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"Should my jewelry line be vacuum silver plated?"

April 30, 2021

Q. Hi
Can anyone help me with my enquiry please. I am looking to change my jewelry range to vacuum plated, instead of plating with clear coat over the top. I want my jewelry to have a longer life. Can real 925 silver be vacuum plated onto brass? And if so, does it tarnish when using this method? Thank you!

Margot Adams
- United Kingdom

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April 2021

? Hi Margot. Hopefully you'll get some technical responses to your question, and some alternate proposals if the answers aren't what you wish (and I suspect they won't be). But there can be practical issues as well -- for example, whereas electroplating can be done onesy-twosy, literally in a teacup in some cases, vacuum plating is generally only practical for substantial volume.

When you use the phrase "my jewelry range" rather than "our jewelry range" or "my corporation's jewelry range" I wonder what your volume is? While awaiting an answer, please tell us how many pieces could represent a batch. Thanks.

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

May 2, 2021

Q. When I purchase chain I purchase 100+ meter lots. For findings and charms/pendants etc it is in the 100's also.

Margot Adams [returning]
- United Kingdom

May 3, 2021

A. I would like make two points.
1.If a bright glittering finish is required an intermediate NiCr (or something else) plating would be required. This would also act as a barrier between silver and brass.
2. I don't see why a vacuum coated silver should have longer life. Being a soft metal it would wear out depending on how it is used. Top clear coat would still be required.

H.R. Prabhakara - Consultant
bangaloreplasmatek.com - Bangalore Karnataka India

May 4, 2021

Q. Thank you for your reply to my post. Unfortunately I don't know the technical details of vacuum plating....I have just heard that it is a longer lasting "plating" option for jewelry items. So you state that silver vacuum plating would be more durable with a topcoat. What is the name of this topcoat please? Thank you for your help!

Margot Adams
- United Kingdom

May 2021

A. Hi Margot. Vacuum plating puts the jewelry into a vacuum which helps vaporize the silver or other metal, from which it re-deposits from vapor onto the jewelry. Of course there are lots of variations. But one thing that distinguishes it from electroplating in practicality, as previously mentioned, is that all of those variations require a vacuum chamber, which is not cheap to buy or operate, so it's only suited to reasonable volumes.

You implied that you were already doing clear coating, but clear coating can be lacquer, radiation cured (UV cured) clearcoats, electrophoretic paints, automotive 2-component clearcoats, etc. You can have some pieces silver plated and then lacquer a couple yourself, apply UV-cured clear nail polish type stuff to a couple, and coat a couple with automotive clear coat, and decide which you like best. Another alternative is to do rhodium plating on top of the silver plating.

We have numerous detailed discussions on clear coating silver jewelry and/or preventing silver tarnish if you search the site. Good luck.

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

May 16, 2021

A. If your chain is brass or steel, you would still need to plate with Ni/Cr first to protect from corrosion or tarnishing. If you then vacuum deposit silver you will still have a tarnishing problem. There are PVD finishes that are wear and tarnish-resistant, and you might find one that is close enough to silver that it can be used. Suggest you find a decorative PVD coating shop and see what they can do for you rather than consider bringing PVD in-house. PS -- coating a long cable via PVD is pretty difficult, so you may have to cut your chains down a bit.

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Jim Treglio - scwineryreview.com
PVD Consultant & Wine Lover - San Diego, California

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