E-Coating Jewelry: What Is It and Why You Should Do It
Written by Annabelle
April 25, 2019
If you're an avid jewelry shopper, you may have seen some interesting-looking pieces of jewelry in bright pink, blue, or green metallic finishes. This coloration is called e-coating, and it's currently one of the hottest jewelry techniques because of its ability to add unconventional colors to the surface of the metal without turning opaque like enamel. Keep reading to learn about how you can apply it to your own jewelry.
What is E-Coating?
E-coating stands for electrophoretic coating, a term that is used to describe the process of depositing certain particles onto the surface of a piece of metal. Aside from jewelry, it's commonly applied to cars, furniture, containers, and other everyday objects. You probably already own a piece that has e-coating on it!
An important distinction to make is the difference between enameling, plating, and e-coating. Enameling is the baking of powdered glass on top of the metal; the most common type of enamel has an opaque look and is used to highlight details instead of coloring the entire piece of jewelry. Plating is the electrical conveyance of gold or rhodium particles onto the surface of the item; a thin layer of the new metal develops on top of the jewelry. E-coating is a semi-transparent mixture of enameling and plating; acrylic or ceramic particles are electrically carried and adhered to the surface, and the item is baked in an oven or kiln to cure the coating.
Things to Consider Before You E-Coat Your Jewelry
- The metal of your jewelry: E-coating is best applied to standard metals such as silver and gold. Costume jewelry can potentially burn, so it's a good idea to double check before you send it off to give it a new color. Atypical metals such as titanium and niobium are very tricky to e-coat and generally not worth the trouble as the color may not stick.
- The design of your item: Components in the design of your item can be affected during the e-coating process. If your item contains enamel or fake stones made from plastic or glass, they may be affected by the e-coating process.
- The color you want to e-coat onto your jewelry: E-coating is a process that will adhere a nano-ceramic coating to the surface of your jewelry; it's designed to be hard to remove. Make sure you really want your jewelry to be that particular color before you move ahead with coating it.
The Process Of E-Coating
- Polish the surface: The most important step to prepare the item for e-coating is polishing. No matter what type of metal the item is, it has to be polished to ensure that the surface is perfectly smooth. An item with a grainy or scratched texture will come out with an uneven coating.
- Clean the jewelry: While the polishing process ensures that the jewelry comes out nice and smooth, it also generates a lot of metal filings and sticky black residue that needs to be cleaned off. The item is professionally washed in an industry-grade jewelry cleaner, such as an ultrasonic cleaner. This device is a large tank filled with either water or cleaning solution. Soundwaves create bubbles in the liquid, knocking out dirt in all the small crevices that cannot be reached by human hands.
- Rinse in distilled water: After all the scratches and dirt are removed, the jeweler will rinse the item several times in distilled water and neutralizer in order to ready it for the upcoming chemical process. Distilled water helps to remove any chemical impurities that may affect the e-coating procedure.
- Submerge in e-coating tank: Similar to gold plating, the item is submerged in a tank containing a solution made from the desired coating and water. Electrical currents run through the tank, and the resulting chemical reaction fuses the particles of the coating to the surface of the jewelry.
- Cure the coating: After the e-coating tank, the jewelry is moved to a kiln or an oven. It's cured (baked) in order to solidify the coating and ensure that it becomes a hard, durable, and glossy exterior that will withstand daily wear without cracking and falling off the item. Much like enameling, this process can take a while and should not be rushed.
- Remove the finished product: The jewelry is taken out of the kiln once it's considered ready for wear. E-coating can last for several years if the item is taken care of properly.
Why You Should E-Coat Your Jewelry
E-coating jewelry is the best way to get an eye-catching look that covers the entire piece of jewelry. Gold plating is beautiful, but considerably less durable because of the softness of the metal, and it wears off comparatively faster. It's also limited to yellow gold and rose gold in terms of color, whereas e-coating has a multitude of selections for you to choose from.
The semi-transparent look of e-coating also allows you to show off the metal beneath the coating. For instance, a high-polish ring will be shiny and colorful after e-coating, while a matte finished ring will show a beautiful brushed look under the coloration.
The Cost of E-Coating
The price of e-coating can be affected by the following:
- Polishing labor: Polishing the piece is an absolute must; if the item is not polished, any abrasions will be clearly visible under the semi-transparent e-coating. While polishing prices are fairly standard for regular jewelry metals such as silver, gold, and platinum, the jeweler may charge more for tougher metals such as stainless steel and tungsten because they require special equipment.
Now you're ready to get started on e-coating your jewelry! This innovative service will soon be in our line-up; in the meantime, let us know in the comments if you're interested!