If you have costume jewelry you are not ready to let go of; you may have to replace them to retain that nice silver finish. This is important primarily because sterling silver jewelry tarnishes over time due to exposure to sulfur in the air (hydrogen sulfide) and water, among other environmental factors. And because yours is costume jewelry, the jewelry will change color after some time, which is something that is inevitable.
In this article, we’ll share tips on how to replate your sterling silver costume jewelry. But, how about we take a look at some basics first?
Why your silver costume jewelry lost its luster?
It’s important to note that your costume jewelry, unlike the fine jewelry options, is often made of cheaper metals such as bronze, brass, copper, or in other cases, a mixture of these and other metals. Unfortunately, these cheap jewelry options also tend to be the most problematic, and they will tarnish or rust, turning black or even green, unlike the more expensive metals like platinum and gold, which are largely tarnish-resistant. With this in mind, jewelers plate these cheap metal varieties used in jewelry making to enhance the appearance of these cheap metals and to improve their value and longevity. In such cases, a very thin layer of the more desirable metals like gold or silver will be applied to the cheaper metals (which are now considered the base metals), leaving you with what is sold as silver-plated or gold-plated jewelry.
Your silver costume jewelry is most likely silver-plated or white gold plated, and you can tell the plated layer of gold or silver will eventually come off the same way paint would peel off when a painted bench is left out for too long. This happens to costume jewelry, too, especially when the jewelry is exposed to an unfriendly environment or conditions, and also because of the natural wear and tear.
With this in mind, it would make sense to just repaint the sterling silver-plated jewelry, right? Well, in as much as this seems like the most reliable option, reapplying the silver or gold is not as easy as it sounds. And you have to find experts to get the job done. In some cases, however, it’s cheaper to replace the piece of jewelry than to process it.
But if you insist on replating the costume jewelry, we’ll be sharing the information you need in the next sections of this article. So, keep reading!
Rhodium Plating On Silver Costume Jewelry
For that nice silver finish, rhodium plating is often one of the recommended solutions. The idea behind rhodium plating is able to give your jewelry that nice and bright silver-colored aesthetic, and the metal that is used to create the silver color is rhodium.
Rhodium is one of the most durable white metals that boasts a nice, lustrous finish. It belongs to the platinum group of metals, but it’s slightly cheaper than platinum, which is why it’s the preferred option in the creation of white gold and lustrous white costume jewelry options. This precious metal results in a beautiful shine on the plated jewelry.
But rhodium plating is not as easy as gold plating, especially when it comes to matters that relate to the chemical compatibility of the metal. Essentially, it is significantly harder to transform something into a silver color than into the color yellow when working with a base metal that comes in some strange color, for instance, brass or copper.
So, how is rhodium plating done on non-precious jewelry? First, the jewelry that needs to be replated must be stripped of the existing silver-plated layer completely, and this is not a simple process. The piece of jewelry in question should be polished to a very high shine next. It is also cleaned thoroughly, perhaps through electro-cleaning, and crystals or rhinestones on that piece of jewelry have to be removed or unset, where possible, to prevent damage to these elements. This is also necessary to avoid the contamination of the rhodium-filled plating tank with the glue that is used to set the rhinestones and/or crystals.
For the unusual metals like copper, the pieces are first plated with a thin layer of palladium or platinum. Either of these metals is used because they are deterrents against the natural tarnishing of the base metals, meaning that the base metal will not seep through the layer of the plating metal. Nickel or palladium is also used with the atypical metals to improve the chemical compatibility of rhodium,
Once this treatment is complete, and the layer of palladium or nickel dries, the next step is for the jeweler to place the jewelry in question in the rhodium tank for plating. The piece of jewelry will be removed after the successful completion of the plating process, something that often takes a few minutes or even seconds, depending on how thick the layer of rhodium is supposed to be.
Nickel is used more often than palladium during the plating process because it is cheaper. Unfortunately, the use of nickel means that there is a high risk of skin irritation when the layer of rhodium starts to wear off and the nickel underneath is exposed. If you have sensitive skin, ask the jeweler about the metal they use to bond the base metal with the plating metal, and maybe ask if they could use palladium because it is skin-safe. Palladium is expensive, though, and this would increase the cost of plating your costume jewelry.
Tips for Replating Silver Costume Jewelry
- Find an experienced and well-equipped jeweler – While plating costume jewelry with rhodium appears uncomplicated, the expert jewelers will tell that the process is far from simple, especially because not all metals are created equal, which means that some of the metals are more complex than others, especially in the absence of the right equipment and procedures.
- It’s hard to plate costume jewelry that is made of a base metal such as zinc, and it’s highly likely that you will not find someone willing to take up the job in your town. This is also the case with jewelry made of pewter or lead.
- Where costume jewelry plating is not an option, and you don’t want to lose or give up on that sentimental piece of jewelry, you should consider getting a custom piece made in white gold, platinum, or sterling silver.
- The plating will not be done or complete overnight, and in most cases, you’d have to give the jeweler between 2 and 7 days, or maybe even longer, especially if the jewelry needs a lot of restoration work.
- If it’s cheaper to buy a new piece of the same costume jewelry, you should buy the jewelry instead of replating it.
Plating or replating old and tarnished costume jewelry requires mastery of the skill, and in most cases, the expert hands and tools of a very experienced jeweler. To ensure that the costume jewelry that you hold near and dear lasts long, rhodium plating would be a good option.
But there are cases where plating will not do the trick, and in such cases, getting a custom piece made as a replica of the custom jewelry, but is more durable and high-quality materials like sterling silver, white gold, or platinum would be an ideal solution.
Tiger is a fashion&jewelry lover. He is also a fashion jewelry manufacturer that help thousands of small business to grow and also do business with some big fashion jewelry brands. He is a truly metal expert and he will share some information you are looking for.