tarnishing is, however, a gradual process and will not take place immediately. If the brass is mixed with other metals to strengthen its corrosion resistance abilities prior to being plated in gold, the plating will last nearly an eternity.
How Do You Keep Gold Plated Brass Jewelry From Tarnishing?
The most common hack used by jewelers to keep gold plated brass jewelry from tarnishing is to deter brass leeching into the gold.
1. Coat the brass in nickel first.
By first coating the brass in nickel which forms a protective anti-corrosion barrier before finally plating the pieces in gold. The nickel undercoat bars brass molecules from migrating and reaching the gold.
With a lot of recent uproar on the safety issues with nickel, some jewelers are opting for white bronze or palladium instead.
2. Take proper care of gold-plated brass jewelry.
Proper use, care, and storage of your jewelry help keep it from tarnishing, too, to a large extent. For example, not overexposing your jewelry to water, oils, and make-up is a good practice.
As a rule of thumb, your gold plated brass jewelry should be the last thing you wear. We recommend putting it on last after your moisturizer is fully absorbed, spritzing your hair, spraying some perfume, and doing your make-up.
When doing cleaning chores like laundry or preparing food, It is best to remove any gold plated brass jewelry on the hands.
Storing the jewelry clean and dry in an airtight space, like a zip-locked bag, also helps a great deal. Locking air out lowers the chances of oxidation taking place.
Also, keeping every jewelry piece in its individual compartment in a jewelry box prevents the brushing of surfaces against one another and potential scratching.
3. Add a protective coating.
Some DIY-ers swear by applying a thin coat of clear nail polish. Others spray a clear coat over the gold top.
We haven’t tested either of these ourselves, but you could give it a try on less precious items. Be aware that whatever you add may very well alter the texture and appearance of your piece, however.
4. Re-plate it.
If you are a hoarder for gold plated brass jewelry, you could invest in an at-home re-plating kit and just not worry when it begins to tarnish. That way, you can give your favorite pieces a fresh coat of gold as soon as they start to tarnish, rocking them for longer.
Does Gold Plated Brass Turn Skin Green?
Eventually, yes, gold-plated brass will turn your skin green.
Initially, gold plated brass will not turn the skin green. Not while it is still brand new. The golden top covering the brass acts as a protective barrier. Gold is inert. It doesn’t react with oxygen to form an oxide. Also, unlike brass, gold has no copper molecules as constituents of the metal. So it cannot form a patina.
However, when the brass eats into the gold and the copper in it begins tarnishing, it will form the dreaded patina. As the gold plate fades, more and more brass gets full exposure to the skin and oxygen.
It is the copper component in brass that oxidizes to form a greenish-bluish oxide that stains the skin.
The natural oxidation takes place and forms the patina that leaves a green tint on the skin. The tint is usually harmless, just annoying, and perhaps giving away what your supposed “gold” jewelry actually is can be a bummer too.
How Long Does Gold Plated Brass Last?
All factors held constant, gold plated brass jewelry can serve you for at least one year before eventually beginning to fade.
How long your gold plated brass lasts depends on various factors: the thickness and purity of the plating (as well as the general craftsmanship), how well you maintain your jewelry, and also the type of jewelry (as this affects how well you can maintain it).
Thickness and Purity of the Plating
If you can get your hands on 18-20 karat gold plated brass, it is just a step down from gold filling and can last up to three years. So, you’ll have ample time to flaunt your statement jewelry before anything begins to happen.
The thinness of the gold coating could be anything between 0.5 and 2.5 microns. The thinnest layer will obviously fade faster than the thickest layer.
You should, however, beware of gold washed brass being passed as gold plated brass. A gold washed brass has a gold coating thinner than 0.1 microns and will barely last a second or third use.
Maintenance, Wear and Tear
How often you wear your gold plated brass jewelry also affects its longevity. We know the urge to show off your best collection is always great, but sometimes it may be best to reserve these for special events.
Each time you don your ornate pieces, you expose them to opportunities to encounter friction, chemical compounds, moisture and scuffs. Regularly worn pieces will wear out rapidly than those that see the outdoors occasionally.
Likewise, earrings or a brooch will likely last longer than a ring or a bracelet. Hand jewelry is always rubbing against the skin and other surfaces.
In a nutshell, we suggest treating your gold plated brass jewelry with care like you would anything delicate and valuable. Doing so keeps it looking lustrous for longer.
Can You Shower With Gold Plated Brass?
No, you should not shower with gold plated brass. And the same goes for swimming.
As mentioned earlier, proper care of your gold plated brass jewelry will enhance its useful life – or at least the shiny bit of its life. Showering with your jewelry is akin to sending it to the old junk box to collect dust. It will fade much faster than it should.
Water is the known arch-enemy of metals. The negative effects worsen if it is fluoridated, chlorinated, saline, or contains other harsh compounds that corrode metal faster. There’s also the soaps and shower gels to think about.
It is best to remove your gold plated brass jewelry before hitting the shower and only put it back on after you’ve fully dried your body. That said, avoid placing it near the sink, shower caddy, or anywhere around the bathroom where it is likely wet.
If you’re cleaning where the jewelry is likely to be immersed in water or receive a few splashes, it is best to keep it tucked away. Even tasks or a workout that involves profuse sweating is not good for gold plated brass jewelry. Take off that bracelet or necklace before you hit the gym.
How Do You Clean Gold Plated Brass Jewelry?
Cleaning is the one time you can expose your gold-plated brass to a little water.
Cleaning gold plated brass jewelry is of utmost importance. During wear, it collects so much powder, oil, sweat, hair spray, perfumes, dust – to mention but a few. These very elements undermine its durability when left on the surface.
To clean gold plated brass jewelry, you’ll need some pure, warm water (with no chloride, flouride, or anything else) a mild detergent like dish soap, and a soft cloth. You can also use a non-ammoniated jewelry cleaning solution if you already have one in place of dish soap. This is my favorite jewelry cleaner.
Clean gold-plated brass jewelry like so:
- Mix the water and soap to make a solution, then dip the gold plated brass jewelry inside.
- Swirl it around a bit, remove, and rinse.
- Pat dry with the soft cloth.
- Allow to air dry completely before storage.
If not heavily soiled, you can easily wipe down the jewelry with cotton balls instead at the end of the day. These are especially useful for maneuvering into small crevices.
Do not attempt to rub the jewelry, or use a brush, steel wool, scotch pads, or other abrasive cleaning methods. These will only tear into the gold layer and ruin the jewelry.
Is Gold Plated Brass Hypoallergenic?
If you are allergic to brass, then gold plated jewelry will be a relief to wear. The gold coating is hypoallergenic and good for sensitive skin.
However, this joy may be short-lived because of the brass underneath. Once its molecules migrate to the top layer, and the gold begins to break down, you’ll be in direct contact with non-hypoallergenic brass. The skin will start reacting and being itchy and rashy.
If you can keep your jewelry replated with gold, then gold-plated brass may be a great option. But if you cannot, it may be best to invest in a different material.
Is Gold Plated Brass Jewelry Good or Bad?
Like any metal jewelry, gold plated brass has its advantages and drawbacks. So, it is up to you to decide whether it works for you or not.
Here is a summary of the pros and cons of gold plated brass jewelry to help you decide if it’s the cost-effective luxury you’ve been waiting for.
Pros of gold plated brass jewelry:
- Beautiful real gold exterior
- Trendy for dynamic fashion
Cons of gold plated brass jewelry:
- Tarnishes and eventually stains skin
- The gold coating fades
- Very little resale value, if any
To sum up, gold plated brass jewelry is brass coated in real gold. It is not solid gold; neither is it a gold filling. It comes third in the hierarchy after gold and gold filling but is superior to a gold wash.
Gold plated brass is no doubt beautiful and elegant thanks to the actual gold layer. The icing on the top is that it is pocket-friendly and no one can tell that it’s not solid gold. Being cheap, one can easily keep up with changing fashion trends without breaking the bank. Therefore, it is good for anyone looking to keep up the glamorous appearance minus the hefty price tag.
However, the rosy features do diminish with time. Once the gold begins tarnishing from the presence of copper in the brass and fading slowly, the jewelry loses its appeal. It even turns the skin green, as expected of brass jewelry.
The deterioration rate squarely depends on the quality of the gold plating as well as the user’s handling and maintenance of the jewelry. So it may be worth your while to wear gold plated brass if you know it is well made and that you can take good care of it.
With all the facts laid down, it’s now up to you to decide whether to go with it or not.