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How to electroplate pearls

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

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

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

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

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

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