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Can anyone suggest an alternative to gold plating

I am looking for a way to achieve a gold finish on some plastic. Unfortunately I don't know what type of plastic it is.

I have tried gold plating but it's very expensive. I have also tried gold paints but I can't find one that resembles gold.

I also tried foil but there is some writing on the plastic I need to come through and even 12 micron was far too thick.

I don't need the finish to look exactly like 24K gold but I would like to try get as close as possible just as long as it is a nice smooth bright gold.

Has anyone any ideas what I can do?

Vicki Bryan
student - Kilmarnock, Scotland
April 6, 2009

Hi, Vicki. There are probably a number of different approaches including brass plating (can be made to look a lot like gold, and is shiny and metallic), and nickel plating followed by a gold-toned electrophoretic lacquer.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
April 6, 2009

April 8, 2009

Hi thanks for the reply Mr. Mooney.

I should have explained in a bit more detail, It's not the gold solution I am finding expensive it's the silver metallization stage.

I find your comments most interesting though and if it ends up I need to plate it I will try your methods.

What would be ideal is if I could find a foil thin enough but I've checked and checked and haven't found anything.


Hello, Vicki. We have an FAQ on metallizing non-conductive materials which lists a number of different approaches. Best of luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
April 9, 2009

First of two simultaneous responses --

Hi Vicki,

I'm wondering if the high cost is due mainly to the cost of gold or that of electroplating. If it is the gold, then nickel plating followed by a thin coating (flash) of gold could be used. But, are you really looking eliminate electroplating completely?

Harry Parkes
- Birmingham, UK
April 9, 2009

Second of two simultaneous responses --

Ted has some very good ideas. What I don't understand is why gold pant doesn't look like gold! There are lots of different paints that can be made to look like gold, but it all depends on what colour of gold you want - there are different shades. Have a look at some colour charts and see which one you like - there should be a colour code with that colour and all you need to do is ask a paint manufacturer to mix you some. Since you are a student, you may even be able to get the Paint Research Association to do you a small batch free! However, it would help the paint people if they knew what plastic you are trying to coat - different plastics react differently to different paints

trevor crichton
Trevor Crichton
R&D practical scientist
Chesham, Bucks, UK
April 9, 2009

First of two simultaneous responses --

Hi, Thank you all for your answers.

I would like to eliminate plating all together if its possible.

When I said the gold paint doesn't look like gold I missed out the word metallic.

So far all the gold paints I've used have came out more yellow, Brown or orange.

I thought about trying some sort of plastic resin coating if I can find a good metallic pigment to mix it with.

Vicki Bryan
- Kilmarnock, Scotland
April 9, 2009

Second of two simultaneous responses --

Have you considered traditional gilding with gold leaf. It is incredibly thin, I believe about 0.1 microns. There is also a very credible imitation gold leaf obtainable from good art shops (or search the net).
There is some skill to be learned in applying it but it is not too difficult.

geoff smith
Geoff Smith
Hampshire, England
April 9, 2009

Thank you Mr Smith, I've just took the last few days reading about leafing and I think I'll give it a go.

Vicki Bryan
- Kilmarnock, Scotland
April 15, 2009

Q. I am developing several products based on a copyrighted design. One of these products being an auto emblem. The design requires both silver and gold finishes. The manufacturer suggests chrome plating for the "silver" but when it comes to the "gold" finish they are apparently using real gold and the minimum run has shot through the roof! I have not even heard their price for the product.
The finishing would be on ABS plastic. The chrome first and then the gold around some kind of masking. I could probably redesign the product into several pieces that could be plated independently and then mated for the final product, but I still feel the gold plating is going to be too expensive.
I have read of palladium which apparently works functionally but would not look gold. Ted Mooney suggested electrophoretic lacquer over nickel (would it go over chrome, too?) but I am not certain about how durable lacquer would be in an automotive environment. I suppose the manufacturer could do some kind of clear coat but this adds another operation.
Can someone please comment as to my situation?
Thank you,

Greg Holder
- Monticello, Georgia, USA
July 8, 2013

A. Hi Greg. There are few services tougher than exterior automotive, and many times when a manufacturer sought a cheaper finish it proved very costly to them. Faux-finishing and exterior automotive service tend to be incompatible :-)

Nickel-chrome and nickel-gold plating of auto emblems is a very well established technology. Electrophoretic lacquer over nickel plating has proven to be a fine finish for "brass" lamps (kept indoors and rarely touched), but that doesn't make it suitable for cars. I think the best approach is to not try to make it look like gold if it's not; but if you insist, then go for titanium nitride PVD processing. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
July 8, 2013

simultaneous replies

A. Greg,
Ted is right. Nothing takes the place of gold. You might try PVD aluminum with a top coat dyed to imitate gold. It's a common process but it's not as durable as real gold. This type of process is used on toys and other products that have some wear and tear.

Another thing to try is gold acrylic paint (nail polish can be used for prototypes). I would definitely use a top clear coat, you need that until testing can prove otherwise. Good luck.

blake kneedler
Blake Kneedler
Feather Hollow Eng. - Stockton, California
July 12, 2013

A. Hi Greg
I would consider aluminium. Light, cheap and easily formed. Cheaply anodised, left plain for a silver finish and commonly dyed for a credible gold colour.

geoff smith
Geoff Smith
Hampshire, England
July 11, 2013

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