Gold plating is a process that uses electricity or chemicals to deposit and bond an extremely thin layer of gold onto another metal. Most often, the base metal is silver or copper. This will give a piece of jewelry the look of gold even though it is primarily made up of another, more affordable metal. This is why most gold-plated items are significantly less expensive than pure gold or gold alloy items.
While gold’s ability to resist tarnishing is still present, copper and silver, unfortunately, do break down with age. The effects of this process can slowly work through the thin gold plating, causing the piece to change in appearance over time. Higher-quality gold plating processes use many different layers of metal to prolong the life of the piece and keep the gold layer intact and shining for as long as possible.