Re-Foiling rhinestones and crystals

I repair costume jewelry and was looking for a way to put the foil
back on the crystal and rhinestones. Does anyone know what that
process might be?

Thank you,
all the best, Michelle

Michelle- We had to have a large custom cut cz foiled on the back to
replace a center stone in an Eisenberg piece. We went to a member of
the local faceter’s guild who is also a high school chemistry
teacher. It involved a process much like electro-forming or bronzing
a baby shoe. It was also expensive and time consuming. I’d recommend
just replacing the foil backs unless they are really big or unusual.
Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer

What a strange co-incidence!

I have just finished a piece that contains a large faceted, but
rather flat, stone. It’s a copy of a piece of 50 year old costume
jewellery that the customer wanted reproduced in gold with a real
stone. The original paste stone was silver backed to give it "life"
and the real stone needed the same treatment. Here in UK it proved
uneconomic to buy the small amount of chemicals needed to silver one
stone, so I experimented with water gilding.

I ended up using white gold leaf, but you can purchase imitation
silver leaf very cheaply. The process is not actually difficult, but
it is rather fiddly.

I dissolved a gelatin capsule in some warm water, sloshed the watery
solution on the back of the stone, and carefully laid the leaf on
it. Remarkably, the water “sucked” the leaf onto every facet of the
stone and made a very good job of silvering it. When the water
solution had dried I painted the leaf so as to protect it, then
carefully scraped away any leaf that adhered to the edges of some
front facets - did I mention that the leaf was “sucked” onto the
stone? The final result was every bit as good as I’d hoped for.

If this experiment is of interest to you, then I can supply more

Regards, Gary Wooding

1 Like

Hello Gary,

I found your method of foiling very interesting. I would certainly
like to here more about it and I’m sure others would as well.

Thank you. Tom Arnold

Hello Gary,

I too, would like to know more about refoiling rhinestones. I
repair/refurbish costume jewelry and there has been a few times I
have had trouble finding new stones for replacements. If I could
refoil the old stones that would be a lot better and less costly.

Veva Bailey

Why not just look at the way mirrors are silvered - its the same
effect as foiling. there are a lot of sites giving full instructions
for this simple process such as Welcome to ATM Site - just
google ‘silvering mirrors’.

I would protect the front of the stones with a little nail varnish
and then dunk them in the silvering solution. After silvering, I’d
wash off the nail varnish from the fronts and then use main varnish
again to paint over and protect the silvering.

Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK

The process I used was called “Water Gilding”. It’s essentially the
same process that is used to create silvered, reflective lettering on
shop windows. You need some silver or gold leaf - real or artificial,
it’s up to you. I used white gold leaf because I wanted everything to
be “real”, but it doesn’t affect the final appearance.

The leaf is exceedingly thin and just about impossible to handle
with fingers - it just disintegrates into powder. The leaf is
available in two principal forms: standard and patent (aka transfer).
Transfer (patent) leaf is easier to handle because it is attached to
thin tissue paper with a very mild adhesive. This CANNOT be used for
water gilding. You need the standard type.

The standard leaf is supplied as 80mm square sheets between the
pages of little booklets of tissue paper. The booklets usually
contain 25 leaves.

You will also need a “gilder’s pick” with which to handle the leaf.
It’s a sort of wide brush with rather soft bristles.

You use it pick the leaf up without damaging it. If you have greasy
hair, you just brush the pick on your hair to charge it with a TINY
amount of grease, or you can rub a smear of Vaseline onto the back
of your hand and charge the pick from the back of your hand.

Finally you will need one or more gelatin capsules. They are rather
like empty medicine capsules, see…

I dissolved a single capsule in 125ml of warm water to make a very
watery adhesive. It’s so watery it looks like it will do nothing
useful at all.

I cut an oval hole in a small sheet of cardboard, just smaller than
the oval stone I wanted to gild, and then put a couple of strips of
Sellotape (Scotch Tape) across the hole. The clean stone was then
placed, face down, in the hole, where it was secured by the
Sellotape. I then sloshed some of the gelatin solution on the back of
the stone, picked up a sheet of leaf with the pick, and placed it on
the stone where it was immediately sucked onto every surface.

Unfortunately, my first attempt was not a great success; the leaf
tore a little on one side of the stone, so I wiped it all off and
analysed what I’d done wrong.

I’d held the booklet to one side of the stone and used the pick to
drag the leaf off of the booklet page, across the stone. That was the
mistake! I should have held the booklet directly over the stone,
then picked up the edge of the leaf with the pick and dragged the
booklet away from the pick, thus allowing the leaf to fall gently
onto the stone. That worked a treat, and when the adhesive had dried
I ended up with the gilded stone as shown in this photo…

It shows the gilded stone, still fixed to the cardboard, with the
extraneous leaf adhering to the cardboard.

I then painted the dried leaf with gold paint to protect it from
abrasion when the brooch was used.

When the paint was dry I removed the stone from the cardboard and
carefully scraped away any paint and leaf that had found its way to
the front of the stone. Here I got a surprise. The paint itself
scraped away very easily, but bits of leaf were VERY tenacious and
took a lot of scraping to remove.

The following video shows an expert water gilding a picture frame.
The important bit to note is the way the booklet is moved rather than
the pick, thus allowing the leaf to fall into place rather than being
dragged into place.

Regards, Gary Wooding

The process I used was called "Water Gilding". 

Fascinating! Thanks so much for your description, photos, and the
video. I wish they’d shown what comes next, as the gold didn’t seem
to completely “suck down” the way yours did. I don’t anticipate doing
it, but I enjoyed it very much just the same.