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"Annealing Electroplated Gold"

December 3, 2017

Q. First off, Ted, thanks for running this forum. I periodically stop by here to read up on work-related engineering questions. However, today, I have a question regarding a personal project.

I am working on designing an engagement ring for my girlfriend, and naturally, I'm putting on my engineering hat. She has become more fond of yellow gold in recent years, so I'm thinking I want a pretty yellow outward appearance on most of the ring. The designs I'm working on involve a bit of texture - higher and lower spots. I want to add a bit of depth to the color, but not as stark as the two-tone gold/silver, gold/rhodium, and other combinations you can find commercially when looking for two-toned pieces. We are physically active, so I think I will prefer 14k as the base metal to prevent deformation.

So my question is: if I have the ring cast in a 14k alloy with a fairly pale hue, and then apply masking of some sort - akin to circuit masking, but probably by hand with thin nail polish or something similar - and follow it by a high-carat gold plating, I should get a yellow gold look on the unmasked areas and a more pale look on the masked areas, correct? If the plating is thick enough, can I then anneal the ring to allow diffusion of the 18-24k gold plating layer into the base layer, which I hope will slightly lighten the plating and, more importantly, prevent it from wearing away in such a conspicuous fashion?

Danny Higgs
- Kalamazoo, Michigan

(To show dark relieved areas)
Courtesy: Balfour.com
December 2017

A. Hi Danny. I know very little about either jewelry or metallurgy, so I'm probably not a good person to ask. But if you look at a class ring, whether silver or gold, the lighter color will always be on the surface and the darker color in the recesses, because it's easier to make that way and, more importantly, it's easier to keep that way. It's the same with the oil-rubbed bronze "living" finishes.

So what I think I'd do is cast the ring with at least a little texture, plate the whole thing with the darker gold plating, and then buff/relieve away the plating on the reachable surfaces back to the lighter color of the 14K and it should last a very long time.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

December 10, 2017

thumbs up sign That is a great suggestion, thank you very much. I may also try brush plating.

Danny Higgs [returning]
- Kalamazoo, Michigan

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