Difference Between 18K Gold and 18K Gold Plated Jewelry


If you are reading this article, you’re a bit confused about what the title is all about. You may be asking what 18k Gold jewelry is? What is 18k gold plated jewelry? Why is there a difference? What does the “K” even mean? Well, fear not, for your questions are not without answers. In this article, we will be handling your inquiries. By the time you get to the end, your puzzles would be gone.

Difference Between 18K Gold and 18K Gold Plated Jewelry

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What Does The “K” in Gold Category Mean?

“K” stands for Karat. As in Karat as a unit of measurement. Karat is used to measure the amount of gold in an alloy. The Karat scale runs from 0 to 24. The lesser the Karat, the lesser the gold concentration in the alloy, and vice versa. Therefore, 10K has a lower concentration of gold than 24K gold that sits at the top of the Karat scale. Gold can be combined with other metals such as nickel, silver, copper, or palladium.

What is 18K Gold Jewelry?

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I bet you’re beginning to guess what 18k gold jewelry is? It is gold jewelry that stands at 18 on the Karat scale. It is made with the gold alloy with 75% pure gold in concentration, leaving 25% for other metals such as copper and zinc. While 24k gold is ideally solid and pure gold, it too soft and bendable that is no good in jewelry making. Most of the gold we see in use are gold alloys like 18K gold. Like 10K gold (containing 41.6% pure gold) , 12K gold (contains 50% pure gold) and 14K gold(58.3% pure gold)

What is 18K Gold Plated Jewelry

18K gold plated Jewelry is a piece of jewelry that consists of a thin layer of 18k gold coated around a base metal chemically or more popularly by electrochemical plating. The base metal could be titanium, nickel, or steel.

18K plated gold jewelry is popular among people for being cheaper than gold. In the current jewelry market, demand for it is growing as it is more accessible than gold.
18k plated gold jewelry would, however, require extreme care to preserve the coat and may need replacing from time to time.

What is the Difference Between an 18K gold and 18K gold Plated?

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18K gold jewelry and 18K gold plated jewelry are different. This must be clear to you if you have read this. The question is, how do you spot which is which? In truth, you can’t find different 18K gold jewelry from 18K gold-plated jewelry just by sight. Here are some telltale signs to look out for to differentiate them.


Usually, 18K gold plated jewelry is stamped with initials to give its metallic make-up. You may find GP stamped in jewelry. This means gold-plated. A stamp of GEP means gold electroplated. A stamp of RGP would mean rolled gold plate. A HE stamp stands for the heavy gold electrolyte. While a lack of stamp may mean that it is legit 18K gold jewelry, it is best to confirm with a trusted jeweler as not all gold plated jewelry is stamped.

Which one is more costly?

Price is the major Difference between 18K gold jewelry and 18K gold-plated jewelry. Generally, 18K gold jewelry is more costly than 18K gold plated. A gold chain necklace weighing 25grams may range from $1500 to $2000 in price, as a gram of 18K gold ranges from $60 to $100. An 18K gold plated chain jewelry at the same 25grams would cost around $10 to $50 in price. It is therefore cheaper.

Durability: Which lasts longer?

On the matter of durability, 18K gold jewelry is more durable than 18K gold plated jewelry. While 18K gold jewelry remains in optimum conditions for years, 18K gold plated jewelry loses its plating within months without proper care. Scratching a piece of 18K gold plated metal may easily reveal the base metal below.

Which Weighs More?

Pure gold is heavy. It is heavy that it heads straight for the bottom of a glass cup of water. 18K gold jewelry contains 75% of gold and is generally heavier than 18k plated jewelry.

Which is Magnetic?

Gold is generally a non-magnetic metal what means that 18K gold jewelry, which is 75% pure gold, is not likely to react to a magnet. However, 18K gold plated jewelry may react to a magnet as the base metal could be magnetic. For instance, steel, which is a base metal, is magnetic.

Nitric Acid Test

Another way to detect if a piece of jewelry is 18K gold jewelry or 18K gold plated jewelry is the nitric acid test. Generally, gold doesn’t react to Nitric acid. Therefore, a drop of nitric acid on 18K gold jewelry would do no harm. However, with an 18K gold plated jewelry, it would cause discoloration in reaction to the base metal, which could be copper.

Which Tarnishes Faster?

Pure gold doesn’t tarnish. However, since there is hardly any pure gold used in jewelry making, all gold alloys are susceptible to tarnishing. However, the chance or rate of tarnishing reduces with the content of gold. Therefore, while 18K gold jewelry hardly parishes or shows such signs, 18K gold plated jewelry is very prone to tarnishing as the base metal, which is not gold, can spread corrosive influence to the gold resulting in tarnishing.

Which is Can Cause Allergies?

Pure gold is hypoallergenic. This means that it is unlikely to cause a reaction to sensitive skin. 18K gold jewelry is hypoallergenic. However, 18k gold plated jewelry may lead to metal allergies, especially if the base metal is composed of nickel.

Which is Better?

Whether it is 18K gold jewelry or 18K gold plated jewelry depends on what you want and your budget. If you want 18K gold jewelry and you can get it, then go for it. If you can’t, there is nothing wrong with settling for 18K gold plated jewelry. The difference between the two can’t be detected on sight anyway.

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