Plating some gold accents on a $10 euro ring seems perfectly
acceptable despite Mr.Binnion's comment. It is measured in microns
and though will eventually wear through on a ring, or any jewelry,
you can simply enclose a care card like Tiffany NY does on their
18kt. accented rings, or vermeil pieces (vermeil is a bit thicker
than standard plating, but always indicates gold over sterling or
fine silver, never base metals).
So if we really want to discuss plating lets get some actual
In the US the FTC defines the following gold plating thickness I
assume the the halmarking offices in the UK and EU have similar if
slightly different definitions.
“gold flash” = less than 7.0 microinches or.175 microns
"gold electroplate" = 7.0 microinches or.175 microns
"gold plate" = 20 microinches or.50 microns
"heavy gold plate" = 100 microinches or 2.5 microns
"vermeil" = 100 microinches or 2.5 microns
Anything short of heavy gold plate or vermeil will be worn off a
ring that is worn daily in very short order, months not years. If the
ring is jewelers bronze or other yellow metal the loss of plating
will be somewhat hidden by the color of the base metal. In a vermeil
piece it will be quite obvious. If you are talking about accent
plating often one thinks of pen plating for this. The problem is pen
plating is going to be closer to a gold flash than any of the other
designations due to the limitations of the pen plating process and
will have very little lifetime on a ring. For longer plating life on
accent pieces you need to mask the part with a plating resist then
follow standard plating procedures to get the desired thickness.
Call Red Sky Plating or ask them on line for some technical
This is good advice if you want your plating to be done right, with
the proper thickness and good adhesion you are best served by having
a professional plating shop like Red Sky do it.
PEPE tools sells a new digital plating machine for $199.00 USD or
less with the solution you can buy locally (in the Uk) you may
find it cheaper and be able to add it to your repair repertoire as
it's a direct process and easy to learn quickly with good results
and Replating very small silver pieces can actually be profitable
as not too many jewelers do it. PEPE tools in fact can give you
on the variability of the thickness possible with their
new product which I would certainly consider if you want to plate
production runs and do some sidelining!
Plating is a process where it is easy to get problematic results
that may look good but don’t have adequate thickness or adhesion to
the base metal it is also easy to end up with less than stellar
surface finish and other problems. It is just like casting or other
endeavors we taken on in that it may look simple but mastery takes an
investment of time and money. The tools sold in the jewelry tool
catalogs are adequate for jewelry repair functions where you don’t
really need to know how much metal you are putting on the work and
only handle the occasional repair job.
...don't be discouraged by Mr. Binnion's opinion.. many many
manufacturers plate their pieces and buyers paying ten Euro's for
a piece know it's not solid gold!
Yes it is my opinion that plating is likely more hassle than it is
worth for the individual craftsman. But I have some real world basis
for this opinion. Many years ago I used to work for Hewlett-Packard
in an in-house plating shop where we plated gold, copper, nickel and
palladium on printed circuit boards. I have plated literally
thousands of items and have had that work quality control checked by
the the in house analytical laboratory for thickness and adhesion.
The tools sold to jewelers for this job are ok if all you want is a
bit of color and don’t really care about much else. But to get
consistent results you need quality power supplies, controllers and
heaters to maintain correct bath temperature, circulating pumps and
filters etc. Then you need a lab to analyze your plating solutions
and a metallurgical lab to measure plating thicknesses so that you
can be certain you are putting the correct amount of plating on your
work too little and you don’t meet regulatory standards too much and
you are loosing money. Sure you can purchase this equipment and
contract out the lab work but this is way beyond what most studio
jewelers want to do. So your best bet is to send it out to someone to
have it done properly. All this hassle makes it much more suitable to
production scaled efforts than small studio operation.
So yes if you really want to do it by all means go for it but to do
it right it is more complex than the tool company catalogs would have
you believe and will require time and investment.
James Binnion Metal Arts