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Silver Plating on Gold

Evening all An associate thinks these questions were answered before
but I can’t recall seeing the questions or answers so if this is a
repeat please be kind.

I recently saw a tiara of great beauty and was told that the wire work
was silver plated gold. The tiara was made about 1900.

Questions: like why cover gold which does not tarnish as silver does
except at the stone settings? like why not use white gold if the
silver color is needed or was it before white gold was in use? like
why not use platinum or was it before platinum was in use? like when
was platinum first used in jewelry? like when was white gold fist used
in jewelry?

The tiara was seen at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.

Thanks, Bill in Vista

Unless comes directly from a goldsmith I tend to take it
with a pinch of salt. Curators often get metals, techniques and
materials wrong.

Tony Konrath
Gold and Stone


I have had the opportunity to examine, and sometimes repair, pieces
like the one you described. Usually, the piece is constructed of 18k
yellow gold, with sterling silver bonded to one surface and set with
diamonds and other precious stones. Most of the Faberge pieces that
I have examined have been constructed like this, so it obviously
wasn’t to save on the cost of materials.

Rather, it was because platinum was relatively unknown at the time,
as was white gold. The metal of choice, the “traditional” white
metal for setting was silver. Gold was used as a backing
material for strength. Most of the work that I have seen has been
fairly elaborate, and obviously designed for a wealthy clientele who
would have had servants to clean the stuff. I can’t imagine many of
my current clients spending hours cleaning their jewelry…usually,
they return it to me for polishing.

Fortunately, some designers/goldsmiths were willing to experiment
with other white metals. I am grateful that my clients now prefer

There is an excellent book by Kenneth Snowman, The Master Jewelers,
that I would recommend to anyone wishing to learn more about the
major design firms that preceded “designer jewelry.”

Doug Zaruba