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Gold plating pearl jewelry

is it possible to gold plate a piece of jewelry that contains pearls?
for some reason I have the idea that the pearls cannot withstand the
heat of the plating process - but I’m not sure. I’m trying to
determine if I can make a particular piece in vermeil or if I must
use gold.


is it possible to gold plate a piece of jewelry that contains
pearls? for some reason I have the idea that the pearls cannot
withstand the heat of the plating process 

Neither the electroclean, nor the plating bath, needs to be boiling.
In fact, buth should be substantially cooler. Hot, yes. Perhaps hot
enough so if it were bath water, you’d be scalded. Without checking,
I seem to recall recommended temps of about 170 F. In any case,
pearls themselves have no trouble with even boiling water, so the
temperature won’t be the issue at all. What IS the issue is
chemistry. Pearls are chemically fragile, as carbonates. some
things, like acids, are absolute no-no’s. If you put a pearl in the
pickle, for example, it will quickly dissolve. Not good. Both
Electroclean and cyanide plating baths are highly alkaline. Neither
one rapidaly attacks a pearl. But in addition to the calcium
carbonate, pearls also have a protein binder, much like the material
of your fingernails. The strong alkalis cam somewhat attack this
material. Not rapidly, nor a whole lot, but enough so if you leave a
pearl soaking in such materials for a long time, you might see a
noticable difference in surface luster, and perhaps eventually, some
crazing of the surface. But this varies with the pearls, and might
take quite some time. If you’re plating operation is efficient,
meaning you don’t leave things in the baths longer than needed, then
I doubt you see any damage. If there were, no some pearls, some
slight effect on the surface, you can actually lightly buff the
pearls to restore it.

Another concern has to do with how the pearls are attached. If you
glue them with epoxy especially, or some super glues, the strong
alkalis can attack the glues as well. So check the glue joints to be
sure the pearls are still secure after plating.

But there’s a much easier, and very obvious alternative solution to
the whole problem. simply don’t attach the pearls until after the
plating is done. You should not usually need to be doing such
aggressive metal work in attaching the pearls to need to damage the
plating. If pearls are simply glued in, well, glue them in after
plating. Simple. If they are mechanically held with prongs. given the
fragility of pearls and the softness of silver, you should be able
to preshape the prongs completely, polish them, and plate them before
setting the pearls, then push them over with something soft, like
wood or plastic, after plating.

The only example that jumps to mind where this isn’t so easily done
is in the case of things like little half pearls, set with raised
beads, such as is often found in victorian and other antique jewelry.
In such a case, if you still wish to physically set the seed pearls
instead of gluing them (setting them looks a lot better and is a lot
more secure) partially raise the beads before plating, but not so far
you can’t still slip the pearls in and under the partially raised
beads. If you’re then careful to only push the beads further enough
to secure the pearls, and if the gold plating was reasonably heavy,
you should be able to retain the gold plating even with this bit of
working. just don’t buff it afterwards. Instead, use a polished
graver and/or beading tool, so it’s burnished bright already. Even if
the beads need enough additional forming that you expose some silver,
the overall area of that exposed silver will be so small as to not
materially affect the appearance of the finished piece.

Peter Rowe

I would never put pearls in any kind of plating bath. It will take
the luster off or destroy the pearls. Plate the objects before adding
the pearls.

The Jewelry CAD Institute

Contact D. Simon Plating for an answer.
Mr. Kang, Chem. Engineer