Here at Liv Jewelry Inc, I primarily use 14k gold filled and 925 sterling silver materials, unless otherwise specified. I dabbled with gold plated when I first started my small business, but quickly realized that wasn't the primary material I wanted to use. Both gold plated and gold filled consist of real gold coating over a base metal (ie. brass or copper). Gold plated is a thin layer of gold, whereas gold filled mechanically bonds gold to the base metal and consists of 100x more gold than gold plated. Sterling silver is a metal alloy combining pure silver with either copper or zinc.
Realistically, gold plated in my experience lasts 6-12 months max depending on how I take care of it. Gold filled on the other hand should last a good 5-10 years. It's a touch more expensive than gold plated, but well worth the money! That is...if you take care of it. If you don't take care of your gold filled jewelry, it'll tarnish. I get asked if my jewelry tarnishes and the answer is...unless it's stainless steel, platinum, or solid gold, all jewelry will tarnish at some point!
There are many things you can do to keep your gold filled and sterling silver jewelry looking brand new for a very long time. Here are tips from personal experience and what I have seen happen:
1) Hot Tubs/Chlorine
This will 100% ruin your gold filled and sterling silver jewelry. I've even seen gold filled and sterling silver jewelry tarnish after only wearing it once in a chlorinated pool. I also don't recommend wearing gold filled or sterling silver to the beach...sand is an exfoliant and can eventually scratch off the layer of gold and silver. Salt water can also be problematic since the base of gold filled is usually copper or brass and that'll penetrate and corrode it. I suggest taking off your jewelry before diving in!
Going back to salt (in section 1), salt from water or sweat can definitely affect the longevity of your gold filled and sterling silver jewelry. I suggest trying to remember to take off your jewelry before working out.
Wearing gold filled in the shower should be fine if you're gentle with it. I personally wear my simple gold filled pieces in the shower. I make sure I'm not placing soap on it and I pat it dry when I get out. For sterling silver it can tarnish more quickly if you wear it in the shower. You may wear it and use a gentle soap, but be warned it may affect your jewelry.
*Do NOT wear in shower: anything gold plated, wire wrapped, beaded, pearl, vintage, or any upcycled jewelry pieces. Water seeps into the bead/pearl hole and gets stuck. Due to that it'll discolor the beads/pearls/wire and will stain and may eventually break. Some of the materials I use are 100 years old and are delicate*
Sunscreen is the absolute worst thing for your gold filled and sterling silver jewelry, right after diving in a chlorinated pool. It'll corrode and tarnish your jewelry fast! I suggest applying sunscreen and then putting on your jewelry. Hair products/lotions/perfumes can also have an affect. I suggest avoiding applying products on the areas where you wear your jewelry.
Some people's body chemistry/hormones just don't react well with gold filled jewelry and their own skin has a chemical reaction with the jewelry that has it tarnishing quicker than others. This applies to less than 10% of people.
6) Storing your jewelry
Many people hang their jewelry out in the open, which looks pretty, but will eventually tarnish your gold filled and sterling silver jewelry. The open air oxidizes your jewelry! Therefore, it's best to place your pieces back in the 100% organic cotton pouches you are given when you purchase a piece from Liv Jewelry. Jewelry boxes and/or closed drawers are also recommended (Amazon or The Container Store are my top places to buy). Always place jewelry in a cool, dry place.
7) Cleaning your jewelry
I would say once a week I like to clean my jewelry using a dry microfiber cloth. If you want to clean your jewelry more thoroughly, you can also soak your jewelry in a bowl of water with gentle soap (like Dawn) for 10 minutes. Remove the jewelry from the bowl of water/soap and gently rinse the soap off then pat the jewelry dry. Don't do this too often. For anything that is brass or sterling silver, polish using Peek Cream Polish it's amazing!
I hope the above helps! If you have any other questions or concerns, feel free to email me at email@example.com.