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It is indeed real gold. Gold plating involves electroplating an item with a very thin layer of gold, typically less than 1 micron thick (1 micron = 0.001mm or 0.04 thou). As the plating is so thin only a very small amount of gold is used so the cost is not prohibitive.
If you don't believe it is gold plated then I suggest you contact Gibson and ask them but I can assure you that the answer will be that it is. The Gibson website lists the pickup covers as being "Gold-plated Nickel Silver". It would be illegal to claim this if they were not!
As I said previously, due to the fact that gold plating is very thin (typically less than 1 micron) the cost of the material used is not overly significant. It costs only slightly more to electroplate something with gold than it would to electroplate it with chrome or nickel.