With proper care, the plating on say rose gold or yellow gold jewelry will last for quite some time, around 1-2 years. After that, you may notice some discoloration due to the plating flaking off from wear and tear to expose the silver core. This is normal. Rest assured you can always take your faded piece to a jeweler to get re-plated. However, if you start to notice discoloration after only a month or so of wearing your jewelry, there could be a surprising cause to this problem. But first let’s talk briefly about what plated jewelry is.
Plated jewelry is a more affordable option instead of solid 14k gold. There are two different types of plated jewelry: plated and vermeil. Typical plated jewelry has a thinner layer of gold coating than vermeil jewelry. To learn more about the differences between metals, check out our blog article, Plated, Vermeil, and Solid Gold Jewelry 101.
So why is it that my plated jewelry is starting to turn silver already? There is a cause which may surprise some of you because it has been ingrained into our new normal. Due to COVID-19, there has been a wave of hand washing and when that is not possible, an overwhelming use of hand sanitizer. Yes, you might have guessed it by now. Washing your hands with soap and water is technically safe for rings, but using hand sanitizer, especially alcohol free ones can be harmful to plated jewelry and speed up the process of discoloration. If the hand sanitizer is alcohol free, according to JHYoung’s blog article, it contains “chlorine based compounds” to kill off germs instead. Also although hand washing is safe, excessive hand washing or in general rubbing the rings, will lead to flaking as well.
So what can I do to prevent this? The safest option would be to leave your plated jewelry behind and opt for solid 14k gold pieces instead when you go out. But that is not an option if you really want to wear a specific plated jewelry piece. We would recommend instead to try and use alcohol based hand sanitizer, wear plastic gloves, or temporarily remove your plated jewelry and wait for your hands to dry before putting it back on after washing or using hand sanitizer.