After 40+ years of making jewellery (and avoiding electroplating) I have an order for a bunch of silver pins that require a gold border and script.
I am not a fan of electroplated pieces at all but this is a requirement.
The piece is a bit complicated in that the centre must remain silver and there is an enamel inlay with gold plated lettering and border. (dimensions are 1 inch x 3/4 inch of cast sterling)
Couple questions to you who may be willing to make a suggestion.
1 Would a pen plating setup create a decent thickness of gold for a pin like this?
2 For a full bath setup (I have been researching) do you have any recommendations ?
Thanks in advance for any guidance.
I would look into someplace like Red Sky in Albuquerque. I’m sure they can give you a quote for masking and plating. A professional plating job will keep your customers happy and save you money and headaches!
Thank you … Appreciate your suggestion … I am actually looking into a local company to get a quote. I am in Canada and the border/customs is nightmarish now. Even ordering from Stuller has become dreadful. Packages hit customs in Montreal…sit often for a month, then without even looking at the invoice that I have paid taxes, access maximum and when I finally get the package have to pay through the nose … Thank you very much for your reply! I realize that plating is not something most of us go to. Personally I love the look of natural metal , not covering it up and hiding it. (But jobs are very scarce these days so one does what one must) cheers… TerryV
If you decide to try it yourself, it’s my understanding that gold plating over silver,
without first plating it with a nickel plating, will allow the silver to oxidize fairly rapidly. The gold plating is too porous to prevent the oxidation. Plating first with the nickel seals the silver and puts a hard layer on, so it won’t oxidize when you use the gold plating. I found this out many years ago when I was putting together a sample line of CZ and silver rings that I needed to be gold color. I end up having to nickel plate them all before using gold plating.
I just looked at them, and they look ok, all things considered, for being close to 30 years old. As Jo Haemer mentioned in another thread, “Electro plating is only molecules thick and will wear away.”
On the areas that will remain silver, you’d have to mask them, to protect them form being plated. For this, I used a bright red finger nail polish.
I’ve only used a pen plating set on rare occasions, and it might work for the lettering. Not sure what effect the oxidation would be without the nickel under the gold.
My experience was a long time ago and there might be newer, better ways to accomplish what you are trying to achieve. But, what ever approach you try, it probably will be labor intensive, so take that into account when you estimate your costs, just saying.
Some of you work over the years
Do your best to avoid setting up to plate yourself. There must be a Canaadain plater, no?
The comment, elsewhere on this thread re: gold/sterling oxidation is the headache that will haunt your years to come. A quality and experienced plater should be able to lessen the potential for this occurrence with a less steep learning curve for you.
Keep in mind that castings have micro porosity that can become quite evident post plating. So inspect carefully prior to plating. Planish, as needed. Nickel application does not fill these micro pores as much as build around them, emphasizing the imperfection.
Yes on the outsourcing of plating … I currently have some feelers out … And boy do I ever appreciate everyone’s replies!!! So helpful as making jewellery has more ups and downs that the coastal mountain ranges! One never can learn all the techniques in a single lifetime!
Great point on the microporosity in castings … Holy smokes, I have fought with that for decades!
Thanks again for these tips and ideas
Have a lovely day … TerryV
agree with everyone on this… unless you are going to do a lot of it on a commercial scale, electroplating equipment, regents, and learning the techniques are too costly and time consuming to make it worthwhile… good luck on finding someone locally who can do it for you professionally.
Yes indeed … There is likely a reason I have avoided using this process in any of my work since beginning in the late 1970’s.
I have never been a fan of the commercial trickery stuff … or bringing cyanide into my studio.
I can certainly see now that my quest is to job this stage out to someone who knows the techniques and is willing to take it on.
Now I am waiting for some vintage dies (I haven’t seen them yet) that I believe are steel to make pins in a hydraulic press. Another road I have not travelled … Years ago I would have been excited to take out a loan to buy new equipment but in today’s shaky marketplace //// Maybe not!
Thanks again to everyone
Terry what is the name of your shop? West Coast BC?..might have an idea. I can dm you.
No, pen plating isn’t thick enough. Silver requires a “strike coat” of either Nickle or Palladium before the gold. Palladium is preferred due to Nickle allergies. Also a sufficient coat of Palladium prevents copper migration to the surface where you get tarnishing. We do 2 minutes in the Palladium to achieve this.
Setting up plating is not terribly difficult. Check with your supplier to see if they have jewelers who can answer your questions and help you. For example both Rio Grande and Stuller have this available. I found that very helpful when I started with plating.
Equipment has to include a rectifier which converts the AC from the outlet to the DC that plating requires. Small scale can be done in glass beakers or glass dishes. You can get an all in one set-up with multiple tanks and rectifier included. The budget can vary broadly. You might find plating machines in the thousands of dollars or buy the things needed for significantly less. I set up 2 lines that run production and the equipment can be minimal. We opted for NOT using plating machines because it’s easier to swap out equipment on an open line. Here’s your sequence:
Electro Cleaner (degreaser)>Rinse>Acid Dip (neutralizer)>Rinse>Palladium>Rinse>Gold>Final Rinse and steam or dry
All water MUST be distilled or deionized. You need at least one Rinse tank between baths (two is even better). Electro Cleaner, Palladium and Gold all need heat. There are non-cyanide based Gold solutions available. You would need anodes, which are the pieces of metal connecting the current to the liquid. Electro Cleaner uses stainless steel (some people use a stainless steel container so that becomes the anode, Palladium uses platinized titanium, most Gold can use either.
It is possible to be very safe and environmentally friendly in plating. I’ve set up several small production plating lines at our company and this is a must for a business. Best if you have an area that is dedicated to plating, it’s easier to keep from contaminating other things and easier set-up.
And after all that, it may be that sending your plating out is more economical and easier for you. There does have to be testing per your situation. Plating is easy once things are set up. I can train someone in an hour and they can run the plating line as long as someone can answer their questions, etc… If you REALLY want to learn plating, that is a steeper learning curve. There are very few resources (books) geared toward the contemporary small shop. Specific information is more easily acquired from other jewelers or suppliers.
Thanks for such a thorough explanation!!
Sorry to be so long to reply here. Thank you for this brilliant explanation on this (mysterious) process.(to me anyway)
So far it looks like I am going to avoid doing any plating on the aforementioned project (I talked the club out of any plating, so will just be doing bronze, silver and gold pins as ordered)
I could not find anyone in canada to do the work and I just don’t have the space or further interest to set up a system in my shop. (or the $$$)
I have however found this discussion very interesting and enlightening. Thank you to you, ruthannie & everyone who chimed in! Very appreciated!!!
All the very best from way up North
PS … I did find a company in Alberta who would do a flash gold plating for me @ $40.00 / pin but told me it was very thin so a clear coat over top would be reccommended …