plating with silver of a jewelry piece made of an
inexpensive base metal is usually accomplished through a
process called electroplating.
Electroplating can be used to apply a thin silver coat
to a newly created piece of jewelry, to repair silver
plated jewelry with surface damage, or to restore an
item that has become worn with age (don't you wish we
could get replated as we grow older!).
There are home electroplating systems
that can be had for a fairly reasonable price.
However, since practice makes perfect, a professional
silversmith should probably be consulted when the item
in question is valuable in terms of money or sentiment.
The first step in electroplating is to
clean the jewelry piece of all dirt and grease, as
silver will not adhere to dirt of grease. Cleaning
should be done with a professional cleaning solution,
made specifically for this purpose.
The item is then dipped into a solution
that contains silver particles in positive ion form.
The item is then connected to a negatively charged
cathode and electricity is applied. A positive
electrical terminal is then inserted into the solution.
The silver ions are attracted to the metal item. Over
time they are slowly and evenly deposited onto the
The thickness of the silver coating
(plating) is determined by three factors: (a) the
strength of the electrical current; (b) the
concentration of silver in the dipping solution; and (c)
the length of time the jewelry piece has been submerged
into the solution.
Plating is used primarily because it is
more economical to produce items such as silver jewelry
and tableware with an inexpensive base metal and then
coat them with a thin layer of silver, usually around
0.05 millimeters or less. While this process can
lead to beautiful, inexpensive jewelry, over time the
plating can wear off or become scratched. The
extent to which this will become a problem depends on
the thickness of the plating and the color of the
Alpaca silver, which contains no silver, is often
used as the base metal in jewelry because of its
almost-silver appearance. This means that a
scratch in the plating may be less noticeable.