How Is Silver Plating Done?

By Giselle Diamond ; Updated September 15, 2017

Introduction

It's true. Just as "all that glitters isn't gold," all that glitters isn't silver either. So what gives those beautiful, silvery items their lustrous looks? What makes them appear so realistic and new? Well, a popular, age-old process is the answer: silver plating. Although there are various techniques, compositions and modern equipment used for silver plating today, the steps below describe the electroplating (electrolysis) process used for silver plating of a piece of old, dull or worn-out jewelry.

Definition

Silver plating is a process that involves different techniques (electroplating in this case) for depositing a layer of silver in different thicknesses on glass, china, porcelain and certain types of metals, giving them a new, lustrous look and finish.

Considerations

Although electroplating is one of the most common and popular techniques used for silver plating, the compositions and techniques required for this process will vary, depending on the type and nature of items (materials) you wish to silver plate. This is because while silver may bond well to the surface of some items and metals, it may not do so with others. Therefore, make sure to learn which items can be silver plated efficiently and which cannot. A professional silversmith would be a good starting point.

Requirements

For silver plating at home, several items are required: old, dull or worn-out piece of silver jewelry; effective jewelry cleaning solution; class crucible containing silver particulates in positive ion form; cathode (negatively charged); and electrical terminal (positively charged).

Method

Clean the jewelry item thoroughly to remove any grease and dirt, as these will affect the bonding of the silver to the metal. You should use an effective cleaning solution recommended for silver jewelry. For purchasing the right cleaning solution, consult a professional silversmith or visit a reputable hardware store.

Fill the crucible with an adequate amount of solution consisting of silver particulates in positive ion form. The amount of solution should be enough to fully cover the jewelry item to be silver plated.

Take the jewelry piece and connect it to a cathode that is negatively charged, then apply electricity. Next, insert an electrical terminal that is positively charged into the solution. This will complete the circuit and attract the positively charged silver ions to the jewelry item.

Keep the jewelry item in the solution for some time and periodically observe the progress of the silver deposits on the item. Once you find that the jewelry item has been fully and adequately plated (coated) by the silver deposits, remove the item from the solution and allow some time to dry. Wipe the item clean after it has dried completely.

Tips

For a thicker coat of silver, you may increase the concentration of silver ion particulates in the solution, strengthen the output level of the electrical current and keep the jewelry item in the silver solution for a longer period of time.

Although electroplating systems for silver plating at home can be had for a reasonably fair price, you may consider consulting or calling in a professional silversmith should the items you need to silver plate be of value in terms of sentiments, as well as material and design value.

About the Author

Giselle Diamond is a freelance writer and has been writing since 1999. Diamond is experienced in writing in all genres and subjects, with distinguished experience in home and garden, culture and society, literature and psychology. Diamond has a Master of Arts in English and psychology from New York University. Diamond has articles published on both eHow and LiveStrong.