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Chain is plated or not?


#1

When I solder jump rings onto my sterling silver chain, my chain
gets dull and “yucky” (to be technical!) I can’t seem to get it to
shine again no matter how much buffing or polishing.

How can I tell if the chain is plated or not? And if it is, other
than plating it again, is there any way to regain the original
luster? Or where can I get chain that is NOT plated so as not to
have this problem?

Thanks in advance for your advice, you are all much appreciated for
your input and knowledge!

lisa


#2
When I solder jump rings onto my sterling silver chain, my chain
gets dull and "yucky" (to be technical!) I can't seem to get it to
shine again no matter how much buffing or polishing. 

Sounds typical of rhodium plated silver.

How can I tell if the chain is plated or not? 

The color is different. Carefully compare the color of your chain to
a piece of properly polished clean sterling silver. Rhodium plated
silver, while white, is a significantly darker tone than sterling.
Another quick test is a drop of silver oxidizing solution (liver of
sulphur, or a commercial oxidizer). The plated silver won’t react.

And if it is, other than plating it again, is there any way to
regain the original luster? 

Not really. Chains, especially, are a problem, since you can’t just
buff off the plating. Tumbling in steel shot, or a magnetic finisher
can help a little, but it’s not a total fix, since the damaged
plating is not really repaired, or the damaged layer really removed.
And if you DO buff off the damaged plating, then that area has a
different color. Even replating the damaged area, if you buff off the
damage, is tricky, since silver cannot just be dipped in the rhodium
plating bath (it contaminates the rhodium, a costly mistake). It
first has to be copper plated, then nickle plated, before the
rhodium. All in all, a PIA.

Or where can I get chain that is NOT plated so as not to have this
problem? 

Just ask your supplier. Many offer, especially in bulk chains,
unplated sterling. But you have to ask if they do, and which styles
are offered. Cargo Hold is one supplier I’ve used in the past. I
think they’re still around (?). Or, I think Rio has some chain
available unplated. Other suppliers will too. Just takes some careful
shopping.

If you DO have to put findings on rhodium plated chain, you can
often limit damage to a very small area, by taking steps to heat sink
the chain very close to the joint. Or us a method like linking the
jump ring through the chain, so only the link needs to be soldered
shut, rather than soldering to the chain itself. Obviously, not all
chain styles work with that, but if it’s an option, you then can
avoid heating the plated parts at all.

And of course, methods like PUK welders or laser welders will also
minimize the damage to the plating by keeping heat confined to the
weld area only. If you don’t have such, and need it, you may be able
to find a local jeweler or workshop who does, and would do that work
for you.

Peter Rowe


#3
The color is different. Carefully compare the color of your chain
to a piece of properly polished clean sterling silver. Rhodium
plated silver, while white, is a significantly darker tone than
sterling. Another quick test is a drop of silver oxidizing solution
(liver of sulphur, or a commercial oxidizer). The plated silver
won't react. 

You’ve reminded me of a minor mystery. I have had a pre-notched ring
in the miscellaneous box for probably 15 or 20 years. I’ve always
been curious because it has never tarnished at all. I just checked
the color, and it’s identical to a sterling silver ring (after
polishing). The metal may be somewhat brittle, because a prong broke
off while setting a stone (vague memory, maybe not accurate.) It’s
stamped “STERL” with another stamp which might be “WA”, but it’s hard
to tell. I had though it might be rhodium plated, but it’s not darker
in color. Any ideas?

Al Balmer
Sun City, AZ


#4
You've reminded me of a minor mystery. I have had a pre-notched
ring in the miscellaneous box for probably 15 or 20 years. I've
always been curious because it has never tarnished at all. I just
checked the color, and it's identical to a sterling silver ring
(after polishing). The metal may be somewhat brittle, because a
prong broke off while setting a stone (vague memory, maybe not
accurate.) It's stamped "STERL" with another stamp which might be
"WA", but it's hard to tell. I had though it might be rhodium
plated, but it's not darker in color. Any ideas? 

if it’s cast, it might have been cast in a fire scale free sterling.
These have been around that long, and some are slower to tarnish as
well. Also, a casting that is only tumbled in steel shot will have
lost surface copper during casting and pickling, and the tumbling
won’t have cut back down to the copper bearing layer, so your surface
may be fine silver still, which also tarnishes slower. And finally,
The manufacturer may have coated it with laquer, or a tarnish
preventative coating. There are a couple types that would protect an
item for quite a while if it’s not exposed to any actual wear and
tear.

Or maybe your storage environment is for some other reason tarnish
protected. Happen to have some of that 3M anti tarnish black paper
sitting in the box too? :slight_smile:

Peter


#5
if it's cast, it might have been cast in a fire scale free
sterling. 

Definitely cast. I didn’t realize the fire scale free material had
been around that long.

These have been around that long, and some are slower to tarnish
as well. Also, a casting that is only tumbled in steel shot will
have lost surface copper during casting and pickling, and the
tumbling won't have cut back down to the copper bearing layer, so
your surface may be fine silver still, which also tarnishes
slower. 

Would there be a color difference? I don’t have any fine silver to
compare to. I take that back - I could compare with some silver
plated items. I presume the plating is pure silver.

And finally, The manufacturer may have coated it with laquer, or a
tarnish preventative coating. There are a couple types that would
protect an item for quite a while if it's not exposed to any actual
wear and tear. 

Probably a good polishing would get through any coating. I’ll try
that.

Or maybe your storage environment is for some other reason tarnish
protected. Happen to have some of that 3M anti tarnish black paper
sitting in the box too? :-) 

Afraid not. It’s usually been next to other sterling that did
tarnish.

Al Balmer
Sun City, AZ