While fake jewelry is certainly more affordable than fine jewelry, it definitely isn’t as high quality and it’s inevitable that at some point, you’ll find yourself staring at a tarnished piece of jewelry wondering how you got there. So first things first, when possible, always invest in fine jewelry made of materials like Solid Gold.
If it’s too late and you’ve got yourself a collection of fake jewelry that has turned green or rusted, the next best thing to do in order to revive your pieces is to get them replated. Replating your jewels will give them a new and fresh look and add months to how long you can enjoy them.
What does gold plated mean?
Plating jewelry is the process of covering an existing piece of jewelry with an additional layer of a precious metal of your choice.
Fake jewelry is typically made of cheaper metals like copper, bronze or a combination of other non-precious metals. For this reason, fake jewels tend to lose their luster over time and rust or turn black or green. Replating fake jewelry with a precious metal like gold or silver can lengthen their life-span and give your pieces a more expensive look for less.
Most often, plating is done to fake or costume jewelry but it is possible to replate fine jewelry pieces as well. The reason you may want to replate a fine jewelry piece is if you decide that you’d like it in a different color. For example, if you ordered a 14K Yellow Gold ring but decided that you now want it replated in 14K White Gold to change up the look.
Why does fake jewelry tarnish?
Fake jewelry made from non-precious base metals are often plated with precious metals like gold, platinum or silver. Naturally, over time, this thin plating of precious metal will start to wear off. This process occurs faster if you don’t take care of your jewelry pieces properly and expose them to water, chlorine, perfumes and lotions.
How does plating actually work?
The plating process has many steps that must be followed thoroughly, each involving different chemical products throughout.
Deciding on plating thickness
The first step is deciding on how thick you want your layer of plating to be. Jewelry plating thickness is measured by microns and ranges from 0.5 microns up to about 3 microns.
You’ll want to ask yourself how often you plan on wearing your piece. If it’s an occasional piece of jewelry reserved for special events, then one thin layer of 0.5 microns can be enough. However, if you plan to wear your piece daily, you may want to consider plating a thicker layer of 2.5 or 3 microns so that the plating will last you longer.
One thing to keep in mind though, is that thick layers of gold-plating are not cheap. They may even run you up to $300, in which case, you might be better off investing in a piece of fine jewelry that will last forever.
Starting with a clean surface
The next step in the plating process is ensuring the surface of your jewelry piece is as smooth and clean as possible. This helps the plating adhere to the item successfully. Any trace of oil or dirt is removed at this stage and the piece is polished thoroughly.
Adding a buffer layer
Once your jewelry is polished and cleaned, it needs to be submerged into a tank filled with the precious metal you chose to plate it with. However, if you have a fake jewelry piece made from a cheap metal, the cheap metal will contaminate the tank of precious metal. Therefore, the jeweler will need to add a buffer layer between your cheap metal and the precious metal coating. This is known as double plating and is most often done with a coat of nickel or palladium. This middle layer prevents contamination between the cheap and precious metal and also helps the precious metal top layer to adhere more effectively.
Submerging in a tank of precious metal
At this stage, your piece is finally ready to be submerged into a tank filled with the precious metal of your choice. This process is known as Electroplating because it uses electrical currents in the tank to help fuse the precious metal in the watery solution to the surface of your piece, while simultaneously avoiding fusing with any stones or enamel found on your jewelry. Once the correct amount of precious metal is successfully fused to the surface, your piece is removed from the tank.
Types of Electroplating for Jewelry
There are four main types of electroplating used for jewelry:
Gold plating is used to coat jewelry or give it a touch up with a top layer of genuine yellow gold. It gives your item a lustrous, smooth, and shiny appearance. Nickel is also used as the buffer layer between your item and the top layer of gold. The middle layer of nickel prevents the base metal from leaching out to the top gold plated layer. If you are allergic to nickel, it is good to know this detail so that you can avoid gold plated jewelry, because once the top layer of gold begins to tarnish, you will increase your risk of irritation as you’ll be exposed to the nickel layer.
Rose Gold Plating
Rose Gold plating uses the same electroplating process to coat jewelry with a top layer of genuine rose gold, which is an alloy precious metal that combines gold with some copper to give a rose-y pinkish color.
Silver plating is just like the name suggests. It involves coating jewelry with a top layer of genuine silver to give a silver color and shiny top coat.
Rhodium plating introduces a layer of rhodium most commonly over white gold jewelry to give it an extra boost of shine and smoothness. Rhodium is also a strong metal that enhances the strength and durability of the jewelry piece, making it more capable of withstanding daily use.
What can NOT be replated
There are some materials that jewelers are not willing to replate. Particularly if your piece is made of zinc, it will be extremely difficult to replate and many jewelers will refuse the job. This is because zinc requires very sophisticated machinery and procedures to be plated—so you’ll need someone with a lot of experience and know-how on plating metals.
In cases like this, you’re almost always better off replicating your item as a fine jewelry piece as the cost and headache of replating will not be worth it in the long run.Ultimately, replating jewelry items can be a great way to revive them and get an extra few months of wear. However, if you are still buying fake jewelry whose plating will eventually wear off and tarnish, it’s time to take the leap into investing in fine jewelry that will never require this type of maintenance. Replating jewelry is not always cheap or easy, and to add insult to injury, it doesn’t add any significant monetary value to your piece.