Things You'll Need
- Electroplating kit
- Electroplating solution
- Distilled water
- Polishing rag or buffing wheel
Electroplating jewelry is the process of applying a thin layer of metal on another material, usually a less expensive type of metal. This technique is commonly used with costume jewelry and can also be used to produce a number of artistic effects. Sometimes, it can enhance the colors of the original metal, while at other times, it can produce a stunning rainbow spectrum that creates a whole new piece. This is a somewhat advanced technique that will require some practice to perfect.
Make sure that your piece of jewelry is absolutely clean and smooth before you start the electroplating process by hand polishing or using a buffing wheel. Clean up any debris and dunk the piece in distilled water. If the water beads, you still have some cleaning to do. Otherwise, proceed to Step 2.
Attach the jewelry to the cathode, which will receive the negative charge, and then fill the tank up with the electroplating solution, or "electrolyte." The electrolyte contains the plating metal, such as gold, in the form of a salt.
Put the positive anode and the negative cathode into the electrolyte and switch on the power. From here, the electroplating process is largely a hands-off procedure. The electrical current causes the salt in the solution to become positively charged. It is attracted to the negatively charged cathode to which the jewelry is attached. This allows the metal salt in the electrolyte to bind to your piece of jewelry.
Turn off the power supply and remove your jewelry from the tank. It should now be plated nicely and is ready to wash and wear.
Most electroplating solutions contain at least some cyanide--this can be deadly. Follow the health and safety procedures that should be included with your kit, and practice putting your solution securely away when not in use and cleaning up thoroughly after any electroplating.
Tiffany Garden has been a freelance writer since 2002, working in the commercial copywriting field. She has been published in a number of technical and gaming magazines, as well as on numerous websites. She also runs her own websites on a number of subjects, runs a handcrafted jewelry business and is a CompTIA A+ Certified computer technician.