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Gold plating over sterling silver?


Q. I have tried gold plating sterling silver before, and have never had luck. I will clean with a sodium hydroxide formula then I will rinse and try to etch with a sulfuric acid etcher and it immediately get a black coating on it. what should I do to gold plate sterling silver? I use a potassium cyanide gold.

Much Appreciation


Barrett Russell


A. It is not advisable to directly electroplate pure 24 karat gold over sterling silver. A barrier is needed between these two metals. Thin layers of electroplated gold will diffuse slowly into the sterling silver substrate and eventually will develop a dark green to grey color.

Try polishing the silver surface first with a buffing wheel. Clean it in a ultrasonic cleaner or any neutral solution.( Do not use any strong acid or alkaline solution) . Dry it and give a "bright nickel flash" plating first. Bright nickel flash plating solutions may be purchased from any precious metal plating vendors. adv. One such company is Technic, Inc. of Warwick, Rhode Island. After rinsing and drying, you may now acid gold plate the part successfully on top of the bright nickel surface.

Ajit Menon
Rapid City, South Dakota, USA

February 14, 2013

Q. Hi, thank you for this information. Is the nickel coating you recommend here problematic for jewelry wearers who have an allergic reaction to nickel? If so, is there another solution that will create the barrier required for long-lasting 1 micron gold plating on top of sterling silver?


Rebekkah Kumar
- Gurgaon, Haryana, INDIA

February 15, 2013

A. Hi. Yes, the nickel can be problematic these days, and is probably forbidden in Europe. White bronze plating (an alloy of three metals) is an accepted substitute, but you probably must buy this as a proprietary solution from a plating process supplier as it is very tricky to formulate and operate white bronze plating baths.


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey


Q. I am not a jeweler but I have a jewelry/metal question. I received some sterling silver earrings as a gift, but I am allergic to them. Is there any way to plate the posts and backs of these earrings in gold so I will be able to wear them? If so, where can I go for this and is it worth it to do so? I like the earrings quite a bit and don't want to have to return the gift.

Christine Guarino
non-jeweler - New Paltz, New York


A. Sure, they can be gold plated. There might be a gold plater near where you live, or you could check with jewelers or better department stores. they sometimes have contacts with plating shops which will do consumer goods.

jeffrey holmes Jeffrey Holmes, CEF
- Spartanburg, South Carolina


A. If you like the look of the sterling silver, but are allergic to the metal the best thing to do is buy the plastic sleeves that fit over the posts and the plastic earring back. a set of six sleeves and backs can be purchased at your local department store (example: Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target, etc.)for under $5. I have the same problem and they work for me.

Char Roberts
- Irvine, California

August 12, 2009

Q. I am trying to gold plate a sterling silver round dome plate 136.0mm in diameter by 0.5 mm in thickness. It covers a gold plated chalice. Should it be nickel plated before the gold plating? The solution I plan to use is Clean Earth 24kt. No. 45.216 Our Plating unit is a Riogrande Midas 335.048 up to 6.0 Volts. Any suggestions?

Charles Smith
- Charlotte, North Carolina

August 13, 2009

A. Hi, Charles. The gold and silver will tend to diffuse together, so it is best to have a layer of nickel plating between them (or white bronze if this is going to Europe). See letter 52625 for more info on the diffusion issue. Good luck.


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey


Clean Earth Gold Plating Solution

July 24, 2013

Q. Hi,

I wanted to gold plate silver jewelry. I am looking for solution to gold plate silver jewelry.

After lots of research on internet I found that there should be barrier between silver and plated gold else plated gold fade away in few months. Even if we do very thick gold plating on silver then also it will fade away eventually.
To avoid this we may need to plate silver first with Copper or nickel or white bronze etc. White bronze is advisable compared to others I think.

I am looking for complete solution/kit to gold plate silver jewelry which also take care of barrier coating of white bronze(or any which is not allergic) on silver before gold plating. Could you please provide details on the solution which I am looking for or details of any other related product which can do similar task.

I wanted to gold plated silver jewelry with professional finish and should last for at least 3 years.


Himanshu S
- India

July 30, 2013

A. Hello Himanshu. If you have the patience for a careful search, the topic of durable yet affordable gold plating has been covered in detail many times on these pages. But it is difficult to get a consensus for many reasons, including: some people are satisfied with a gold "look", while others demand real gold; PVD coatings are very economical in high volume but prohibitive in low volume; electrocoating is economical in medium volume but not practical for custom onesy-twosies.

But to summarize in a single paragraph: thick gold plating would easily do it -- gold plated pocket watches have lasted a century -- but it is considered far too expensive today. So if you do not want to put on enough gold to last three years, you must either replace some or all of the gold with a titanium nitride or similar PVD coating (which will only be practical at high volume), or you must clear coat it.

I suspect from my reading here, but do not know from personal experience, that white bronze plating, followed by "micron gold" (gold plating of thickness 1 µ / 40 microinch), followed by a good clearcoat (preferably e-coating, but UV hardened coating if volume is too low) would be considered good quality for costume (imitation) jewelry. It might last 3 years of occasional (not every day) use. Good luck.

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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

June 11, 2014appended

Q. My engagement ring was a silver color, but we wanted gold. So the jeweler did some kind of plating/finish on it. It has only been 6 months and its changing back to its original silver color. What is the solution.

- st thomas virgin islands

June 2014

A. Hi Michele. Engagement rings are worn every day and they are very high wear items. The bad news is that no practical amount of gold plating will last through your marriage. If you go to a specialty jewelry plating shop, and they apply a lot of gold, and then apply a top quality clear coat, it may last a few years.

If the ring was a family heirloom, get used to the silvery color; it's the best answer. If the jeweler sold you a new engagement ring and then plated it a different color, he really should have known better; there was no chance of long term success. If you and your fiancee can accept the change to such an emotionally charged item, get a yellow gold setting.

P.S.: I vacationed on your beautiful island last year; Secret Harbor is the nicest beach I've ever seen anywhere -- so where can you travel to for your honeymoon that could be better? :-)


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

June 18, 2014

If the marriage will last longer than the gold plating consider it a blessing!!!

Mark Baker
Process Engineer - Malone, NY USA

December 21, 2014

Living in Miami our silver candlesticks, flatware and other items tarnish terribly. I would like to have them gold plated with White gold to keep the look. The candlesticks are ornate and have significant detail work.

Does white gold plating exist?
Does it work with ornate candlesticks?
Do I need a nickel or other middle layer?
How thick should it be? candlesticks? flatware? (used once to twice a week)
Does anyone have a recommendation of a professional in the Miami area with experience?
Does the silver need to be professional polished first?
What is a ballpark figure for what it should cost?

Any other thoughts or recommendations welcome.

Thank you

Elly Kutoff
- miami Florida usa

December 2014

A. Hi Elly. As you may know, there is no isotope of gold that is white -- white gold is an alloy of yellow gold with palladium and/or nickel. I'm not personally aware of white gold plating being available; it's not easy to get different metals to electroplate in the right proportions to form the desired alloy, and it's possible that it hasn't been achieved. Platinum or rhodium plating are possibilities.

This plating can be very thin, and will not at all interfere with ornate patterns. I think your best bet for the candlesticks would be a thin layer of rhodium plating. Although rhodium is much shinier than silver, silver items sometimes receive a thin plating to deter tarnish that doesn't completely detract from the "soft" look of silver. I don't think I would rhodium plate flatware though because I've never heard of it; although I wouldn't anticipate any safety issue, I wouldn't want to be the only family in the world trying a health experiment. If you learn of the availability of rhodium plated flatware, that would change things.

Sorry, we don't suggest vendors here; it just doesn't work on this semi-anonymous website.


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

February 25, 2015

Q. I have a 925 sterling silver band size 12, 15mm wide band -- a double small chain link top and bottom with elephants walking all around it. Just giving you this info in case it matters which it probably does not.

I can polish it on my loose muslin wheel with white rouge and it comes out great, but dulls in about 2 weeks. Where can i send it to have it plated in 14 or 18 Karat gold so it will last for years? Can they plate it 2 or 3 times so its thickness will stand up and I can buff it every so often so it looks great? Thank you for your time!

richard roterud
- Mesa Arizona

February 2015

A. Hi Richard. Yes, your band can be plated either with rhodium to retain the silver look or with gold. The gold plating could be very heavy if you're willing to pay for it. If a local jeweler can't do it, plating shops specializing in jewelry, as listed in the banner below, can.

You may or may not like the look, but it might also be possible to clearcoat it yourself with automotive clearcoat or UV-curing lacquer.


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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