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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

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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 continue to ask people to please keep their responses technical and to not offer commercial suggestions (why?). The shop you mentioned used to advertise here but no longer does ... nobody pays for what they can get for free; and free forums like this aren't possible if we remove the incentive for advertisers :-(

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