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Can You Engrave Plated Jewelry?

Annabelle / April 17, 2020

Plated jewelry is a great and affordable option to get something pretty for a lot of people! However, it does pose some unique challenges when it comes to engraving. Here’s what you need to know on how to engrave plated jewelry.

What is Plated Jewelry?

engrave-plated-jewelry-pin

This gold-tone pendant was originally also a pin; we removed the pin part, and re-plated the discolored area.

You may have heard the term multiple items, but what exactly does plated jewelry mean? This is a manufacturing method that’s used to create low-cost and affordable jewelry while giving it the appearance of fine jewelry. The item is first made with a cheap metal, such as copper, brass, or another kind of alloy, and then covered with a thin layer of gold, silver, or rhodium. 

While this means that the jewelry is easy to purchase due to a lower price, the plating can pose issues when the item is worked on. The engraving process is one of these services.

How to Engrave Plated Jewelry

The engraving process is simple; the jeweler takes the item and carves the inscription or image into the surface of your jewelry using a tool or a laser engraving machine. This tool or machine cuts into the item, leaving a noticeable difference between the un-engraved metal and the engraving that allows you to see the design.

While the principle works the same way for plated jewelry, a few things should be noted before you proceed.

  1. Make sure this is exactly what you want: Unlike other items, the process of redoing an engraving on a plated item is extremely difficult and sometimes not even feasible. Before you proceed, it’s important to confirm that the engraving is what you want.
  2. The color of the engraving: Since the jeweler is essentially cutting into the surface of the item, this removes the plating on the area of engraving. The color that shows through will be the color of the metal underneath the engraving.

    resize-ring-with-engraving

    This gold-plated tungsten ring is showing the metal’s color under the engraving.

How to Remove and Re-engrave Plated Jewelry

engrave-plated-jewelry-pendant

This pendant was recreated in sterling silver and gold plated with an antiqued engraving. The original item was made from zinc and couldn’t take plating.

In the event that you do want to change your engraving on your plated jewelry, you’ll have to prepare for a lengthy process. First, the jeweler has to polish off all of the existing plating and laser off the original engraving from the surface. Next, the jeweler re-plates the item and then engraves it as the final step. This is because plating over the engraving will remove the color contrast that makes the engraving visible. 

It’s important to note that not all items can be re-plated, which means that there is no way to remove the existing engraving without significantly affecting the look of the jewelry. For instance, engraved tungsten rings cannot be polished out, and the plating cannot be re-applied. Certain costume jewelry items are made out of zinc and lead, metals that are not compatible with the typical gold plating process. 

Now you’re up to date on how you can engrave plated jewelry! If you have an item you want to personalize, comment below and we can help you get started on the engraving process. 

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