How to Replate Silver Plated Jewelry
Written by Annabelle
March 12, 2020
Costume jewelry can be fun and affordable…until the plating starts to come off. If you’ve been wearing your beloved silvery piece a lot, you might notice that it’s starting to show a strange, red-yellow color in some areas. That means it’s time for you to touch up your item; read on to learn more about how to replate silver plated jewelry.
Why Is My Silver-Plated Jewelry Changing Color?
Silver-plated jewelry isn’t solid silver; it’s a layer of thin silver or rhodium over another metal like brass or copper. As the jewelry rubs against your skin, that wears down the thin layer over time and exposes the metal underneath. The sweat and oils from your skin can also cause a chemical reaction with the base metal, darkening the silver plating. This isn’t the end of your favorite piece, however; there are several ways to restore the coloration of your item!
Replating Silver-Plated Jewelry
To restore the color of silver-plated jewelry, the jeweler first evaluates the piece to see how it will take to the plating process. Here are a few things they’ll take into consideration:
- The base metal: While it can be tricky to chemically tailor the plating process to these metals, copper, brass, and most commercial alloys can be plated. Items that contain lead and pewter, however, are near impossible to plate and the jeweler will not be able to work with those items.
- The stones: Most stones such as cubic zirconia and lab-grown synthetic gemstones can handle the plating process without any effects. For other stones such as costume jewelry rhinestones and faux pearls, the plating process can cause them to lose color, crack, peel, or fall out of the setting. To prevent this from happening, the jeweler will unset anything before placing the item into work.
The Plating Process
After the jeweler evaluates the item, the jewelry is sent to polishing. This abrasive process removes all of the existing plating on the piece, because any leftover plating will leave a bumpy, uneven texture underneath the new plating. Once the item is smooth and cleaned off, it’s ready for recoloring.
To restore the silver color of the item, the jeweler rinses the jewelry in several baths of distilled water to ensure that the metal is chemically prepared and free of contamination for the chemical plating process. Then the item is submerged in the plating tank, which contains a solution with silver or rhodium. Electricity runs through the tank, fusing the silver or rhodium particles to the surface of your item.
What if my item can’t be plated?
In the rare event that your item is made out of a material that is not chemically conducive to the plating process, the jeweler will suggest a custom recreation in solid sterling silver. This recreation is a great option even for items that can be plated, as there will be no need to continuously replate the item in the future.
In order to do this, the jeweler takes the item and makes a 3D design of the piece. The 3D design is printed out via a 3D printer and the resulting wax is used as a mold for metal casting. Custom creation starts at $250, and it can be a rewarding way to keep sentimental pieces without all the hassle of restoration and replating.
Now you’re all set on how to replate silver plated jewelry! Whether it’s a ring, necklace, or bracelet, you can restore the color by either rhodium plating it or recreating it. If there’s something you want to work on, comment below and we’ll help you out!