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How to electroplate pearls



(-----) 2004

Q. Greetings, I'd would like to begin plating pearls 24K gold for decorative use. Since they are non-conductive, I assume I would use a electroform system (brush electroplating? ) Would someone be able to recommend the proper setup/kit for my use. I would plate a few hundred pearls.

Philip Russo
Hobbyist - Red Hook, New York
^


2004

A. I know very little about pearls, but I seem to remember that the material is extremely soluble in something. Hopefully someone who knows more than me will advise you because I'd hate to see a collection of beautiful and valuable pearls simply dissolve as you attempt to plate them :-(

I think the word you are looking for is "metallize", rather than "electroform". An electroform is a free-standing part that was created by electroplating--for example a hollow gold earring that was made by plating a wax form and then dissolving the wax away.

You need to lacquer the pearl to make it waterproof, then spray it with a conductive paint or a two-part silvering solution, and then electroplate it. A start can be had with our FAQ on plating organic materials.

Things of beauty require a combination of knowledge, experience, and artistic skill -- so they're never real easy :-)

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^


2004

A. Pearls are very fragile and can be damaged by lots and lots of stuff. skin oils, food oils, textile chemicals, hair spray, etc etc.

Strong acids/vinegars can dissolve pearl.

I would definitely practice with low grade throw away pearls.

Pearls are mostly calcium carbonate (bonded by some kind of funky mollusk protein) if that helps anyone

Jason Aube
- Flint, Michigan
^


2004

thumbs up signIt does, Jason, thanks! It's basically what I suspected but didn't really know.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^

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