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Can sterling be plated?

I was browsing a little boutique and looked at a jewelry display. The clerk showed me earrings and told me that they were sterling plated. Hmmm. Is that even possible?? I hope that someone can answer the question. I thought that alloys could not be plated, but what do I know.
Judy in Kansas who is sure there is an Orchidian who has the answer!!

I’m a little confused by your question, First off, a lot of commercial sterling jewelry is plated, usually with Nickel, and then occasionally Rhodium on top of the Nickel. This is to prevent tarnishing and can be a total pain for jewelers to repair or modify. Sterling silver can be plated over brass as seen in things like trays and whatnot called for example “Sheffield Plate” Although this is not plated electrically, but is actually rolled and bonded to brass.

Hi Judy,
I’m not much of a jeweler yet but I took a degree in chemistry years ago and electrochemistry is a part of that. I don’t think it is possible to plate more than one metal ion at a time, as they each require a different potential to go from a charged ion to the metallic state on whatever metal object is placed in the solution. First of all, the solution you use would be pure silver as best you can manage it and second of all, even if you had some copper ions in solution with the silver, the silver would go first (I think), as the voltage (potential) required to plate it is less than that for the copper. There isn’t any benefit, when plating, to having a sterling silver layer, anyway, even if you could accomplish it, because sterling is used to allow hardening, which doesn’t take place with pure silver without specific, more difficult conditions…also, fine silver is not hardened as much. More than you wanted to know…

Hi Judy,

I personally haven’t plated anything in sterling, but am familiar with a
lot of smaller studios that plate sterling silver over bronze or brass. I’m
more familiar with brands (including my own) that plate rhodium over brass
instead of silver plate to hold off tarnishing as long as possible.


The sterling snake chains that Rio Grande sell are plated with fine silver they claim.

In England there are abbreviations on this topic!
“E.P.N.S” Which means the following!
“Electro-Plated, Nickle Silver”. Not sure if it’s still used. I once had an aunt who always bought things only it was EPNS, we all laughed about her wishes!

I’m Gerry, On my iPhone!

I am also confused by the question. “Can sterling be plated?” Yes, absolutely Sterling can be plated and it’s very common, but whether or not a metal or metal alloy can be plates WITH sterling silver is a different question, the answer to which I’m not sure. There was a discussion years ago about the claim that jewellery alloys could be plated with karat golds (ie alloys as opposed to pure gold), but I can’t remember the consensus on that either. Interested to see a definitive answer to this.


It’s not sterling plated it is silver plated. The ignorant clerk doesn’t know the difference between sterling silver and silver.

My question should have been “Can something be plated with sterling, the alloy?” I knew what I meant, but failed to make my meaning clear. Apologies to all, and thanks for the kind efforts to interpret the question and provide an answer.

Other than a response from Jim Binnion to the contrary, it seems that the physics of metal plating would make the answer “No.”.

Judy in Kansas

I think that what you were seeing was base metal jewelry that has been plated with sterling silver. A lot of crafters use this. They sell chains and findings and wire at Hobby Lobby that are base metal that has been plated.

Hi Judy,
I too knew what you meant!.
Theres some confusion here over this question of yours.
I can confirm that the “sterling” alloy of silver can be plated. Along with brass etc. theres a Co in B/ham UK that does just that.
Also the term “Sheffield” plate refers to the traditional making of primarily hollow ware where 2 sheets of silver were bonded to a center sheet of copper. this was before Elkington developed the electroplating of silver. back in the 1800’s.
Dont carry the exact date in my head.
wikipedia will give all the details on this.
Then the Sheffield cutlers developed a white alloy of brass called amongst other names nickel silver. that then became the std EPNS. this when dropped stamped into cutlery work hardens very well. Have lots of small tea and salt and mustard spoon dies here.
Whenever we change our king or queen, theres always a run of copies of the annointing spoon. Have that here as well.

Hello Sara Lugo Golden!
I am curious, I looked at your jewelry I am an
wondering, what is “gongonjulla”?

Hi Richard,

Gongonjulla is a semi-precious stone I get from a vendor of mine in India.
I’m not sure if it has other names or what it’s composition is, but I love
its coloring!


Sara, thanks!
Never heard of it before.


I say “no”. It’s plated with silver (.999 - in looking at plating companies, I see 98% - 99% being used as the plating), but not sterling silver (which is .925 - an alloy of silver and copper).

If the item wasn’t stamped .925 or sterling, it’s plated … and that’s a base metal plated with silver.
That’s the way I understand it.

I have encountered many pieces stamped .925 that are base metal below. Anyone else?

Esta Jo

A stamp, whether 925, or 750, 585 or whatever, means the entire piece should asset as that quality, and does not refer to a layer of precious metal over base metal.

Having said that, laws of many sorts are broken regularly

mostly from China I believe. And I have encountered some jewelry stamped
925 that is the strangest colour I have ever seen - very grey.