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Gold/Silver plating natural objects --e.g., skeletonized leaf

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Q. I'm retired and living in England. Some time ago I saw some beautiful jewelry made by gold or silver plating natural objects such as skeletonized plant leaves, insects and the like. I would like to do this in the garage as a hobby but I can find no info on this process in England . Any help advice or guidance on this matter would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks.

Fred Cdeleted
retired - England



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A. My own opinion is that electroplating isn't a real good garage hobby, Fred. Here in the USA, as soon as you sell a plated item you are a plating shop, subject to needing numerous environmental and safety permits (although I haven't actually seen the laws enforced against very small art-oriented shops).

But if you have some artistic ability and wish to acquire some skill and experience, we have an FAQ on this subject to get you started if you wish.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

How to Electroplate Non-Metallics for Extra Profits


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Q. I have similar questions regarding this process though I am not interested in doing it myself. How do I go about finding someone who offers this type of a service? And what would you typically pay?

Meagan Kdeleted
- Brooklyn, New York


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A. If you want one particular item of yours plated in such a fashion, Meagan, it would be quite expensive due to labor cost, but you could just post an RFQ on this site and see if plating shops respond to you.

But there are people who plate flowers and leaves and sell them as jewelry, gifts, or Christmas tree ornaments available at catalog prices.

Places which, as of this writing, appear to offer plated natural items include fourleafclover.com, ronchudy.com, canadiangifts.com, wynbrier.com, 24kgoldenroses.com, www.artmartgifts.com, and nature's design [Los Angeles].

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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Q. Can anyone assist me in setting up a small unit where I can transform gold on natural objects.

Sachin Sdeleted
- New Delhi, India


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A. Hi, Sachin. Have you had a chance to read the FAQ yet, Sachin? I think it will help!

If you want to retain a consultant for this, start with our Consultants Directory please. If you are looking for additional online help, please try to describe what your situation is (experience level in electroplating, etc.), and see if you can phrase your questions in terms of what is already explained in the FAQ. Thanks!

Good luck.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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Q. I bought some plated natural-object (skeletal leaves, pine cones, shells) jewelry from a store near Mendicino, CA about 20 years ago. Your suggestion of GoldenRoses.com is about the closest I've seen, but not quite as artistic. Can you think of any other resources? Thanks.

David Guy Ayers
- Los Altos, California, US


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A. There is so much info on the net that most of us have to give it a quick scan rather than a careful read, David, but please slowly reread this thread because we actually already tracked down and listed 8 places, not one. If you find that any of the seven no longer carry such products, please advise so we can keep the page up to date!

Thanks.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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A. I do what everyone is talking about and that is electroforming ... Electro plating is for metal on metal ... Electroforming is metal on natural or organic items like leaves, pine cones, sea horses, sand dollars, gemstones and or anything you want to cover in gold ,copper silver and rhodium.

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jim d'andrea
- irvine, California


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A. Hi, Jim! Yes, what you do is electroforming. But I have to "nitpick for the record" because people often come to this site for metal finishing definitions. What electroforming fully means is that the electrolytically deposited metal comprises the object rather than a coating on the object. Thus the metal deposited on plastic circuit boards and plastic car emblems is still called "electroplating", even though the substrate is organic; whereas bellows and waveguides and record stampers are "electroforms" even though they may have been originally created by plating onto a metal substrate. If the plated layer is free-standing, the object is an electroform.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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Q. I am the Operations Manager for a small jewelry business. We routinely use silver-plated resin beads in the manufacture of our jewelry. However, our caster/plater cannot seem to be timely with their shipments. Additionally, we would like to expand our business to include organic items (such as plated leaves) and small batches of plated vintage beads (which would be expensive to do on a few-per basis).

I have had some success with copper then silver plate over conductive paint, but the process is long and tedious and I don't always get the detail or results I want.

I understand there is a process where I can mix 1/4 oz silver nitrate with 5 oz of water and 5 oz of Isopropyl Alcoholamazoninfo, then spray or dip the object. After drying, by exposing it to chemical "fumes", the coating is converted to silver sulfide (which can then be plated or sealed).

Significant time searching this site and others has not revealed what kind of silver nitrate to use (purity? crystals? Solution?). Additionally, the MSDS indicates silver nitrate is explosive if mixed with alcohol and should never be mixed with water. Several e-mails to potential suppliers have produced no usable information.

Is anyone familiar with this process who would be willing to share their knowledge/experience? My desire is for a relatively safe process that would be inexpensive and effective for small scale work.

Any assistance is greatly appreciated!

Bruce Gorby
Jewelry Mfg & Sales - Landenberg, Pennsylvania, USA


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A. I think you are referring to the process that I would call "2-part silvering", Bruce. In the simplest approach, a 2-head spray gun simultaneously sprays silver nitrate and a reducing agent that converts the soluble silver nitrate to a thin film of silver metal. You may wish to buy a proprietary process because some of the traditional reducing agents (like formaldelhyde) are carcinogenic. But I understand sugar can be used too. The search term "brashear process" may help you. Good luck.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 8, 2008

Q. I would like to do electroforming myself... is there any hope for me? Can I buy a basic kit somewhere? I want to turn beautiful natural objects (seeds, leaves, etc.) into metal. I'd rather do this myself than pay someone else to do it.

Adrian Bussones
art student, industrial designer, jeweler - Boston, Massachusetts


January 14, 2008

A. Hello, Adrian. You are an art student and a jeweler, so you have two important things strongly in your favor! Many inquirers miss the fact that these items are works of art, and artistic talent is an essential ingredient :-)

See if your library has this book =>

Good luck.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Electroplating and Electroforming for Artists and Craftsmen


August 22, 2008

Q. Fred from England was asking about the skeleton of leaves, or lacey looking leaves. What is the process, that will take a fresh leaf to that lace-like look?

Brenda Sonne
- Bardstown, Kentucky, USA


October 28, 2010

Q. Hi...

Is there a listing of places that offer electroforming services on organic objects? Thank you for any help you can give. Aloha!

Traci M.
- Kailua, Hawaii


October 29, 2010

A. Hi, Traci. Sorry, but I'm not aware of any such list or any organization that would be likely to have such a list. A number of places make standard items like silver plated leaves, gold plated orchids and roses, bronze plated shoes, etc.; we listed eight, and you can probably find others with google. But I don't know any that let you pick the item, and then plate it for you. I wish at least one would have the sense to advertise here where people are looking. Meanwhile you might try to find Jim D'Andrea or the company "Enchanted Gold" listed in the FAQ. Best of luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

October 29, 2010

A. I sell real leaf jewelry and gifts which are made for me. We have a nice selection. Retail prices range from $19.95 to $35.95 depending on the item
Thanks for your information on this page.

Kathy Verano
- Custer, Washington USA

December 20, 2010

Q. Which type of chemical can be used for metallic plating of the flower so that it can't get damaged and can be further used for silver plating... please answer me soon

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Sarawut Sigh
manufacturer - New Delhi, Delhi & India


March 17, 2011

Q. I have recently started electroplating leaves, my question is; how do I create the iridescent gold color? I was told once that is was a mixture of both copper and gold, if so, how is this done and where do find plates of gold to use? Thank you.

Aaron King
Hobbyist - Denver Colorado USA

March 17, 2011

A. Hi, Aaron.

I'm not sure what you mean by "iridescent" gold -- can you e-mail a photo?

It's not impossible to gold plate using a plate of gold as the anode, but it's not typical for a number of reasons. Usually you would buy a gold plating solution from companies like Technic or Gold Touch. Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

October 20, 2011

A. Hello,


I was looking up for information on ELECTROFORMING and your page was really helpful. I found this other page, which explains HOW TO do the process and it seems doable.

Thank you, once again, and here www.ehow.com/how_8726954_electroform-leaf.html is what I found that could come in handy.

Mafalda

Mafalda Maya
- Lisbon, Portugal

October 21, 2011

Hi, Mafalda. Thanks! Please mention an interesting factoid from that link; most links go bad in short order, and then a posting that offers no substance, just a broken link, only spreads a cancer :-)

What did you find from that link that was especially interesting? Thanks again!

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


August 20, 2012

Q. Hi
I have also recently started electroplating leaves, and I was wondering how to create the 'iridescent' copper effect.

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I have no idea even where to start on this, so any advice would be appreciated.

Jessica Penfold
- Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


October 3, 2012

Q. Hello

I have recently gotten into electroplating as a hobby, and so far have had considerable success in plating coins. I am able to get a nice, bright coating on them, if a bit dark-looking around the edges.

However, I have been trying very hard to electroplate organic things such as leaves as well. So far my process is to seal a leaf in spray lacquer, then paint it with conductive silver paint which I got out of a circuit drawing pen. I'll then attach the crocodile clip to the leaf, put it in the solution, and turn the battery pack on. So far, I've been leaving it in for about 5 minutes - the coin only took about 30 seconds to a minute - and yet NOTHING is happening, at all. Am I not leaving it in long enough, considering how long it took the coin to plate, or am I doing something else wrong? I'm getting really frustrated with this now, I've tried lots of things and done a lot of research into solutions, and yet nothing seems to be working...

Jessica Penfold [returning]
Hobbyist - Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


October 5, 2012

A. Try next link:
www.ganoksin.com/borisat/nenam/electroforming.htm

Very good and reliable source of infos (and there you can find more articles on electroforming too).
Hope it helps and good luck!

Goran Budija
- Zagreb, Croatia


August 20, 2013

Q. This is my deal here I bought my girl friend a pine cone that was iridescent copper finished and thought to myself after that I sure would like to make those so I collected a ton of baby pine cones and copper then I realized I have no clue how to put a metal on to a plant can you please help me out I'm not a chemist I can't read the numbers of chemicals but I am smart enough to follow directions if you catch my drift :) I'm a certified diesel technician so I can figure it and get the resources I need please. Thank you.

Shawn Belieu
- Longview, Washington

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