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Gold plated vs. gold-tone finish

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While shopping for gold silverware I came across one that was gold-plated and another one that had a gold-tone finish. Would someone be able to tell me the difference between the two and which one would be the better buy.

Thanks,

Nancy Hamilton
homeowner - New Port Richey, Florida, USA


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I think this is just a truth-in-advertising issue, Nancy. If a seller claims that something is gold plated, it must have a coating of genuine gold on it, albeit probably only 20 millionths of an inch thick. Gold-tone just means that it is the same general color as gold with no real gold being involved. That doesn't necessarily mean it's inferior in terms of function.

I'd go for the gold plated, but if it's not from a reputable manufacturer, you have no way of estimating its life.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey

October 31, 2011

I have a great looking Chinese fake wrist watch finished in a very convincing red gold. It is certainly harder than gold and takes a polish -- what is the finish?
In general I am interested in learning about various passivation, plating and dyes used for decoration and protection of metal surfaces. A good reference book may be enough to get me started. My area has many metal finishing shops to support the electronics industry.

Thanks,

Guy

Guy Williams
watchmaker - LOS ALTOS, California

October , 2011

Hi, Guy.

It is very difficult to guess what a finish is just from its color. If you are sure it takes a polish, then it is unlikely to be anodized titanium because that is very thin and would wear through from little polishing. Similarly, it is unlikely to be an electrocoating or a tinted lacquer because those are organic coatings that wouldn't seem to polish well. That probably leaves PVD coatings like titanium nitride (looks like gold) and zirconium nitride (looks like brass) with some subtle contaminant added to give it a pinkish coloration.

PVD coatings are pretty common on watch cases. The equipment is expensive but if you can coat hundreds an hour it can pay for itself quickly; unfortunately, the process is not well suited to onesy-twosy with the capital cost of the equipment, and the cycle time to evacuate the chamber, etc.

The Metal Finishing Guidebook is inexpensive and has pretty broad coverage of most finishing issues. Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey


July 29, 2013

Q. Hi,

Can you please tell me, what are the finishes on modern "gold tone" costume jewelry pieces and what are the best (most long lasting) finishes available on costume jewelry today?

Thanks

Jeannine Harden
- North Babylon, New York, United States


July 31, 2013

A. Hi Jeannine. We have dozens of threads on that subject because it can't be easily dispatched . . . To some people "costume jewelry" means sterling silver jewelry with a minimum of 40 microinches of real gold plating, preceded by PVD hardcoating and/or followed by high quality clearcoating, such that at least a couple of years of life can be expected. To others it means no precious metal at all, and anything they can get away with to fool the consumer -- quality not much better than a Cracker Jax prize.

The second trouble spot is that what is practical and economical depends greatly on volume. PVD applied titanium nitride hardcoatings do not use gold or other precious metal, so they are quite cheap, but the PVD machines cost a million dollars and up. Very practical for companies selling school rings, but out of the question for small custom jewelry designers. The best clearcoating is probably electrophoretic lacquer, but again the required e-coating installation will be prohibitive for the small player.

The longest lasting finish would be a PVD application of titanium nitride, followed by 40 microinches of gold plating, followed by electrophetic lacquer clearcoating. Much less expensive if the volume supports it would be simply the electrophoretic lacquer with a gold-tone tint. More practical for a custom jeweller would be gold plating followed by a UV curable clearcoat because a very small gold plating operation and UV-curable clearcoat operation could probably be gotten for one to two thousand dollars. Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey

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