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Want gold colored finishes without use of gold


Current question and answers:

October 24, 2020

Q. Hi,

I have mild steel 0.8 diameter balls and want then to have a golden color look it is an imitation product. Can you suggest me the process to get it done.
I have some knowledge that it can be done in barrel.
Please suggest.

viraj bhalodia
- Mumbai Maharashtra

October 2020

A. Hi cousin Viraj. There are many ways to get a generally golden color without using gold: from vacuum metalizing with aluminum followed by a gold tinted lacquer, to PVD coating with titanium nitride, to brass plating in a barrel, to chrome-look paint plus tinted lacquer, to CED coating and post-dyeing, to specialty gold-tone paint. Further, when you say it's an "imitation product", that by itself doesn't really rule out gold plating, as costume jewelry and imitation jewelry is usually gold plating on a cheaper substrate.

So it's hard to suggest anything until you give us a requirement & parameter or two.

Luck & Regards,

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

Previous closely related Q&A's, oldest first:


Q. Dear Sir,
I am trying to find some solution or formula that can give me the gold color for decorative purposes without the use of gold in electroplating process

I have heard about some alloys that contain copper & tin that would give me some great result.

thank you in advance for your help

Shafeek Saati
plating shop - Damascus


A. Hi There,

It's true that you can get a yellowish colour for a top coat which is called yellow bronze - alloy of Copper 85 % and Tin 15 % but the finish may not be as similar as gold finish and also the tarnishing ability is very high; it's major application is for nickel free process.
The best works out for you is electrophoretic gold colour process which is very popular these days ... with a good gold and many more colours, and durability ... cha cha cha

praveen kumar
Praveen Kumar
plating process supplier
Mumbai, India


A. The closest and cheapest alloy which looks like gold is brass (Copper-zinc).
You can find some good and free formulations in the Metal Finishing directory book.
If you have any difficulties to find the directory, I can send you one (give me an address in Europe or USA as there is no way I can send it directly to you ... but with time, I am sure we will be able to send books to each other).

Best regards

sara michaeli
sara michaeli signature
Sara Michaeli
Tel-Aviv-Yafo, Israel

simultaneous 2005

A. Try either brass plating, lacquers or titanium nitride by vacuum deposition.

trevor crichton
Trevor Crichton
R&D practical scientist
Chesham, Bucks, UK


A. Shafeek,
No yellow bronze nor brass. It is electrophoretic gold dye lacquer you are looking for. This can be either acrylic or polyurethane lacquer with gold dye of 24 karat colour. The start up investment is going to be expensive because you will require an ultrafilter and that alone will cost you 200 US$. The water generally used is of less than 5 microsiemens. But the running cost is going to be 1/50th of gold plating.

t k mohan
T.K. Mohan
plating process supplier - Mumbai, India

simultaneous 2005

A. Electrophoretic gold is a good idea. But If I am correct, it is an anodic process and therefore it cannot be applied to all metals.

sara michaeli
sara michaeli signature
Sara Michaeli
Tel-Aviv-Yafo, Israel


A. Hi Shafeek Saati

Can you tell me what is the product made of (Substrate) which you want to make look like gold.
In case you can make it out of aluminum extrusion, you could brighten the same and have it dyed in golden color. This would make it look exactly like Gold or Brass.
The method is fairly cheap and inexpensive. What is important though is the volume of product you must process and a good understanding of aluminum brightening, anodizing and coloring.

Hrishikesh V Mhaiskar
- Gujarat, India


Q. We received a response from T.K.Mohan Mumbai India he has suggested electrophoretic gel dye lacquer and said it will be possible with ultrafilter which cost 200 US Dollars.

From where I can purchase this filter and the complete process.

Thank you and best regards.

Syed Shafqat Naqvi
jewellers - Lahore, Pakistan

Ed. note: I think TK was suggesting that the capital cost of such a line is very high, and I think that he made a typo in the cost of the ultrafilter :-)

February 26, 2014

Q. I want gold color plating on brass article but cannot afford real gold plating. Can someone help? Have tried buffing and then lacquering but doesn't look golden.

Tarun Jain
- Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

February 2014

A. Hi cousin Tarun. It sounds like you are looking for a recommendation for a gold tone lacquer that is better than the ones you've tried. Apologies, but this site discourages requests for commercial suggestions because it floods us with spam & phony testimonials from sales people posing as satisfied customers :-)

You might carefully consider the six earlier responses to a very similar situation, and try your best to address your question as a followup to one or more of them. Best of luck.


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

March 1, 2014

A. The only thing that truly looks like gold is real gold.

Chris Owen
- Nevada, Missouri, USA

March 3, 2014

A. We have a PVD coating that we apply to brass parts which is a good match to 24 kt gold. We developed it for our faucets. Not only is it less expensive than gold plating, it doesn't wear off. Downside is that PVD is a batch process, so we don't like to take on small projects.

jim treglio portrait
Jim Treglio - scwineryreview.com
PVD Consultant & Wine Lover - San Diego,

March 4, 2014

Pinchbeck (alloy)
Dutch metal
Nordic gold

A. Gold has always been expensive and many attempts have been made to find substitutes.
In 1720, James Pinchbeck introduced a material that was widely used and is still popular with antique collectors. Pinchbeck alloy is simply a modified brass containing 83% copper and 17% zinc. The colour is very close to 18 kt gold.
This is very similar to Dutch Metal copper 84%, Zinc 16% which is commonly used as a substitute for gold leaf gilding.
A more modern substitute is used for euro coins and is known as Nordic Gold Copper 87%, Aluminium 5%, Zinc 5%, Tin 1%

None of these is usually lacquered.

geoff smith
Geoff Smith
Hampshire, England

March 11, 2014

Q. Mr Geoff.

Nordic Gold is suitable in Stainless steel Surgical instruments? Can you explain in detail.

Thanks in Advance and waiting for reply.

Muhammad Nasir
instruments - Punjab, Pakistan

March 12, 2014

A. Hi Muhammed

Copper alloys are well documented as having anti-bacterial properties and I have scalpel holders which appear to be made of some type of light coloured bronze so you may have found a suitable application. However, I suspect that medical instruments are subject to regulation so I suggest that you check with end users before going ahead.

geoff smith
Geoff Smith
Hampshire, England

May 2014

thumbs up signThanks for the pair of very informative answers, Geoff. I think I would add that an exact color match with gold should not be important to surgeons because the intent is certainly not to fool them :-)


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

May 27, 2014

Q. I have to know the steps of making nordic gold liquid solvent using cyanide, potassium and sodium chloride. Please anyone help me.

ravi kumara m r
student - bangalore karnataka india

May 2014

A. Hi Ravi. Please take a paragraph and introduce your situation because your question by itself isn't clear enough. Nordic gold is, as Geoff Smith has previously told us, and per the link we provided to Wikipedia, a copper alloy with a little zinc, aluminum, and tin in it, and no gold at all. So what do you mean by "liquid solvent"? And what does cyanide have to do with the situation? Sorry, but I'm lost.


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

May 28, 2014

Q. Dear sir
I have to give gold color to silver, copper, brass jewellery without using gold. Please help me.

ravi kumara m r [returning]
student - bangalore karnataka india

May 2014

Hi again. I'm getting closer to understanding you I think, but yet again you haven't introduced yourself and your situation as requested :-)

Are you trying to color one item for yourself or for a science project, or are you a small designer, or are doing an internship in a large company and looking for a high volume solution? The answers will depend on it.

A million dollar titanium nitride vapor deposition unit as suggested by Trevor and Jim, or an e-coating line as suggested by Praveen and TK aren't appropriate for a hobbyist student project, but probably will be the best high volume approaches. For a smaller operation you may need brass plating as Praveen and Sara suggest, or the more exacting compositions described by Geoff. For rock bottom cost you might consider lacquering with a UV lacquer (like nailpolish) and use a UV curing tray (very cheap). Good luck, and please keep us moving forward with a detailed reply. Thanks, and good luck.


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

May 29, 2014

Q. Sir, my dad has a small jewellery shop and is doing some gold plating in small budget but we are using gold for this, so income is less. Somebody told me that instead of gold, use nordic gold. I tried but color is not similar to gold. And I know the gold alkaline making process can use same. Is there any procedure? Please help me.

ravi kumara m r [returning]
student - bangalore karnataka india

May 2014

A. Hello again Ravi. Please see
where the good doctor, Arthur Kushner suggests:
  - Sodium cyanide 8-9 oz/gal
  - Copper cyanide 4 oz/gal
  - Sodium stannate 1.5 oz/gal
  - Sodium hydroxide 1.5 oz/gal
  - Rochelle salts 6.0-6.5 oz/gal
He notes that the bath should contain between 9-12% tin and should be operated at 150-160 °F. Copper anodes are used, and varying the amount of copper and tin in the plating bath controls the color.

Best of luck,

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

May 31, 2014

Q. Thanks for your reply sir, but I am in a little confusion how to use all these chemicals. I need the formula or steps. Please help me sir.

ravi kumara m r [returning]
student - bangalore karnataka india

May 2014

A. Hi Ravi. I have given you the formula you asked for, and a further reference. But sorry, it is unsafe, and probably not possible, to explain in this forum all that must be explained to teach someone how to formulate and use home-brewed electroplating chemicals -- especially when they involve cyanide! Please see our page of recommended plating books and thumb through no less than two of them and then get back to us with specific questions. No one but a trained chemist should be attempting to mix these cyanide based chemicals. Best of luck.


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

June 25, 2014

Q. I have made Nordic Gold using copper, aluminium, zinc, tin. Good gold color came but in a few days it's getting black color. What to do? Please help.

ravi kumara m r [returning]
student - bangalore karnataka india

June 29, 2014

A. Try using pyrite ores. I read it was used extensively in war time to achieve gold color on glass.I heated some pyrite up in a stainless steel tube hoping to extract gold!
When I removed tube from bottom steel plate, I had a gold colored tinting on metal.
Don't know if this will help, but it's a cheap alternative; pyrite ores are not usually valuable unless the gold in them is high.
Check under "GLASS BLOWING".

David Russell
- trout brook, New Brunswick, Canada

July 3, 2014

A. Just a quick point, pyrite ores are not valuable depending on how much gold in them as they contain no gold,
Hence pyrite's colloquial name 'Fool's Gold'.

Mark Lees
- Isle of Man, Great Britain

April 7, 2015

Q. Sir, please explain this line that you have written in the end of above formulation:
"He notes that the bath should contain between 9-12% tin"

ateeq ur rehman
a small shop - faisalabad,punjab,pakistan

April 2015

A. Hi Ateeq.

Presumably, Dr. Kushner means that the color will come out best if the copper and tin chemicals are adjusted so that 88-91% of the metal in solution is copper and 9-12% of the metal in solution is tin. But we gave you the link to the article; please read the article yourself as a minimum, instead of relying on my interpretation of it. Good luck.


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

sidebar September 2, 2015

Q. Hi I am looking for information on plating just mild steel but I want it'll be a good color; it's for corrosion protection of some parts I've made but I wish to know what is used to produce the gold colored plating found on many products to protect them from rust.

Anthony Muscat
- Melbourne Vic Australia

September 2015

A. Hi Anthony. There are more than a dozen commonly plated metals, hundreds of alloys, and thousands of combinations of plating. But zinc is the most common plating for steel and it often receives a post treatment of yellow ("gold") colored chromate -- so I suspect that's what you are thinking of. No one would confuse it for gold, but people sometimes think it's brass.


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

September 2, 2015

Q. That sounds like what I'm after. Is that stuff dangerous to work with?
And how would it be added after zinc plating?

Anthony Muscat [returning]
- Melboure Vic Australia

September 2015

A. Hi again. Are you asking whether it's dangerous for experienced platers who have had hands-on OJT training, and annual haz-mat training, and are wearing proper protective equipment? Or do you mean are there any possible dangers at all to an inexperienced hobbyist, his children, and his pets in attempting to do a regulated industrial process on his kitchen table?

Seriously, the straightforward way to approach the project is to send the parts to a plating shop -- but we also have dozens of threads on this site about what hobbyists want to do, what they can do, how they can substitute more laborious operations for more risky chemical ones, and what they still cannot do. A determined hobbyist can probably successfully zinc plate a few steel parts and can probably buy trivalent chromate conversion chemistry and apply it, without hurting himself. You can prove to yourself that you are a determined hobbyist by reading the Metal Finishing Guidebook cover to cover.


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

March 26, 2018 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. Hi there, I am looking for a plating process which gives me a gold plated finish on my iron articles. Is there any kind of plating/passivation, etc., which is similar to gold plating finish? Kindly help.

umang goyal
business owner - jodhpur,rajasthan, india

March 2018

A. Hi Umang. We appended your inquiry to one of many threads about finishes that "look like gold". Titanium nitride looks very much like gold but is vacuum-deposited not electroplated, and probably not suited to low volume; brass plating can look a fair bit like gold to some people; zinc plating with iridescent gold colored chromate looks vaguely gold colored but wouldn't fool one person in a hundred.

If you want real help on this, it isn't going to be sufficient to be vague; rather, you must write at least several paragraphs explaining exactly what the parts are, what environment they will experience, why you want them to look like gold, how many you need so we know whether very high capital costs like for Titanium Nitride deposition are feasible, what your skills are, etc. Thanks, and good luck!


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

April 6, 2018

Q. I have a stainless steel tube, 1.715 long, .224 od, .010 wall.
Will do 15k to 25k units a month. I want to have an 14 karat gold finish look (a bright yellow color). Is there an economical process for this. Also, can my tube be plated with another coating (copper,tin,zinc,etc.) so a treatment of yellow ("gold") colored chromate can be applied? Thank You,

ink pens - MOUNT MORRIS, Illinois, USA

April 20, 2018

A. Hi Claude,

As long as the SS alloy is not 316, gold colors can be achieved by anodizing. It cannot be done in basket, but still the process is pretty economical. Please see the attached photo.


Anna Berkovich
Russamer Lab
supporting advertiser
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
russamer labs banner

April 19, 2018

Q. Someone know about electrophoretic gold plating: It is not gold, just the color is like gold. I would love to have some information. I would like to plate just the color of gold.

Karine Martimbianco
- Fairfax, Virginia, USA

April 2018

A. Hi Karine. As long as you don't expect too much in terms of actual resemblance to gold, electrocoating followed by a metallic gold colored post-dip could be what you are looking for.

49008-1cedgoldb   49008-1cedgolda
(CED coating with gold colored post dye; same part, different lighting)

The above part was just a "one-off" coating on a zinc die-casting for a corrosion study which finishing.com did for the International Zinc Association. I'm confident that vendors could improve the consistency with a little development effort and practice on the parts, but I don't think anyone would believe it's gold :-)

Please see topic 49008 for more about electrophoretic gold plating, or search the site for e-coating, electropainting, CED, or electrophoretic lacquer. Good luck.


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

May 15, 2018

Q. How do I do brass gold on ABS material?
Is there a direct one use chemical? I want it in reddish tone.

Narendra rathod
Alpenglow - Mumbai India Maharashtra

Mirror gold/brass finish on steel/stainless steel

September 17, 2018

Q. Hi,

I am building a sculpture and ultimately the finish needs to look like mirrored gold.

It s a large piece 5'x10'x9' that will be made moslty of sheet metal, angles and extrusions of stainless steel, steel and brass.

I am currently thinking of plating the pieces of steel/stainless steel with a thicker brass coating, complete the sculpture then polish the entire thing to a mirror finish and lacquer.

Or completing the sculpture in the different base materials, taking it apart then plating them to a mirror finish if that is possible, followed by lacquer, then putting the sculpture back together.

It doesn't matter if there is a slight color variation between the plated steels and original brass pieces.

The sculpture is going to be susceptible to damage/scratching so need the option to be able to re-polish if necessary without having to dismantle it. So vacuum coatings would not be ideal I am thinking.

A friend has a metal work shop and is experienced in metals and finishing. Ideally we would like to do the finishing work ourselves. There will be many different parts and it will take over a year to build so do not mind investing in a bath set-up to install at his shop.

Is brass plating the best option considering the base materials, mirrored finish, similarity to gold, ability to repair/re-polish; and the type of work that can be undertaken ourselves without too much of an investment in equipment?

Is it possible to achieve a mirror finish straight out of the bath without polishing?

Any other considerations/options?


byron kaplan
- Brooklyn, New York, USA

What gold substitute for motorbike parts?

October 29, 2018

Q. I'm contemplating plating some motorbike parts with a gold substitute. Parts include the outer heat shields of the exhaust system, air filter covers, headlight, and fuel tank dash surround.
What is the best way to do this please? Can anyone tell me what I need to ask electroplating companies near me in Perth West Australia please?

Jono Hoare
- Success, West Australia, Australia

March 13, 2020

Q. Hi,
my question is related to this thread that how can we identified that any component having either real gold plating or yellow bronze plating? As we have seen the colour of both finish are same.

Even though the thickness of real gold is very less as flash Plating to achieve the colour and could not be analyzed by XRF Machine? If there is any consolidated method please suggest.

Awadhesh Avasthi

March 17, 2020

A. Hello Awadhesh!

You can put a drop of 5% hydrochloric acid on the part you want to assess. If the drop dissolves the coating, it is zinc. If not, it may be gold.

XRF must give you accurate data about the coating. It should give you thickness and composition of either zinc, gold or any other metallic coating.

Hope it helps! Best of lucks!


Daniel Montañés
N. Ferraris S.A. - Cañuelas, Buenos Aires, Argentina

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