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Gold Plating Problems with Jewelry, How to make gold plating last longer? PVD?

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A discussion started in 2006 but continuing through 2018


Q. Hello,
We import gold plated jewelry from various different countries including, China, India.

The gold plated jewelry usually doesn't last long and will tarnish within 12 months, Usually using 1 micron gold plating.

We want our jewelry to last longer, for at least 3 years wearing it everyday. I have heard about PVD process and using titanium nitrides, I have asked many manufactures about PVD on jewelry and they tell me its not suitable for jewelry as it doesn't give the right gold color for jewelry, they tell me its too bright and mainly used on door handles etc but not for jewelry.

Is this correct? Does anyone know of a manufacture that can do PVD Titanium nitrides over brass/copper for jewelry or any other suggestions for increasing the wearability/durability without a too heavy price tag?

Mat Johnson
Jewelry - Australia

A User's Guide to Vacuum Technology
from Abe Books



A. Hello, Mat. Actually, I think it is a fairly well developed technology to combine titanium nitriding PVD processing and gold plating to provide a good gold color and a wear resistant surface. The thing is, it is rather inexpensive for a very small shop to do gold plating (especially if they don't have environmental regulators monitoring them), but a PVD vacuum chamber is major capital equipment. So you won't often find tiny operations offering titanium nitride assisted gold plating.

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


A. Ted is exactly right. The technology for using titanium nitride and gold is well tried and tested. The titanium nitride is put down first as a "rough" deposit and then gold electrodeposited into the valleys of the rough surface. This gives a very high amount of gold on the surface, but it is protected by the "peaks" of TiN, so it doesn't wear away too fast.

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


A. Gold is soft, so it wears fairly fast. 1 micron is about enough to give it color. It also depends on what it is plated on. Copper and zinc will migrate thru a coating that thin in a few weeks.
You get what you pay for sometimes. Cheap will be cheap in most countries.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida


Q. Thanks for your reply, I wonder where I can find a suitable manufacturer to do the PVD Titanium Nitrides combined with gold electroplating?

Best Regards,

Mat Johnson
Jewellery - Australia

Ed. note: the site's supporting advertisers will respond in private to the sourcing issues.


A. One micron of gold should give a reasonable life for costume jewelry. Most costume jewelry is plated with a 'flash' of gold which is much less than a micron. Check the thickness; are you getting what you paid for?
Tarnish of thin gold deposits is associated with porosity or diffusion of the base coat. It is usual to apply an intermediate layer. In industrial applications this is usually nickel but some people are sensitive and can develop a form of dermatitis (do they never take their jewelry off?). Palladium/nickel is commonly used. Your supplier should know this.

P.S. 1 micron of gold cannot be accurately measured by microsection. You will need XRF - talk to a local plating house.

geoff smith
Geoff Smith
Hampshire, England

May 4, 2011

Q. I am very curious about the use of titanium nitride underneath gold plating for costume jewelry. I have customers who are using anywhere from 3-5 mils to 6-8 mils gold, often with e-coating on top.

Anyone familiar with the cost of e-coating and titanium nitride who can provide me with a comparison in cost? would replacing e-coat with titanium nitride be cost neutral? would it be a more effective option?

Also, does the color of titanium nitride work only with a shiny gold finish? Some of our customers use an oxidized or even matte gold. If the gold plating were to wear off, would the titanium nitride beneath be very obviously different in color?

Thank you in advance!

Rebecca Noveck
- New York, New York, USA

Unique Colors for Gold

June 21, 2011

Q. Yeah, I have the same question. My jewelry coming from many sources, so I want to have a unique color of 18k jewelry in my show room. Could you please to share with me where I could buy the tools and material to do that?

Thank you very much!

Huan Nguyen
- HCMC, Vietnam

November 8, 2011

A. As per the series of experiments conducted by our company, the durability of depositing gold over titanium nitride would be as much as that of 1 micron. Sometimes the life term of the product can be 6 months also. To obtain a durability of nearly 3 years, it is recommended to do electrophoretic lacquer.

Amit Jain
- Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

October 2013

A. Hi Rebecca. Ideally, the titanium nitride is, as Trevor tells us, a rough surface with mountain peaks that protect the gold in the valleys from wearing off. Cost comparisons are difficult because non precious materials like TiN and e-coating lacquer are inexpensive, so you're usually looking at capital costs vs. labor costs. The capital cost of gold plating can be very low; jewellers can do it in a beaker with a stirrer on a hotplate. E-coating systems might cost $100,000 for a small setup to $1 million for a large one, and PVD systems cost something like $1 million and more. I believe it is relatively easy to incorporate 'contaminants' into PVD deposits to give a darker look.


Hi Huan. The coloring of gold is an art more than a science, but Al Weisburg's "Gold Plating" chapter in the Metal Finishing Guidebook includes a "Table 1 "that will give you a start on formulations and operating conditions for different colors =>


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

February 23, 2012 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. I'm a watch case manufacturer and also plater. We own PVD plant to coat ss 304 straps and brass watch cases using arc for TiN plating up to 0.5 or more micron and then followed by sputter 24k Gold plating (0.05 micron) to get gold finish.

I want to reduce the cost of PVD plating due to very high price in GOLD!

My question is can we do electroplating followed by TiN ? Or can we do gold electroplating after TiN and very thin layer or gold or nickel layer in PVD?

Any other suggestions are welcome


Bhavin Sorathia
Owner - Rajkot, Gujarat, India

October 2013

A. Hi cousin Bhavin. It is possible to electroplate gold before TiN deposition by PVD. I think, but do not know for sure, that is is also possible to electroplate gold plating on top of a thin TiN layer. But it is probably more customary to apply the gold via PVD as you say you are doing.

Surely there is something wrong with your figures? 0.05 microns of gold cannot possibly be costly as it is incredibly thin. Light gauge aluminum foil is 320X thicker :-)


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

May 1, 2012

Q. I'm an independent jewelry designer in NYC used to working with gold/silver. I've now created a line of costume jewelry in brass and would like to have them gold plated but have been quoted cost prohibitive prices for "micron plating". What I understand is called "flash plating" is at my price point (~$5-10 per piece) but doesn't last long.

Is there a coating I can apply that will extend the life of the gold plating (to at least 1 year but hopefully more) while maintaining a matte finish?

Hopefully either something I can apply myself (as a layman) or can be inexpensively be done by a professional in the NYC area?

Thanks and regards,


Jon Silo
- New York

May 4, 2012

A. Hello Jon,
The jewelry industry has their own jargon especially when it comes to electroplating. Micron plating is not a considered a flash plate in Au plating. A micron is about 40 microinches give or take. Flash plating is conventionally anywhere from 3 to 10 microinches. You would be lucky to get 10 from most decorative Au platers. If the Au plating thickness was 1 micron and was alloyed for some hardness your products would last a year and even more. If you can't find a plater to put down that much Au, coatings are available that will not change the appearance of the final finish. Obviously your price to have the items plated / coated will be more expensive. Good Luck.

Mark Baker
Engineering - Mesa, Arizona, USA

July 25, 2012

Q. I would like to know about the gold micron plating which can last at least one year. Can anybody suggest for the same? Thanking you.

Rohan Kumar
- Mumbai, India

August 2, 2012

Q. We are importing sterling jewelry charms and would like to offer gold plated silver charms as well. I have been discussing the plating with suppliers but it is difficult to get an actionable answer. I am looking for a suggestion to point me in the right direction with regard to wearability. There is obviously some body contact with the charms. I'd like to offer pieces that will not wear through to the silver - at least for several years of occasional wear. 1 micron of 24k gold has been suggested and that's affordable, the charms are small, but I have not been able to determine what I should buy. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

John Anthony
- Phoenix, Arizona, USA

August 7, 2012

A. Hi, Rohan; Hi, John.
I'm not a jeweler, but since no answers have come so far, I'll provide my understanding, albeit not definitive answers.

Gold has been valued throughout history for its beauty, one aspect of which is that it doesn't tarnish or corrode. For that reason, no lacquer or topcoat is required to keep it bright, as is needed for copper or silver and other non-precious metals. So it has been customary to not topcoat gold or gold plating. That doesn't mean you can't put a clear topcoat on it; but it does mean that it may not be as well received, so you decide whether you will or you won't as a business decision depending upon how you want your jewelry perceived.

If you do topcoat it, with an electrophoretic lacquer for example, the thickness of the gold doesn't matter from a wear standpoint because it is underneath the clearcoat. If you don't clearcoat it, the gold itself will wear and must be thick enough to resist that wear for what you consider an acceptable life. 1 micron is probably sufficient to offer sufficient life for moderately priced jewelry if it sees little wear and no body contact. A ring would receive tremendous wear and body contact, a pin or brooch virtually no wear or body contact, a charm would probably depend on the exact design of the bracelet. Until I learn better myself, I don't think I'd do 1 micron without a clearcoat though if I wanted it to last several years.

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

August 29, 2012

A. A trick used by some jewellers is to coat the articles with titanium nitride and then put down a thin coating of gold. The TiN is relatively rough, and the gold fills the cavities (or valleys) as well as the peaks. However, as the gold wears off the peaks, the TiN offers a hard and wear resistant point that protects the gold further down the valley.

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

January 31, 2013 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q1. In respect to jewellery items, what is the common understanding of the meaning of the term HARD GOLD PLATING (HGP)? What does HARD actually refer to?

Q2. Also, what are the recommendations for achieving HGP with very strong bonding (that is, won't wear off), when plating silver (925) and brass jewellery items? It seems that a barrier layer is required between the base material and the HGP layer, what is the consensus as to what layers be applied to each of 925 and brass items?

Q3. Does anyone have opinions on the use of Enthone additives and solutions? They seems a reputable supplier, or any other specific brands you have tried and have faith in?

Q4. Any views on the use of e-coating, as a final protective coat over the HGP? Is this necessary and recommended?

Many thanks for anyone sharing their views and experience.

Robert Killeen
Jewellery manufacturer employee - Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

February 9, 2013

A. Hello Robert,
Hard gold plating is a gold plating process whereas the plating solution contains gold salts (Potassium Gold Aurocyanide, conducting salts, buffer salts, and an alloy or brightener. Potassium citrate versions have been common for many years. The gold plating thickness is normally higher than standard "color gold flashes". Whatever the alloy is in conjunction with the gold metal concentration in the bath, determines the color and hardness of the plating deposit. pH and bath temperature play a role as well. Diffusion barrier coatings (between the substrate and the gold plating) vary. White bronze has become popular, palladium is also a good option, but more expensive. As you probably know, nickel had been the most widely used barrier plate in jewelry plating, but over the past 15 - 20 years usage of Nickel has been on a steep decline because of consumer allergies. There are reputable gold plating suppliers out there. This website can satisfy your search for a good supplier. Because jewelry is gold plated you have to expect the deposit to wear off over the years. The wear life will of course be dependent on the piece. Are you plating rings that will be worn daily, or necklaces that will be worn a few times a month. E-coating is an option to extend the wear life, but I am not familiar with possible drawbacks. Good Luck.

Mark Baker
Process Engineer - Mesa, Arizona, USA

February 6, 2013

Q. Hello, please please I need some help!

I'm doing the hardware metal for my handbags (logo, tags, o rings, metal plate) in China. I got the samples on Friday and they looked pretty good to my surprise. The only problem I have is the gold color. I asked them to do a 14k gold plating (they say they use IP plating which is better and more durable than micron plating, is this true?) and when I compared the pieces to the metal hardware that were done here in the USA, the gold color is a little bit lighter then the ones made in USA. I wonder why could this be?
Also, another thing that got to my attention. When I did the metal hardware here in the USA, the people that did it told me that to have the engraving on the metal (like the name of my brand that is engraved on the metal) to polished inside is really hard, so that's why it looked rough on the inside, not polished. But the hardware from China looks amazing on the inside! is completely polished and clean. Does anybody knows why is there such a difference? if there is something that this people in China might be doing differently? And if this is the case will that be compromising the quality of my metal hardware?
Thanks so much

Isabella Galli
- Snowmass Village, Colorado, USA

Gold Plating Technology
from Abe Books


April 25, 2013

A. Hi Isabella. 14K gold is 10/24 non-gold, and the color depends on those other 10 parts. "Gold coloring" is both an art form and a trade secret for the fastidious: it's not easy to get consistent color, and quite difficult to specify it -- but you can study that topic in plating textbooks. "Gold Plating Technology" has quite a bit of info on gold coloring =>

I didn't understand your engraving description and problem, sorry; but is it possible that the engraving was done after the plating here, and before the plating there? Also, your Chinese supplier is doing "ion plating" -- but that's a method, like "electroplating" is a method; it may be gold plating but it may not be. Are you sure you specified "gold plating" rather than just "gold color"? Micron plating is neither a method nor a material; it's a gold plating thickness of one micron. I don't think you are getting from China what you thought you were asking for; but if what you actually want is only the appearance, and you're happy with the appearance, that's probably okay.

This is a forum of international camaraderie, so we naturally try to not stand in judgement of anyone's outsourcing choices. Still, a problem is that we receive hacking attempts every hour of every day from China, and so many thousands of pieces of spam from China every week, that we often must block large swaths of IP addresses from China, and in so doing we may inadvertently block a helpful response from China. So you probably can't expect much help from China. And you really can't expect domestic and other platers to spend their time for free here helping you cut them out of the loop. That would be like going to a Chevy dealer and expecting the salesperson to patiently spend her time helping you choose between a Honda and a Toyota. That's probably why you've received no responses in a couple of months. But best of luck.


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

April 25, 2013

Q. Regarding Plating Cost and Plating Thickness recommendation


I am talking to manufacturers in China about fashion jewelry, mainly ear studs, chains, pendants and rings. My market is very price sensitive and I need to consider cost versus benefit closely.

I understand ear studs have less exposure to sweat than rings.

Can anybody give a recommendation for each of those categories - chains worn around the neck, ear studs, pendants and rings - how many microns or fractions thereof you would recommend so that the plating holds for 0.5/1/1.5/2 years under normal usage in a table format for gold, rhodium and black colour plating ?

In addition, I was wondering what the actual cost differential for the plating factory is. The issue I have that I do not know how big the square centimeter surface of a ear stud (sizes 3 to 10 mm), ring, chain etc is depending on common sizes.

For example a table that would tell me that the average 4 mm/5 mm/6 mm ear stud costs x US$ per 0.1 micron of gold/rhodium plating.

I would like to use this when negotiating prices with my manufacturers.

Any help would be highly appreciated.

Another question I am pondering with is whether there are health concerns if the plating wears off and brass or zinc alloy is revealed and gets direct skin contact. Firstly, I cannot even find what exactly "zinc alloy" is versus brass. Are there any EU rules under REACH that mandate a specific minimum plating thickness in microns?

Many thanks again,


Daniel Bihler
- Guangzhou, China

April 30, 2013

A. It isn't necessary to know all the costs involved in the manufacturing of the jewelry you are seeking to buy in order to get the best possible price but you will need detailed designs and exact specifications that you can give to multiple manufacturers for quotes. Based on some of your questions I'm guessing you have little experience and you should hire a consultant to help you write up the specifications you will want to use. A word of caution: we regularly receive jewelry items through our customers that have been gold plated in China and do not meet the specifications.

Neil Bell
Red Sky Plating

supporting advertiser
Albuquerque, New Mexico
red sky banner ad

May 16, 2013



May 16, 2013

A. Hi Vibhuti. Have you tried a 2k automotive clearcoat? I think it will be okay!


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

May 19, 2013

Q. Hello, I'm wondering what base metal adheres to gold plating best. I've read stainless is a great choice; what about brass, copper, nickel, or aluminum?

Ilene Brody
Education - Somerville, New Jersey, USA

May 20, 2013

A. Hi Ilene. It sounds like you're asking what you should make something out of if you are intend to gold plate it. Of the materials you listed, I think a brass or copper base, followed by nickel plating (or white bronze if jewelry), immediately followed by gold plating would be the best choice, and aluminum base would be the worst choice. But sterling silver would be better than anything you mentioned.


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

May 24, 2013 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. Could you please explain to me how e-coating works on cheap jewelry?
How the process is made and how can we test if a piece of cheap jewelry has e-coating or not?


Daniel Oliveira
- Braga, Portugal

May 28, 2013 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. Hi,

What is the best way or product to protect gold plated surface so it will last for long time?
I am gold plating jewelry and I want to protect the result.
I tried several finishes but nothing lasts more than a few months. I am looking for at least one year solution if it is possible. Thank you for any advise!

Maria Hattas
- Nitra, Slovakia

May 29, 2013

A. Gold plating will not last. If you want a long-lasting gold finish, consider PVD.

jim treglio portrait
Jim Treglio
PVD Consultant - San Diego, California

May , 2013

thumbs up signWell, the gold plating on pocket watches has often lasted more than 100 years, Jim. But it was something like 400X as thick as what people want to apply today. 100 years divided by 400 = (left as an exercise for the reader).


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

May 31, 2013

A. People have tried coating transparent hard substances like SiO2 on brass articles (and possibly on gold plating) by CEPVD / PVD though I am not sure with what effect. It appears worth exploring.

H.R. Prabhakara
- Bangalore, Karnatak, India

June 3, 2013

thumbs up signAm I totally wrong here, what is the problem in giving the costumer a thick layer of gold that lasts a lifetime. After all, gold is what costumer expects, when he/she buys jewelry.

Bo Koenig
Freelance - Aalborg, Denmark

June 5, 2013

A. It really depends on how intricate the jewelry design is. Balfour gave a presentation some years ago on class rings. They had moved from gold to PVD. Cost was an issue, of course, but a second problem is that the design work on gold would wear away over the years. With PVD, it would not.

jim treglio portrait
Jim Treglio
- San Diego, California

June 14, 2013

Q. Could I please enquire if there is such a thing as a PVD gold plating kit along the same lines as those electroplating kits one can get so easily. What would be the cost involved for that? Thank you.

Clive Gant
- Singapore

June 2013

A. Sorry Clive, but PVD means physical vapor deposition: it is a vacuum process done in a very expensive vacuum chamber; it's not an inexpensive kit. PVD is more appropriate for major manufacturers and their production runs than for an artist or hobbyist.


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

September 21, 2013

A. Vacuum coating machine is widely used in stainless steel material; if the jewelry is brass or copper, then should do electroplating first, then use vacuum coating machine to do many IP color, rose gold color, TPU and so on.

Yan Wang
vacuum technology - Longkou, Shandong, China

December 3, 2013

Q. Hello
I am new to gold plating. How many microns do I need to gold plate stainless steel Iphone 4/4s battery covers and bezels, business card holders and keyrings so that they do not wear out quickly? I'm planning to market them in a hot country. I'm concerned the weather might cause them to wear out quickly, which is bad for business. I Appreciate any advice.


Paul Ajogbe
- England

December 9, 2013

A. Hi Paul. I'm no expert on this, but I'll tell you what I believe, subject to correction by more knowledgeable people ...

There is no real answer, I'm afraid -- because it's predominantly a question of what standard of quality and endurance YOU want to hold your product to, and whether you can realistically upscale the potential customers to that level of quality.

- As mentioned earlier, gold plated pocket watches lasted a century with, say, 20 microns of gold and up.

- The very highest quality gold plating on super-premium luxury watches today is probably about 7-20 microns.

- Vermeil, great quality jewelry, is a sterling silver base with 3 microns of gold plating.

- High quality costume jewelry, say gold plated sterling silver earrings, involves plating of about 1 micron.

- An earlier inquirer on this thread wanted to reduce his gold thickness below 0.05 microns (although that was on top of a gold-tone TiN deposit).

So, if you want to rely on the gold plating alone for the wear, rather than relying on TiN or a clearcoat or a gold-tone lacquer, consider: Cell phones, key chains, etc., are not heirlooms to be passed down to the next generation, and don't require 20 microns; but they suffer far more wear than earrings -- so you'd probably be looking at 3 microns for top quality.

But the thing is, if you intend to be a "me too" supplier, selling competitively, there is no way you can afford gold of that thickness :-(

That's why you will probably find it necessary to either apply TiN by a PVD process (which requires volume), or apply a clear or gold-toned transparent/translucent topcoat on top of your gold. I certainly hope you can sell real gold plating of a few microns, but it might be a difficult sell. Best of luck.


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

Can you gold plate yellow PVD coatings like ZrN or TiN?

March 20, 2014

Q. Good morning,
I work in fashion field and I have galvanic plants and PVD.
The question is,
Is it possible to plate gold on PVD (like yellow Zr or Ti)?

Fabio Crolli
Top Finish - Florence, Italy

A. Hi Fabio. I suspect that it is possible, since the ZrN or TiN is thin and great adhesion wouldn't seem to be a major issue -- but that you don't hear about it much because it is simpler and more conducive to single-vendor responsibility to just apply the gold by PVD since you've already done the ZrN or TiN by PVD anyway.


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

Interested in clear PVD coatings. SiO2?

November 3, 2014

Q. Dear all, I'm interested in understanding if a clear PVD coating can be applied to alloy and stainless steel watches which have already been coated with IP and PVD plating? I'm wondering if this Si02 is the solution to this?

Any help much appreciated


Charlie Gumley
watches - Kettering, Midlands, UK

November 3, 2014

A. It would need less investment both in gold and equipment if one could plate gold on TiN or ZrN coated watches. Once I tried to collaborate with an innovative plater. Though he could plate a few pieces, gave up saying it was not reproducible. It would be interesting to know if anyone is doing it. Or is it technically not feasible ?
I had seen some people trying to coat SiO2 on brass ware to prevent it from tarnishing. They were using plasma (RF) cvd. When I heard last, that was more than a decade back, there were some issues in commercialising it.

H.R. Prabhakara
Bangalore Plasmatek - Bangalore, Karnatak, India

November 6, 2014

A. I believe Seiko has a patent on a gold layer on PVD TiN, and used the method extensively on their watch bands. Eventually the gold wears off, but the color is close enough that the consumer can't tell. Not sure how they put the gold on. In the faucet and door hardware business the gold has been completely eliminated. PVD ZrN with additions of carbon can provide a wide range of gold finishes, as well as brass, bronze, and even nickel. A protective layer can be added to reduce fingerprint smudges, also applied by PVD. I don't know of any company using SiO2 as a top layer. It is hard to deposit. The PVD method of choice for decorative coatings is cathodic arc, and silicon does not arc well at all. It can be sputter deposited, but sputtering an oxide is a very slow deposition process.

jim treglio portrait
Jim Treglio
- San Diego, California

November 22, 2014

Q. Hello,

I would very appreciate if you could help out a young, inexperienced jeweler, very new to the trade. I have been selling my gold-plated sterling silver items such as rings, necklaces and cuff bracelets. However, many of my clients (mostly friends who I am in touch with) have complained that the gold plating has already corroded in 1-3 months time and their rings are now totally silver. I have sourced my gold plating from a business on jeweler's row in Philadelphia, PA. I have read over this letter and see that gold plating is a very tricky thing. Is PVD something that is appropriate for silver jewelry? Is there something I can do to salvage my remaining pieces? Can I use some sort of lacquer over the current gold-plating to make it last longer? Can PVD be done over top of the gold plating? Where would I even take my jewelry to conduct something like that? I don't know of any available services in Philadelphia. I'm guessing there are places in New York that have these services. I'm willing to spend more money in order to make a better product. Thanks for your help.

Marissa Oswald
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

December 2014

A. Hi Marissa. PVD is capital-intensive and much more applicable to high volume jewelry than to a few pieces. Yes, you could clear coat your jewelry with a 2-component automotive clearcoat or with a UV-cured clearcoat similar to nail gel, but ...

Since your jewelry is sterling silver, it is not cheap -- and it doesn't deserve cheap plating, it deserves good plating. See my response below to Natasha for what I mean by that: at least 1 micron thick gold, and preferably 2-1/2 micron.

If you don't want to do the plating yourself, and jewelers won't deliver good plating, consider sending your work to a plating shop which specializes in jewelry. They will have the equipment, instrumentation, strict procedures, and quality ethic that you might not find in a local jewelry shop where plating is a minor sideline conducted in a small corner of the shop with inexpensive catalog equipment by people whose skills aren't primarily in plating.


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

jewelry banner  red sky plating banner

December 2, 2014


I'm looking to start a line of fashion jewellery. I am looking to deliver gold plated, good quality, durable pieces for everyday wear.
Q1. What base metal do you suggest would work best? From my research I have gathered that Sterling silver and brass are preferred base metals.
Q2. What method would work best for adding the gold plating?
Q3. What should be the ideal thickness of the gold layer so that it lasts for at least 3-5 years?

Thank you!

Natasha Adnani
- Mumbai, India

Clean Earth Gold Plating Solution

December 2014

A. Hi Natasha. Many of the ideas on this thread have applicability, and we have a dozen threads on the same subject if you want multiple opinions ...

1. Both brass and sterling are fine. Obviously there is both cost and cachet involved if you say that all your jewelry is sterling. But additionally, gold can be plated directly onto the silver, whereas brass would probably require nickel plating before the gold plating. Back to cachet, if the gold plating is thick enough (2-1/2 microns) and the base is sterling silver, you can call it vermeil.
2. Electroplating is the only option available for applying the gold to the substrate in low volume custom applications. It can be done by brush (tampon) plating or tank (immersing) plating. There are a hundred and one proprietary formulations, but I would avoid solutions which involve cyanide because I assume you will not be doing this in an industrial setting. You should probably get access to a book about gold plating, as people who have spent a career in this art may find it a bit silly to think their lifetime of experience can be distilled down to a paragraph :-)
3. Micron gold (1 micron thickness) is considered good quality for costume ("artificial") jewelry, but if you want 3-5 years and more, and there is a possibility of wear, and you don't want to rely on clearcoats, then 2-3 microns would probably be best (search for "vermeil"). Today's most expensive watches might have 7-20 microns and some antique pocket watches had even more than 20 microns.

Mass produced costume jewelry may have little real gold, and may rely on clearcoats or PVD imitation coloring for durability. But if this is your artistry, involving hours of your own time, trying to save $2 on the cost of gold might be insulting yourself. A quick thumbnail sketch says if a piece of jewelry is 2 square inches and is plated with 1 micron of gold (.0000394") at a weight of 10.18 troy ounces per cubic inch and a gold cost of $1200 per troy ounce, the gold costs 96 cents. So 2-1/2 microns costs you $2.40 in actual gold; that would be the most you could save by going all the way from vermeil to no gold at all. Good luck. Sell quality!


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

December 2, 2014

thumbs up signThanks Ted!

Your response has really given me clarity!

Natasha Adnani [returning]
- Mumbai, India

What is 10 mill heavy gold plated?

January 11, 2015

Q. I keep seeing costume jewelry advertised saying it's 14k Heavy Gold plated (10 mills). My question is what is 10 mills, and how long will that gold plating last?

- TOCCOA, Georgia, USA

January 2015

A. Hi Nathaniel. "10 mils" (note the single l) means 10 thousandths of an inch, or about 250 microns. Super-premium watches costing many thousands of dollars get "7 mils", and I promise you that's not what you'll be getting :-)

"Ad-speak" isn't for the purpose of technically informing us, but for the purpose of inducing us to buy. Thus when you see "10 mills" advertised, it's something they want to "sound good" and not be critically examined.

"10 mills" is to my knowledge "ad-speak"; never heard it in engineering school or a plating career of 50 years. But obviously it means 10 millIONTHS of an inch (1/4 micron). This would not last long unless clearcoated, which it probably is. I don't think anybody can estimate the life for you; they can only say it's relatively cheap jewelry; calling it "heavy gold plated" is ridiculous because if it was 4 times as thick it would be "micron" jewelry (good quality costume jewelry) but if it were 7 times as thick it would still only be 1/100th (1%) of the thickness of the heavy gold plating on super-premium watches :-(


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

February 24, 2015

Q. Hi, I'm 66 years old and worked as a young man in one of Boston's largest Plating companies in 1974. Very interesting reads and return of many memories with the jargon. What I'm curious about is finding a very inexpensive way to do gold plating at home to plate some brass gold chains as a hobby and something to do. I guess I would be interested in a kit at a reasonable price. Thanks if have the time.

Gerald Young
- Pampanga Philippines

March 8, 2015

A. Hello Gerald, if you are plating on brass you are going to need a barrier plate between the Brass and the Gold. For jewelry, nickel is not popular anymore due to allergic reactions. A white bronze plate is used a lot these days in place of nickel as a barrier plate. You may be able to find some "mini platers" used if you do some internet research. Plan on a cleaner, acid dip, white bronze plate, gold plate and all required rinses in between. The mini plating units are complete with required rectification. A used unit in good condition will run you between 1500 - 2000 USD. If memory serves me correct the tank sizes are 1 to 3 gallons. The chemistry you could buy "ready to use". You would have to seek a reputable gold bath supplier to have them supply you with a colour gold that you want. Colour golds are normally a deposit of 3 to 5 microinches. Hope this helps!

Mark Baker
Process Engineer - Phoenix, Arizona USA

March 17, 2015

Krylon 1301 - Crystal Clear

I am speaking as a consumer and not as an expert, so please take this into consideration when viewing my response.

Regarding protecting the gold finish on costume/fashion jewelry, I learned a trick from other jewelry collectors/buyers to make the gold plating last longer. Spray your jewelry with several coats of either Krylon Crystal Clear or polyurethane. I use the former, which you can purchase online on Amazon =>
or at Jo-Ann's craft supply stores. Allow each coat to dry before applying another coat. Do not use this method for any jewelry that has stones, as the sprays will make them dull.

If you want to spend the money on getting your jewelry re-plated, offers this service. I have not used their services yet, but I discovered them while doing some research on the internet. You can call them up and describe your item(s) and what you want done. They have yellow and rose gold plating services, along with other types of metal plating. They will also do different finishes for gold, including 14K and 18K.

Good luck!

Serena Lee
- San Francisco, California, USA

Ed. note: Thanks for your response, Serena! But we ask people to please keep their responses technical and to not offer commercial suggestions (why?). Nobody pays for what they can get for free, and the shop you mentioned used to advertise here but no longer does. Free forums like this aren't possible if there is no incentive for advertisers :-(

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