Everything You Need to Know About Replating Silver Costume Jewelry

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Costume jewelry is a nice way to get an affordable piece of bling…until it starts losing its color from all that wear. In order to get it looking nice and bright again, you’ll have to get it plated- but that’s not too easy to do when your jewelry is silver colored! Learn more about how to replate silver costume jewelry here.

Why Is My Costume Jewelry Changing Color?

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This costume pendant is clearly showing signs of tarnishing and rust.

Costume jewelry, unlike fine jewelry, is usually made from a very cheap metal such as copper, brass, bronze, or even a mixture of metals. These metals are not like gold and platinum- they’ll tarnish and turn colors over time, like black, rust, or even green. To make the appearance of these metals look better, manufacturers will plate on top of these metals with a thin layer of fine metal, such as gold. This gives the jewelry its nice shiny color and allows the manufacturer to sell the pieces as “gold-plated” or “silver-plated.”

Naturally, over time this plating will come off. Think of it like paint being rubbed off a wooden bench that’s been sitting outside; the daily wear and tear your jewelry sustains will remove the plating. Unlike paint, however, reapplying this plating is not as easy.

Overseas manufacturers who make costume jewelry have the technical capabilities to plate on top of these cheap metals. Regular jewelers who normally deal with fine jewelry often refuse to replate costume jewelry, as they do not have the chemical experience involved with plating copper, brass, bronze, or mass production alloys. In addition, these cheap metals will contaminate any tank that is used to plate fine metals such as sterling silver, causing a costume jewelry job to be far too risky for the average jeweler. 

So now you might be wondering; well, how do I replate silver costume jewelry if I want to get it looking nice again? There is a solution.

Rhodium Plating on Costume Jewelry

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A costume jewelry bracelet before and after rhodium plating.

In order to give jewelry that bright and silver-colored aesthetic, many jewelers and manufacturers use rhodium plating. Rhodium is a precious metal that is used to make white gold and silver extra shiny; in fact, it’s standard to treat white gold with rhodium plating in order to make sure it’s the right color. 

What you need to know is that rhodium plating is even trickier than gold plating in terms of chemical compatibility. In short, it’s harder to make something silver than yellow in color if the base metal is something strange, such as copper or brass.

In order to rhodium plate costume jewelry, the jeweler needs to remove any existing plating on the piece and polish it to a high shine. Any stones such as rhinestones or crystals are unset if possible, to avoid any damage to the gems and to prevent any glue from contaminating the plating tank. 

If the metal is atypical, the jeweler will first plate the item in either nickel or palladium metal. These metals are used as a preliminary coating for two reasons. One, it helps to deter the natural tarnishing from the base metal from seeping through the plating. Two, it makes the item more chemically compatible to the rhodium plating process.

Once the item has been treated, the jeweler then puts the item into the rhodium plating tank, and removes it once the item has successfully taken to the plating process. 

Things to Keep in Mind When Replating Silver Costume Jewelry

Not all metals are created equal, and that will affect the plating process. Some metals are impossible to plate without the right procedure and equipment, so if your costume jewelry is made from something like zinc, you probably won’t find someone near you who will take on that job. That being said, you can always consider custom creation if plating is not an option and you genuinely love the piece for design or sentimental reasons. We always tell our clients that it’s a better long term investment to duplicate a piece in silver or white gold to avoid replating.

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On the left is the original costume jewelry ring, on the right is a duplicate in white gold.

The Cost and Turnaround Time for Rhodium Plating

This depends on the size of the item and any necessary pre-plating treatment, but rhodium plating typically starts at $35. Turnaround time ranges from 2-7 days, based on what needs to be done to the piece.

Now you’re all set on how to replate silver costume jewelry! If you have something that needs to be done, comment below and we’ll get back to you shortly.

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Kenneth Caron
Kenneth Caron

I have a brooch from the 50-60’s that lost a stone and the mount needs silver rhodium. Can you help