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Gold Plating Iphones and mobile phones, Q & A's

March 2, 2011

Hi everyone
I am based in the UK and am a retired gentleman who undertakes gold and platinum plating for the local jewelry stores.
I have been asked on many occasions if I could gold plate a mobile phone or ipod or iphone etc which are of a plastic frame.
What are the implications? and is this a good business route to take?
Can you recommend a supplier of all that I will need for my new addition?
Many thanks and best wishes

Chris Grey
electroplating plating shop owner - United Kingdom

March 7, 2011

Standards and Guidelines for Electroplated Plastics

A. Hi, Chris.

There are a half-dozen different ways to metallize a non-conductive surface to begin electroplating, and they are explained in our FAQ on "Plating Organic Materials". But, as you may already know, getting good adhesion to the substrate is a principal need in most electroplating . . . and this is best done by etching and activating ABS plastics. If a local or university library has a copy of "Standards and Guidelines for Electroplated Plastics" it will be well worth getting your hands on =>
Good luck.

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

March 8, 2011

A. Hi Chris

Plating on plastics is a large and well established industry but it is not really suitable for home use.

Your problems start by not knowing what type of plastic you are dealing with. The pre-treatment (to get adhesion) is very important and usually includes etching with chromic acid (very nasty). Some plastics are very difficult.

The parts are then coated with electroless copper to provide conductivity (a basically unstable solution)

Take a look at to give some idea of the size of the process (5 tanks +) just for this stage.

Then we would electroplate copper and possibly nickel before a hefty thickness of gold to withstand constant handling probably 5 microns.

You also need to understand the chemistry to control it and be able to recover your client's phone case if it goes wrong. Ask your local authority about disposal of hexavalent chrome before rushing into this!

Which may give some idea why you see so few gold plated phones.

geoff smith
Geoff Smith

Lacquer for gold plating

March 20, 2012

Q. Hi, I gold plate iPhones and Blackberry with a brush gold plating machine, but was wondering how can I make the gold plate more durable? Would any of these lacquers be any good for the finish?

thank you

J. Searle
- UK

Magic Glos

UV Light

March 20, 2012

A. Hi, J.

Gold plated watches from many decades ago still have their gold plating. Gold does not wear quickly. The primary problem is that the plating that people are applying today is 50 times thinner, and the amount that they want to apply offers no wear resistance and is just barely enough to offer color.

There are countless lacquers and clearcoats. Lacquer is easily removed with thinner and replaced, so it finds wide use. I think a UV-curable clear enamel will offer the greatest hardness, and you can get an inexpensive sample and curing light to try it. =>

Alternately, a two-component automotive clear coat should be good. Best of luck, and let us know what route you chose and how it worked out.


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

August 7, 2012

A. Hello J Searle,
I am using a UV curing electro-lacquer over my 24 carat gold plate with excellent results. Would you like more information on this?

mike wildboar
- Birmingham UK

August 8, 2012

thumbs up signHi, Mike. There are hundreds of readers for each poster, so please publicly share any technical (non-commercial) info you can. The combination of electrophoretic application for keeping the film really thin, plus UV curing for maximum hardness sounds great.


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

To minimize searching and thrashing, and to provide multiple points of view, combined formerly separate threads into the single dialog you are now viewing. Please forgive any resultant repetition.

February 15, 2011

Q. Hi Guys n Gals, need some advise from the GURU's ...

1. how do I polish the iphone 4 to be shiny?

2. how to gold plate the back of the iPhone 4.

3. I only have a simple brush plating hobby kit.

best regards

Sathesh Sivabalan
hobbyist... soon to be plating shop - Singapore

Gold plating vs. PVD for mobile phone cases

September 14, 2013

Q. Greetings from Dubai... We engaged in customizing phones mainly iPhone and BlackBerry. We often used gold and gold plated covers to our customized phones, but our perennial problem is in the gold plated items it wears off after only a month or so. We need at least to last our gold plating in one year that covers the customers' warranty. We heard this PVD, is PVD possible to apply on gold plated materials without having problem in color changing of gold plating? Is the PVD comes in transparent color as well? Please if you can help us, would be a gratitude.

Thank you very much, I hope to hear an answer from anyone.

Respectfully yours,

Ronnie Sabaldan
- Dubai, UAE

October 9, 2013

A. Pure gold is soft and a mobile phone sees a lot of wear.
Ask your process supplier for a hard gold alloy and explain the use. This is a well known problem and they have the solution.
Unless you are a very experienced process chemist and willing to spend a lot of time and money on developing a hard gold bath, I would not waste energy on trying to develop your own.
You will still need to plate a significant thickness, say 5 microns. Fortunately most plating baths will plate thicker at the edges of the part which is also probably the area of greatest wear and you can enhance this by careful jigging.

geoff smith
Geoff Smith

July 1, 2014

A. Hello,

Regarding the durability issue of the phone cases, wouldn't PVD be much more suited in this case?

Thank you

seb Guy
- Seoul South Korea

thumbs up signHi Seb. Yes, thanks! For those who are interested in mass production, PVD sounds attractive. But it involves a $1-million-plus installation, so it's not highly applicable to onezy-twozy applications.


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

Can I directly plate my iPhone 5s gold case with 24k gold?

January 13, 2016

Q. Hello, as with a little reading, I understand that you cannot directly gold plate an aluminum object. But since the iPhone 5s gold already has a low carat gold plating on it, can i directly plate it with 24 carat gold? I think it should work but it being non-24k might make some problems which i'm worried of. Thanks!

Ömer gezer
hobbyist - turkey

Suitable wax or lacquer for gold plated ABS

Formulation of Organic Coatings

Formulary of Paints and other Coatings

January 26, 2016

Q. I have a problem about making a mixture as a wax or lacquer after gold plating on ABS material.

Please guide and help me.

aida aghili
Industry - Iran

January 2016

A. Hi cousin Aida. Surely you can buy waxes or lacquers rather than having to formulate your own from raw chemicals? The consensus seems to be that UV-cured electrophoretic lacquers are best, but if you do not have an electrocoating setup, it probably is possible to use brass lacquer, or UV-hardening nail lacquer, or a two-component automotive clearcoat. You could also try museum wax, but it's durability would be very limited.

Can you please explain the application? I understand it's for use on gold plated ABS, but that still leaves a lot of room. For example, is this for exterior automotive application (very severe exposure) or for a lighting fixture inside an air conditioned office (mild exposure)? How long do you expect it to last, how thick is the gold plating, etc. Good luck.


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

January 27, 2016

A. It has been my experience using both 2k automotive clear and UV cured Nail polish that transparent base coats are much better retaining an authentic metal look. I use what is called transparent base coat (both 2k and UV cured) which is basically a pigment free base coat; this coat is not glossy but transparent and if painted over a matte surface will remain matte, or if painted over a mirror like surface it will retain a mirror look. I have used this successfully over Copper, Silver and gold without issues at all. The base coat has a better grip over the polished metal surface than glossy clear coats that are meant to go over matte base coats and will often peel off from polished metal surfaces and when they are too glossy will not produce a natural appearance.

Marvin Sevilla
- Managua, Nicaragua

January 2016

thumbs up signThanks Marvin. I did not understand your wisdom immediately, but now I see that by "transparent base coats", you are referring to a paint base what would normally be mixed with a pigment or coloring agent to make an automotive color paint. Thus indeed, this could be formulated to stick to raw metal whereas automotive clear coats are formulated to stick to other paints. This makes a great deal of sense!


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

January 30, 2016

A. You are correct Mr. Mooney. In the automotive coating world these type of colorless base coats are called "Mixing clears". They can be catalyzed (2k hardeners) to make them very durable and also add UV inhibitors. They offer a more realistic or true-to-type metal look than glossy clear coats.

Marvin Sevilla
- Managua, Nicaragua

November 14, 2016 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. Essentially, I have a gold product. We use a Chinese supplier to plate aluminium iPhone housings with 24 carat gold. The actual manufacturing process is pretty foreign to me however I have received some prototype models and found that the gold looks fantastic... for the first 10 minutes. After that, it picks up scratches and smudges extremely easily which is incredibly undesirable.

Is there a type of lacquer I would be able to apply (or commission someone to apply) to my product that would prevent scratching and smudging but wouldn't detract from both the look and shine of the product and also the functionality (e.g. being able to screw components into the metal housing). It may be that we only lacquerise one side of the product (the visible and exposed side), but I don't know how that works.

Any help would be gratefully appreciated!


Max Shepley
Designer/Company Owner - Kent, England

January 1, 2017

A. Hi Max,
Sure, apply a lacquer but only on the exposed areas and specify hard gold. What is the specified Au thickness?

blake kneedler
Blake Kneedler
Feather Hollow Eng.
Stockton, California

Ed. note: Letter 30273, "Lacquer for gold plating", addresses very similar issues.

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