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topic 33774

Gold plating over sterling silver?

A discussion started in 2000 but continuing through 2018


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
Barrett Russell
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada


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. One such company is Technic 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.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
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
      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

Clean Earth Gold Plating Solution

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.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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

Gold Plating Technology
from Abe Books


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.

Still, 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.

Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

June 11, 2014 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

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? :-)


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

June 18, 2014

thumbs up signHello,
If the marriage will last longer than the gold plating consider it a blessing!!

Mark Baker
Process Engineer - Malone, NY USA

December 21, 2014

Q. 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 correct color, 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 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; plus it's too thin to work for long. If you learn of the availability of rhodium plated flatware, that would change things.

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


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

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 probably can. Still a ring worn everyday endures extreme wear; you've probably seen rings worn all the way through, let alone through the thousand times thinner plating.

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. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

Plating with color formation which looks like natural flow

September 25, 2015

Q. Dear sir,
Recently I came across a newly patented process, viz.,
1. precision casting of precious metal jewelry using natural materials.
2. pipe type fine metal thread manufacturing method & the fine metal threads using porous metals
3. methods to apply gradation to ornaments and the ornaments that are formed with gradation.
These processes are used to exactly replicate the color formation in a flow or any other object found naturally in nature by plating process.
What exactly are these processes and how are these done? Can someone please shed light on these subjects?
I am very much interested in knowing more on these subjects as I want to apply these procedures in production of jewelry.
Can anybody help?
I would be grateful if anybody can shed light on these subjects.
Awaiting for your reply,
Best regards,

- Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

May 2017

Hi Prakash. Patents are on the internet in our modern world; do the search. Naturally, unless you only want to do one for yourself and try to fly below the radar, you can't do them yourself without licensing the process from the patent holder anyway.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

May 29, 2016

Q. I am trying to figure out how thick (in mm) the surface will be if we electroform at .1 amps per square inch for 1 hour. The metal we would be electroforming onto would be silver, What is the accepted thickness for gold electroforming on jewelry. This would be done with a pulse plating supply.

vic masciarelli
- Northborough, Massachusetts

May 2016

A. Hi Vic.

Let me quibble over a possible semantics issue first :-)

Unless I am misunderstanding what you are doing, most of us might call it electroplating rather than electroforming. The difference being that we call it electroforming only if the plating layer itself becomes structural, for instance if you were plating gold onto wax and then melting the wax away to create hollow gold earrings, with the gold plating becoming the object. Microwave guides, record stampers, and flexible bellows are some other typical electroforms. But with you plating at such a low current for such a long time, I am not sure that I understand after all :-)

Digital version

(No longer published, but Elsevier hasn't yet de-commissioned the online version of the Guidebook)
Download it before it disappears.

Faraday's Law will tell you the thickness of gold plating you would get if your process operated at 100% efficiency (with none of the electricity going to the liberation of hydrogen instead of deposition of gold). The Metal Finishing Guidebook => has a handy chart on page 812 which integrates the various conversion factors involved in Faraday's Law calculations and ends up giving you the number of Ampere-Hours per square foot required to deposit 0.001" thickness of plating. For aurous solutions it is 6.2, and for auric solutions it is 18.6. From this 3:1 variation you can see that you need to tell us what kind of gold plating solution you are using before we can get too far; it's probably aurous, but your vendor can certainly tell you. Efficiency can also vary widely: it's usually 90-100% for cyanide golds but can be somewhat lower for neutral golds, and significantly lower for non-cyanide or bright acid gold baths.

So, as you can see, it isn't possible to estimate the thickness you are depositing from the time and current without some input regarding the gold plating solution being used.

There is no "accepted thickness". We have dozens of threads here discussing the topic of gold plating thickness, and it ranges from zero (tinted electrophoretic lacquers or PVD hard coatings in lieu of gold), through a few tenths of a micron for cheap costume jewelry, on to about 1 micron for good quality costume jewelry, then onto 2-1/2 micron gold plating over silver (Vermeil), all the way to 7 microns and even more for super-premium watches.

Get back to us with more info and the readers can probably offer additional response. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

May 30, 2016

Q. We are talking about electroforming gold over both silver and or wax. I would appreciate your input on what electroforming solution would be good to use

vic masciarelli [returning]
- Northborough, Massachusetts

June 14, 2016

Q. We would be using Technic gold electroforming solution.

Also I have a second question: why do electroplating and electroforming companies move the items either back and forth or back and forth in a circular pattern when they are plating ?

vic masciarelli [returning]
- Northborough, Massachusetts USA

June 2016

A. Hi Vic. Technic offers every type of gold plating solution I mentioned, but will have a technical data sheet which explains what type of plating solution it is, and offers estimates of the plating rate.

The parts are moved for "agitation" -- which is sometimes done mechanically as you describe, sometimes by pumping the solution towards the parts, sometimes by injecting air into the bottom of the tank and letting it bubble up towards the surface, or a combination.

Agitation keeps the solution uniform, so it's not starved of gold or other constituents near the parts, and to some degree it thins the "boundary layer", the quiescent layer of plating solution adhering to the surface of the part, which slows the plating rate as the ions fight their way through it. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

May 11, 2017

Q. Hi

I am interested in why vintage or antique jewelry that has a silver base and then is finished with a vermeil gold coating maintains its finish unlike costume jewelry. The gold layer seems to remain intact with regular wear and therefore a great economical alternative to karat gold jewelry. You mention here that silver jewellery usually has another coat of perhaps nickel before gold would be applied. I do not know if jewellery created in the 1920s to 1940s would have this additional layer or not.

I thought maybe it would have something to do with gold and silver's placement in the periodic table, but have forgotten my chemistry! It is a group 11 as are silver and copper so I think there is something in that.

Kind regards,

Catherine Amato
- Kent, United Kingdom

May 2017

A. Hi Catherine. While it is considered a good idea to have an anti-diffusion layer of nickel or other material between silver and gold, that is not really the main issue here. Rather, Vermeil jewelry is defined as having a gold plating thickness of 2.5 microns. Good sterling silver costume jewelry from the '50s and '60s might have had "micron plating", about 1.0 microns of gold plating. Costume jewelry today probably has a gold plating thickness of less than 0.25 micron.

Simply, the gold plating on Vermeil jewelry was about 10X as thick as the plating on costume jewelry of today.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

June 29, 2017

Q. My ring is too small but it is Sterling silver with a gold plating what can I do?

Kristina Brooks
- Aurora Colorado

July 2017

A. Hi Kristina. The simplest answer is that silver rings can generally be stretched. Please visit a jeweler and talk to them about it.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

July 29, 2017

Q. Hello and thank you for sharing your expertise. For my business I have a need to gold plate about 100 sterling silver charms (like the kind used on charm bracelets). They are small, around 10 mm-12 mm each, but do vary in size. Do you think I can find someone who can do this at a reasonable price? It is also very important that the gold last for 5 years +, or be permanent. Also, would it be possible for a professional to "dip" the charms in gold? Paint on gold leaf?! Not sure what is the best course of action. Thanks very much for your thoughts.

Kathy Bertone
- Naples, Florida, US
  ^- Privately contact this inquirer -^

July 2017

A. Hi Kathy. Paint or gold leaf will not work. PVD processes will probably not be available to you because of the low volume. Electroplating with gold will be the technology to use, and the gold must be thick enough and/or have a protective clearcoat on it for good wear resistance. I'd try to find a gold plating shop and get a good thick coating of gold, at least one micron, maybe even 2-1/2.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

September 5, 2017


PMC = Precious Metal Clay

Q. My hobby is making silver jewelry. I use PMC, fine silver and sterling silver; and frequently I use all 3 in a single piece of jewelry. Lately I was try to apply a gold plate to a pair of earrings. The body of the earring is PMC3. In the center there is a circular cutout of 8 mms surrounded by a 10 mm round ss ^ sterling silver gallery wire bezel. I cleaned the earrings in an ultrasonic cleaner, then tried to electroplate using Midas 24 k gold plating solution. For some reason, I cannot fathom, the earring which is a about an inch and a quarter puffed diamond shape, is plating on the back and the edges, as well as the gallery bezel but the rest of the front in not plating. I tried it on the second earring of the pair with similar results. What is going on. Help, please, I would be so grateful.

Mariam Valliani
- Baltimore, Maryland, USA

September 2017

A. Hi Mariam. A picture is worth a thousand words; please e-mail to . Sorry, but I can't follow what you are talking about. But the gold plating is not going to adhere properly to the stainless steel anyway.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

September 5, 2017

A. You may have an incomplete firing of your metal clay and the binder or porosity is creating a film on the surface.

Neil Bell
Red Sky Plating

supporting advertiser
Albuquerque, New Mexico
red sky banner ad

September 7, 2017

thumbs up sign Thanks, Ted. I wasn't using stainless steel. When I said SS I meant sterling silver. Anyway, the problem is now solved; I tried electrocleaning the earrings and tried again and it worked! I must have got something on them that did not get cleaned off properly. So Im happy for now, but I really appreciated your response and also Neils - thank you!

Mariam Valliani [returning]
- Baltimore, Maryland

November 7, 2017

Q. Hello! My question is in regards to one of your answers where you stated that gold would not adhere to stainless steel? I was under the impression that there have been new developments in making that work. Can gold now be successfully applied to Stainless steel? And with all your wonderful Knowledge, I'm curious what you think About stainless steel used for jewelry? Thank You for sharing so much with so many!

Christine Doehring-Hubbard
Artist - Hitchcock, Texas United States of America

November 2017

A. Hi Christine. I know very little about jewelry fabrication, so I can't advise very well on what is workable in fabrication; and I have no taste in jewelry matters nor artistic ability, so I can't advise what would look good either :-)

But with regard to gold plating onto stainless steel, the issue is not the gold plating per se, but the stainless steel. Electroplating requires a good metallurgical bond onto clean non-oxidized metal, whereas stainless steel instantly forms a passive oxide film on itself whether in air or water, so the plating will not adhere properly.

The solution to the problem is usually what we call a "Wood's Nickel Strike". This is a strongly acidic mixture with only a little nickel in it; the acid attacks and dissolves the oxide skin on the stainless steel while the nickel simultaneously plates out onto it. Then, while the nickel plating is still fresh and non-oxidized, gold or whatever can be plated onto it. It is not impossible to formulate a very highly acidic "strike" solution using gold instead of nickel (it's sometimes done in electronics plating), but it is not what is normally done, and it would not be a decorative 'final' gold plating anyway -- you'd still need both a "strike" solution and a decorative plating solution. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

January 19, 2018

A. The Stainless steel activator is indeed Nickel chloride in acid solution (HCl), that is what most people recommend but I wonder if using Cobalt Chloride strike instead would be best since 30% of people are allergic to Nickel. I've been searching and could not find any information about Cobalt strike as activator but I've been able to successfully strike Stainless steel with Cobalt in the past.

Marvin Sevilla
- Managua, Nicaragua

Gold Plating on Silver Surfaces

December 28, 2017

Q. Hi everyone;
I am Irem from Turkey, Izmir. I was graduated from Chemistry of METU. My father is a jeweler. We have decided to work own job by plating gold on the silver surfaces. I have made many pieces of research on this topic but I could not find gold plating on the silver surfaces process which gives detail of it.
I would like to learn process steps of plating, required bath solution name, and concentration and required voltage or current amount.
Please someone can give the process detail or reference document for it?

Thanks in advance.

Irem Tuncel Boğaz
Chemical Coating Engineer - Izmir, Turkey

Jewelry: Concepts and Technology
from Abe Books


January 19, 2018

A. Somewhat old but very good book on that subject is Oppi Untracht's "Jewelry Concepts and Technology" (try amazon com or abebooks if you want used and cheaper book) =>

Erhard Brepohl's book "Theory and Practice of Goldsmithing" [link is to info about book at Amazon] is very good too. There you can find first class infos on gold plating silver jewelry. Latest edition of "Modern Electroplating" [link is to info about book at Amazon] can be usable too. Hope it helps and good luck!

Goran Budija
- Zagreb, Croatia

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