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Plated silver jewelry


#1

As a repairman I see a lot of different things. Lately I’m seeing
more and more sterling jewelry that’s been plated. The manufacturers
swear it’s rhodium but it acts more like chrome. I think it’s nickel
and it concerns me.

But I also wonder what y’all do with it, specifically how you repair
it. I like repairing sterling but I won’t even take this plated junk
in. What to do?

Noman
http://thefixitshop.org


#2

Norman- I hate that stuff!!!

It’s hard as a rock. It blisters when you solder and then you have to
resurface the whole #%&^* thing. I suspect that it’s nickle plated on
sterling and then rhodium plated. You can’t plate rhodium directly on
silver so it has to be plated with nickel first. Now when I see what
I think is a rhodium plated piece of silver jewelry I just run away
as fast as I can.

Sorry for the lame solution, but sometimes running away really fast
is the best move. I learned a long time ago that in the jewelry
repair biz, “First you save yourself” is a really good motto to work
by.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer
www.timothywgreen.com


#3

I run into the stuff as well, it is a huge PITA to work on! I have
always assumed its rhodium, generally I just tell people it is going
to look different when they pick it up. However, we are considering
not taking heavily plated pieces in anymore, due to the toxins
released into the air when it is heated. I’m all set with dying for
someones $20.00 ring.


#4

I wish I could convince everyone who repairs jewelry to boycott this
crapola.

Like you said, it’s just not worth messing with. And if it is
nickel, it’s best to dissuade the public from wearing it. Maybe one of
the smart folks on here can give up a clue as to how to test this
junk before putting saw and torch to it?


#5

There is a test kit at:

Nickel Allergy Kit - Nickel Solution - Nickel Detection - Nickel
Protection | National Allergy

http://tinyurl.com/yfwz84l

The cost is $20.99 plus shipping. And there are refill kits. I use
this when repairing some of my used jewelry.

I don’t own any part of this company.

Veva


#6

Hello Noman,

Normally, if an object is solid silver it will be indicated on the
piece. Examples aRe: Sterling, 925, 925/1000, 900, Coin, Standard,
9584 (English Britannia), 800 (Germany), 84 (Russia), etc.
Foreign-made objects are sometimes accompanied by additional marks
applied in the country’s assay office which tests the quality of the
precious metal during its manufacture. Rarely will you find a piece
made of solid silver that isn’t stamped. If an object isn’t stamped,
a non-invasive identification method is judging by tarnish color.
Silverplate will exhibit a blue-purple hue, where solid silver will
exhibit grey-black. If I still can’t determine if an object is solid
silver, I’ll perform an acid test.

Jeff Herman
http://www.hermansilver.com


#7

Hi Jeff.

Normally, if an object is solid silver it will be indicated on the
piece. Examples aRe: Sterling, 925, 925/1000, 900, Coin, Standard,
9584 (English Britannia), 800 (Germany), 84 (Russia), etc. 

Yeah. I alloy my silver with copper to .985 and have a stamp.

Foreign-made objects are sometimes accompanied by additional marks
applied in the country's assay office which tests the quality of
the precious metal during its manufacture. Rarely will you find a
piece made of solid silver that isn't stamped. If an object isn't
stamped, a non-invasive identification method is judging by tarnish
color. Silverplate will exhibit a blue-purple hue, where solid
silver will exhibit grey-black. If I still can't determine if an
object is solid silver, I'll perform an acid test. 

And what mark shows that a sterling silver piece is copper plated
then nickel plated? I’m kvetching about the practice by manufacturers
of electroplating their sterling so as to prevent tarnish in the
display case.


#8
Maybe one of the smart folks on here can give up a clue as to how
to test this junk before putting saw and torch to it? 

Short answer…don’t put a torch to it. Longer answer…despite the
false claims you might read in another thread the laser is your
answer, its ideally suited to this type of repair. Does it make sense
to buy a $15K-30K “junk tool” just to fix “junk jewelry”? Of course
not. But 1) its not a junk tool and 2) if your customers ever hear
you refer to their jewelry as “junk” you might develop a bad
reputation. I have lots of clients who own both fine and costume
jewelry(I’ll call plated sterling costume). Its their prerogative.
Sometimes they are more sentimentally attached to the costume. I
like to be known as the ‘go to’ guy for their jewelry needs. All of
their needs. This week it might be a $25 laser repair, next week it
might be a $10K new sale. Same client. You see what I’m getting at?

If you’ve done a bunch of these by now you know they have a certain
’look’. You can practically see it from across the room. No real need
to test, you’d have to dig in with a tool anyway, leaves a mark. My
suggestion is to farm out this type of thing to a laser guy. You
service your client who will return.

I hemmed and hawed for months, years before pulling the trigger for a
laser. This is what tipped the balance…John Donivan suggested that
a client would think, “Let’s go to Neil, he’s well equipped”. Its a
strategic move. No, I don’t enjoy working on problematic pieces. The
laser makes it bearable for me and satisfies my clients’ demands. And
its all about the client. You can get nearly the same benefit by
farming it out.


#9
Sorry for the lame solution, but sometimes running away really
fast is the best move. I learned a long time ago that in the
jewelry repair biz, "First you save yourself" is a really good
motto to work by. 

The stuff can be removed, H2S04 at ~30%, reverse plate with lead
cathode. Silver ends up with a matt surface so re-polishing is
required but you don’t have to deal with the nickle. An expensive
solution, often more than the value of the piece, but it has worked
for me in the past.

jeffD
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#10

Are you including plated silver wire? Because I don’t use sterling
wire. Should I? Thanks!

Suzanna
Wire & Recycled Vintage Jewelry


#11
My suggestion is to farm out this type of thing to a laser guy. You
service your client who will return. 

Makes good sense.

Will the laser work for sizing these high quality and much beloved
heirlooms? And what about sizing them up?


#12
The stuff can be removed, H2S04 at ~30%, reverse plate with lead
cathode. 

I’m unclear on the “~30%” What does this mean?


#13

Noman,

I'm unclear on the "~30%" What does this mean? 

Roughly 2 parts water and 1 part acid (reagent grade). Not a critical
mix. Battery acid straight out of the bottle should also work just
fine (sparex might even work). No rocket science needed, just the
proper handling skills of working with acids.

jeffD
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#14
Will the laser work for sizing these high quality and much beloved
heirlooms? And what about sizing them up? 

Up, down, doesn’t matter. In the case of link bracelet sizings the
weld is usually small and the slight discoloration(from the
underplates, usually on the back) is not a big deal. Just tell people
up front the limitations of their material and the $pecial process
involved in dealing with their material. For a ring I would probably
think about spot plating. You’ll be using fresh sterling for an
upsize and hard silver solder laser wire for the fill so plating is
not going to be a prob. Torch it and the whole thing becomes a
nightmare as you have found out. Would you rather spend twenty
minutes on the job or two hours?


#15

I’d rather job it out to someone who shelled out the big bux for a
laser!


#16
Now when I see what I think is a rhodium plated piece of silver
jewelry I just run away as fast as I can. 

Is there a test for rhodium? I got suckered into repairing a silver
link bracelet for a long-time customer who thought they’d bought it
from me several years ago.

When it arrived in the mail it wasn’t one of mine. But all it needed
were badly bent/broken loops soldered back onto a couple of links so
I thought I’d give it a shot.

You all know the rhodium plate meets fire song, I’m sure. I learned
all the verses and the chorus on that thing. I didn’t have the
chemicals to remove the blackened rhodium so I tumbled it off in
abrasives (for about 3 days) and it finally wore down to the real
silver underneath. What a relief–for a couple days I thought I was
going to have to try to find the customer another one. (and no, the
long tumbling time didn’t hurt the links because the thing was butt
ugly to begin with…losing a little detail may have improved it.)

I don’t do many repairs, but every so often one jumps out and grabs
my ankles like this one did.

I don’t ever want to deal with rhodium again, and some sort of test
for rhodium plating would be really nice if such a thing exists.

Kathy Johnson
Feathered Gems Jewelry
www.featheredgems.com


#17
Is there a test for rhodium? 

Take the time to look at the color. Compare if needed against a
clean highly polished piece of sterling. Rhodium, while very white,
is no where near as white as sterling silver. The two are quite
different colors. But you have to take the moment to look and ask
yourself if it looks like sterling.

If this is still not conclusive for you, put a tiny bit of any
decent silver oxidizer on the surface. If it turns black, it’s not
rhodium plated. If it stays clean, the surface is not sterling. Might
be just lacquered, but the silver is covered. Rhodium doesn’t
oxidize.

You don’t really need to test whether a plated item is rhodium
plated, or plated with something else. Sometimes palladium is used
as a cheaper alternative to rhodium, for example. Either way, it’s
bad news. Stay away from it with your torch unless the customer
understands that the appearance might be quite different when they
get it back, and has given you permission to proceed anyway. And
then you do so only if you’re sure you can at least give them back a
servicable functional piece of jewelry, even though it be one with
cosmetic problems…

Peter Rowe


#18
Is there a test for rhodium? 

Take the time to look at the color. Compare if needed against a
clean highly polished piece of sterling. Rhodium, while very white,
is no where near as white as sterling silver. The two are quite
different colors. But you have to take the moment to look and ask
yourself if it looks like sterling.

If this is still not conclusive for you, put a tiny bit of any
decent silver oxidizer on the surface. If it turns black, it’s not
rhodium plated. If it stays clean, the surface is not sterling. Might
be just lacquered, but the silver is covered. Rhodium doesn’t
oxidize.

You don’t really need to test whether a plated item is rhodium
plated, or plated with something else. Sometimes palladium is used
as a cheaper alternative to rhodium, for example. Either way, it’s
bad news. Stay away from it with your torch unless the customer
understands that the appearance might be quite different when they
get it back, and has given you permission to proceed anyway. And
then you do so only if you’re sure you can at least give them back a
servicable functional piece of jewelry, even though it be one with
cosmetic problems…

Peter Rowe


#19

Well, you can certainly see examples of arts and crafts, some of
which is crafts having attained the level of arts at various museums
in Kentucky. The artisan museum at Berea is an example. Once in a
while there will be jewelry items. Kentucky has many fine crafts
artists but I cannot tell you how many support their living with that
work.

Marking Jewelry: If you make sterling jewelry, you better mark it to
prevent questioning by customers who may not trust an unmarked item.
The 925 stamp is easier to apply than bulky STERLING marks. If you
make items which are not sterling, you may label (not stamp) as
"reticulated silver", etc., adescription but not a legal quality
mark. Crafts jewelry items certainly do not need to be precious
metals to sell but do need to be well done in method and some will
reach the level of fine crafts and some will be closer to art…an
area where the connection of form and function sometimes becomes
cloudy. Art items can be hard to sell depending on the perceptions of
each possible customer.

You can jump into the crafts of jewelry design and making but if not
practiced already will need much time to truly control the materials
and produce quality work. No one becomes a skilled jeweler
overnight, whether in technical ability or artistry in design. Work
on both and once the technical is somewhat controlled then artistry
and personal creativity will find more freedom. Earning enough from
this to pay for your equipment is another consideration altogether.
You could consider using that blue opal because it is pretty and
someone will buy it.

Tom.


#20

All,

I have a box full jewellery from a friend which went through a house
fire. I strongly suspect most of her late mothers stuff is plated.
Any suggestions on removing the black crap. Nothing I’ve tried to
date has worked and I can be pretty creative with chemicals. and
cleansing agents…

jeffD
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand